Bountiful and Delicious: Healthy Harvest Foods
Bring Color and Nutrition to the Table

When you think of autumn, you most likely envision the beautiful orange, yellow, and red hues of the season. Stroll down the produce aisle of your neighborhood grocery store and discover those same vibrant colors in the form of seasonal vegetables and fruits, such as pumpkins, squash, and apples. Best of all, these harvest foods also are packed with nutritional value. Encourage those you care for to try some new and different varieties of fall produce this year, and give them the gift of health along the way!

Winter squash and pumpkins

Winter squash and pumpkins (both members of the gourd family) come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. They are becoming increasingly popular because of their versatile use in both sweet and savory recipes, and they are good sources of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Pumpkins are especially good sources of alpha- and beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin (an antioxidant), vitamin C, riboflavin, and iron. Cooking pumpkins (also known as sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins) are delicious in pies, cookies, custards, and soups. Their seeds are easily toasted for a crunchy high-fiber snack.

The seeds are great when eaten by the handful or added to fruit and vegetable salads. Pumpkin and squash seeds contain:

  • Phytosterols
  • Vitamins, including:
  • Minerals, including:


Bright orange and yellow squash
Bright orange and yellow squash contain significant amounts of carotenes, as well as some lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants). Butternut squash is good sliced, stewed, boiled, or baked in a pie. It is a particularly good source of calcium, magnesium, and carotenes. Spaghetti squash makes a wonderful casserole or side dish. Try it with tomato sauce in place of traditional spaghetti. Acorn and Hubbard squash are particularly good sources of potassium and fiber. Acorn squash also is high in thiamine.


Apples come in countless varieties, each with its own color, flavor, and texture. While some types of apples such as Golden or Red Delicious are best for eating fresh and crisp, other varieties such as Crab, Bramley, and Jonathan apples are best for cooking in pies, cakes, crisps, and chutneys. Look for sauce, butter, pickle, and relish recipes that include apples. Apples are powerhouses of flavonoids, such as quercetin, as well as a great source of cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. Apples also are a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. In addition, apples with skins are one of the best known sources of pectin—a type of soluble fiber shown to help reduce cholesterol. Try making tea by steeping oven-roasted and dried apple slices for an old-fashioned hot beverage.


Squash sections with seeds removed form small hollows that become natural containers for seasonings.

2-pound butternut squash
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or sliced almonds
1 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 red medium unpared all-purpose apple, chopped (about 1 cup)

Wash squash and pierce with tip of a sharp knife in several places to allow steam to escape. Place squash on paper towel in microwave oven. Microwave uncovered on high 4-6 minutes until squash is hot and rind is firm but easy to cut through; cool slightly. Carefully cut into halves; remove seeds. Arrange squash halves, cut sides down, on 10-inch plate. Cover tightly and microwave on high 5-8 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl. Cover tightly and microwave on high 1-2 minutes or until butter is melted and mixture is hot; stir. Cut squash halves in half. Spoon apple mixture over squash.
4 servings; 210 calories per serving.

Fruit and vegetable tips


  • Thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruits, as you would any produce, before eating or cooking to destroy any bacteria and to remove any pesticides or herbicides from their surfaces
  • Select produce without soft spots, blemishes, or cuts
  • Eat fruits and vegetables fresh or lightly cooked to obtain the most nutrient value—avoid boiling when possible
  • Experiment with a variety of spices, herbs, and cooking methods

Fall activities

Autumn’s cool weather and beautiful foliage is a call from nature to get outside, enjoy the scenery, and get physically active. One great event for fun family fitness is visiting a pumpkin patch and picking your own pumpkins and gourds. In addition, many pumpkin patch locations feature other activities, such as corn mazes and hayrides.

Find farm locations in your area that allow visitors to pick their own fruits and vegetables by watching your local newspaper or searching the Internet for more information. TRY pickyourown.org  Whether picking apples, pears, squash, peppers, or sweet potatoes, this is great way to connect with nature, burn some calories, and come home with healthy, nutritious foods. Try canning to preserve your favorite varieties for the rest of the year, or grow your own harvest fruits and vegetables and enjoy eating them even more.




Young Couple with Their Daughter and Son (8-12) Going on a Picnic

Easy exercises for you and your child to do together at every age level — work out and burn extra calories.

Sneak in Daily Exercise at Any Age
Twelve minutes. That’s how much more exercise slim kids get each day than overweight children do, according to a recent Swedish study of 8- to 11-year-olds. Those dozen extra minutes can burn 100+ calories, and that really adds up, says lead researcher Magnus Dencker, MD.  Here are some ideas for every age to get in those 12 minutes and then some!

For babies 3-18 months

family fitness 1

Take a dip together.

Check out the book Learn to Swim by Rob and Kathy McKay for tips. Holding your baby in the water is a great arm workout.

Calories burned in 30 minutes: 128

Build a Sand Castle

Build some serious sand castles. Head to your local beach or playground sandbox with plenty of shovels and buckets. Go to sandcastlecentral.com for building tips and links to designs for over-the-top structures.

Calories burned in 2 hours: 672

18 months to 5 years

Hispanic Man, Woman and Child having fun in the park.

Dance It Off!

Try dancing with the kids in your living room. Got two left feet? Check out your local library for some dance DVDs – Zumba is especially fun and exhilarating

Calories burned in 30 minutes: 144

Good Ol’ Games

Family fitness

Play an old school game with your kids, like Red Rover, Kick the Can, or Red Light, Green Light, in the backyard — fun and nostalgic for you, a blast for them! Rusty on the rules? Look ’em up online. One site to try: gameskidsplay.net.

Payoff: 320 calories burned in 60 minutes of games.

Neighborhood Fitness

Do a fitness swap with a friend or neighbor. Raid each other’s garages and borrow three pieces of equipment each — a mini trampoline, tennis racquets, a bocce ball set. Then try them out with your kids. It’s a great way to mix things up and test different activities without springing for all-new gear. Or have a neighborhood fitness block party. Pick three or four neighbors; do an activity at one house, then run to the next!

Payoff: 112 calories burned in 30 minutes of bouncing on a trampoline.

Home Bowling

Create a bowling alley in your driveway using empty water bottles as pins and a softball as the bowling ball. Setting up the pins and running after the ball really boosts your heart rate. (Hey, there’s no auto-return here!)

Calories burned in 1 hour: 336

Visit the Zoo

Take a full-on walking tour of the zoo — no tram, all on foot. Before you go, log on to learnanimals.com for cool facts to chat about during your visit.

Calories burned in 2 hours: 420

5 to 8 Years

Family Walking In The Park

Go Scavenging

Go on a backyard treasure hunt. Try Scaventure Kids, a kit that provides cards and instructions; $19.95 atboardgames.com. Or create your own hunt: Make a map and clues that lead explorers to the treasure.

Calories burned in 1 hour (includes 30 minutes of set-up): 256

Roofball, Anyone?

Dream up a wacky game with your kids. One example: roofball. Volley a beach or kick ball onto the roof of your house, and when it rolls off, try to hit it back up again.

Payoff: 192 calories burned in 60 minutes of volleying.

Wacky Noodles!

Have a noodle race in the pool. Pick up buoyant foam water noodles ($4.50 each at pooltoy.com)(even cheaper at WalMart), hop into the water, and center them under your bellies. Then swim back and forth across the pool at least five times. Even if your child isn’t a completely confident swimmer, the noodle will help keep her above water. (And yes, you should let her win a race or two.) Find other fun pool activities at about.com (search for “water games”).

Payoff: 192 calories burned in 30 minutes of swimming.

Go Berry-Picking

Take the kids to a pick-your-own-berries farm. Pluck lots of extras, and when you get home, bake low-fat muffins for everyone.

Calories burned in 2 hours of berry picking and baking: 672

Ride Bikes

Get into biking. Take yours in for a tune-up, and start working to get those training wheels off. For child-safety tips and gear, go to wallabykids.com.

Calories burned in 30 minutes: 336

8 To 13 Years


Try a Trail

Mark off time on your calendar to try two new parks, trails, or bike paths this month. For ideas, call your local parks and recreation department (or check online).

Calories burned in 90 minutes of biking: 576

Activity Calendar

Create an activity calendar. Cut out magazine pictures of biking, hiking, and running through the sprinkler, laminate them, and put double-sided tape on the back. Let your child choose the first one and stick it on the calendar. Fill it up so you have four or five days of activities weekly.

Payoff: 384 calories burned in 60 minutes of cross-country hiking.

Walking Club

Start a 10,000-Step Club. Buy a pedometer (check out the cute selection at amazon.com). Then plot several walks throughout the day — around the neighborhood, on a local nature trail, up and down the library steps, at the mall (10,000 steps, or about five miles, is what the experts say we ought to average daily to stay fit and keep the extra weight off).

Payoff: 224 calories burned in 60 minutes of walking at a brisk 3.5 mph pace.

Create an Obstacle Course

Design an obstacle course. Set out cones to weave through, overturned buckets to leap over and a limbo pole. Try to beat your speed using the cute Bell Stopwatch, which you can wear on your belt loop. ($12.99; Kmart)

Calories burned in 1 hour: 420

In-Line Skating Clubs

Try an in-line skating club. Find one at skatelog.com, where you can look up local indoor and outdoor places to skate, plus classes that teach safety, moves, and more.

Calories burned in 1 hour: 1,050

Cute little eight year old boy holding a baseball bat.

Have a Family Game of Baseball

Use a tennis ball and fashion some homemade bases.  Catcher’s mitts optional!!

13 Years and UP

A female soccer player heading the ball

Turn on the Waterworks

Cool off by having a water fight! Fill water balloons, grab some Super Soakers, and chase each other around the yard to see who can get who the wettest.

Calories burned in 30 minutes: 160

Bike Race!

Stage a mini Tour de France. Map out a course that’s at least five miles — with plenty of hills — and get the whole family in the race. You can even have a short “time trial” course and give awards for other impressive feats, such as “king of the mountain” (to whoever pedals fastest up the hills). Be sure to watch the real Tour for inspiration, or listen to it online; it runs from July 7 to 29. See www.letour.fr.

Payoff: 512 calories burned in 60 minutes of bicycling at 12 to 13.9 mph.

Get Gardening

Grow a kid-friendly garden. Dig up a patch and start planting in your yard — or buy pots and soil for a deck garden. Try cherry tomatoes or herbs like basil that kids can pinch off, taste, and smell. For more ideas on what to grow, go tokidsgardening.org.

Payoff: 576 calories burned in 2 hours of gardening.

Hula Hoop!

Have your kid teach you a sport or a game — skateboarding, ultimate Frisbee, soccer, hula hoop.

Calories burned in 30 minutes of hula hoping: 210

Go Rafting

Embark on an athletic adventure like white-water rafting. Get inspired by the athletic feats showcased on amazing-kids.org. Check out 10-year-old Jordan Romero, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!

Calories burned in 3 hours: 1,260