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The power of pomegranates

Pomegranates add the perfect ruddy accent to the autumn fruit bowl. Packed with potassium and vitamin C, as well being one of the most potent antioxidants, pomegranates are bursting with flavor. Learn how pomegranates and pomegranate juice can improve your health.

  • Studies show that pomegranate juice may have a powerful effect on cardiovascular health — from decreasing LDL cholesterol, to lowering blood pressure, to improving arterial elasticity and even reversing damage. Drink the juice by itself or blend it with vanilla yogurt and other fruit to make a creamy smoothie.

  • Pomegranate “arils” — the juicy seeds inside the fruit’s peel — contain polyphenols that may fend off cancer and provide other medicinal benefits. In fact, evidence suggests the compounds may even combat dental plaque. Top cereal with the arils or toss them into a spinach salad. To create a zesty dressing, mix olive oil, chili powder, and grenadine (named after the French word for pomegranates, grenades, from which the syrup is made).

Overcoming late-night eating

Bedtime snacks make sense for young children, as their stomachs hold smaller quantities of food, so they need to nibble between meals. But many grown-ups have a tough time giving up nightly treats. Learn how to prevent weight gain and morning sluggishness by calling it a night without raiding the pantry.

For weight control, when you eat doesn’t matter as much as total calories. But evening snacks can be particularly dangerous because, unlike meals — which have a set beginning and end — they’re often paired with other pastimes like watching TV, playing video games, or reading. This makes it easy to eat and drink more than you realize because you’re not paying attention.

As a result of a full stomach that’s busy digesting, you may not sleep well. The next day you may feel tired, slow, and low energy — and you probably won’t be hungry for breakfast. Avoid late-night snacking to help you maintain a healthy weight, enjoy a good breakfast, and keep your energy levels and mood high.

Break the habit today. Here’s how:

  • Make sure you’re eating balanced meals during the day.
  • Stay busy when you’re most vulnerable — go for a walk, do dishes, fold laundry, build model airplanes, work a puzzle, read.
  • Cut back on evening TV and/or screen time.
  • Keep processed snack foods out of your kitchen; if you’re truly hungry, reach for an apple or baby carrots.
  • Brush your teeth or take a swig of mouthwash immediately following your evening meal.

Snack your way to weight loss

Eating three meals plus two light snacks each day is a good plan for losing or maintaining weight. Your metabolism will remain steady and you’ll avoid binge eating from feeling famished. For nutritious, low-calorie snacks, go for produce. What are your best bets?

  • Homemade. Instead of raiding the vending machine, nibble on fresh fruits or vegetables. You can have an apple plus a cup of whole strawberries plus a cup of carrots and still eat fewer calories than the amount in a bag of corn chips — and with more vitamins and none of the fat.

  • Natural. Eat your vegetables and fruits raw to enjoy their peak flavor. Or use low-calorie cooking techniques like steaming, baking, or roasting. Experiment with herbs, spices, and vinegars as seasoning, and avoid high-fat dressings or sauces.

  • Whole. You’ll feel fuller if you eat whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice — and take in fewer calories. (A 6-ounce serving of orange juice has 85 calories, compared to 65 calories in a medium-sized orange.) Plus, you’ll get more fiber.

  • Calculated. Knowledge is power when it comes to dieting. If you’re not sure how healthy something is, check calorie amounts and nutritional information online, and replace higher-calorie foods accordingly.

Eat better, eat together

October is National Eat Better, Eat Together month — reminding us that sharing meals with family and friends is not only emotionally uplifting, but also carries numerous health advantages.

  • Eating together opens communication lines and strengthens family bonds. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, children who regularly have meals with their families are more likely to choose fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less likely to eat unhealthy salty or sugary snacks. They can even have better grades and fewer behavioral problems, studies report.

  • With so many different schedules, getting everyone together at the table can seem like a daunting task. To make it work, try writing out everyone’s schedules on the same calendar, then find openings, remove obstacles, and/or rearrange commitments. You don’t need to eat together seven days a week to achieve the healthy benefits — begin with one weekly family meal and slowly build to three times a week or more.

  • Cooking time doesn’t have to be a big hurdle. Choose simple recipes, prepare some ingredients in advance, or use leftover side dishes. Involve kids with dinner preparation by giving them age-appropriate duties. If they can’t chop vegetables, they can peel carrots or fold napkins.

Vegetable snacks in a flash

Preparing simple, packable veggie snacks is all about convenience. Snacking on vegetables is the best way to fill up on fewer calories while getting the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals you need. Veggies help control weight and prevent disease, and they’re abundant year-round — fresh, frozen, cooked, or canned. So stock up on a variety and enjoy them often.

  • More matters. Depending on your age, gender, and activity level, you should aim for at least 2 1/2 to 4 cups of vegetables a day for good health. Check out Fruits & Veggies — More Matters for delicious ideas. Don’t miss the recipe section.

  • Effortless eating. Choose bags of baby carrots, snap peas, bell peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower. Chopping whole produce is cheaper, but takes time — so prepare for the week ahead on your day off. Load up on frozen stir-fry combos and pack them in a microwave-safe container for a satisfying afternoon snack.

  • Heavenly herbs. Give any veggie snack a power burst with a sprinkle of fresh or dried herbs. Try seasoning blends for big flavor without the fat and sodium.

Walk to school day

On October 3, millions of kids and their parents will participate in International Walk to School Day. Choosing walking over driving whenever possible offers many health advantages:

  • More exercise. Studies show that inactive children are more likely to become inactive adults; parents who walk with their children to school set a positive example. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity like brisk walking can help control weight; reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers; strengthen bones and muscles; and improve mental health.

  • Cleaner air. More walking means fewer vehicles and air pollutants. High levels of ground-level ozone can cause chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. They can also reduce lung function and worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Avoid footpaths near heavy traffic, where air toxins are often greater.

  • Better quality of life. Companionship has a major impact on well-being — reducing stress, providing laughter and joy, and increasing your overall sense of purpose and community. For you and your kids, walking to school together is a great opportunity for quality time.

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