• Theresa Gentile

Pumpkin pancakes that lower your cholesterol? Say no more! If you're eating right for your heart and are craving pancakes, this may be the perfect, easy, weekend meal.


Pumpkin - you either love it or hate it. I love it and all the fiber-packed nutrition that pumpkin offers. I love coming up with ways to make healthy food easy and tasty so my whole family will enjoy healthy foods.


These particular pancakes pack an extra heart-healthy punch - they're made with oat flour. The heart-healthy fiber in oats is beta-glucan, a kind of soluble fiber. Foods with oat fiber have been shown to lower bad levels of cholesterol, or LDL-cholesterol. Soluble fiber in oats may also lower non-HDL cholesterol as well (apo B), which carries bad cholesterol through the bloodstream. Oat fiber, combined with other sources of soluble fiber in the diet can help decrease the risk of heart disease.


What other foods contain heart-healthy fiber?

This heart-healthy, beta-glucan fiber can also be found in barley, yeasts, seaweed, algae, and some types of mushrooms (like reishi, shiitake, and maitake).


If you love pumpkin and oats, make sure to try my so-healthy-you-can-eat-for-breakfast Healthy Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies.

And if you're in the mood for more fiber-rich oats and chickpeas in a portable, yummy energy ball, try my No-Bake Protein Energy Balls.


How much beta-glucan fiber do you need each day to help lower cholesterol?

3 grams of beta-glucans per day can help lower blood cholesterol levels by 5-8%, according to an approved health claim by the FDA. You can get 3 grams of beta-glucans from 1.5 cups cooked oatmeal, 3 packets of instant oatmeal, or about 1 cup of cooked pearl barley.


What are other health benefits of beta-glucan fiber?

This soluble fiber, along with insoluble fibers can help modulate blood sugar and promote insulin sensitivity. Oat and barley-containing foods slow the absorption of glucose after a meal. This means less insulin needs to be released to bring down your blood sugar. And, remember, insulin is our prime fat-storage hormone. The less we need to release, the better.


So, I’ve given you plenty of reasons to try these pumpkin oat pancakes. Tell me what you think!


Easy Pumpkin Oat Pancakes


Dry ingredients

1 ½ cups old fashioned or quick-cooking oats, blended to a powder

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg


Wet ingredients

1 ½ cups buttermilk

¾ cup pumpkin puree

3 Tablespoons melted butter

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions:

Blend oats in a blender or food processor. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.


In another bowl, whisk and thoroughly combine the wet ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk together until just combined.


Prepare a griddle over medium heat until hot.


Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle and cook until you see the tiny bubbles on the top of each pancake and some have popped open. Then flip the pancake and cook until lightly browned and fluffy.


Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F. oven.


Serve with pure maple syrup, butter, or plain Greek yogurt for extra protein.



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  • Theresa Gentile

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

These “cookies” are healthy enough to have for breakfast. Have them on the way to school, throw them in the kids’ lunchboxes or enjoy them with a cup of coffee on a lazy weekend morning.

Healthy Pumpkin oatmeal cookies


I don’t know about you, but this time of year always seems to have the smell and feel of sharpened pencils and brand new notebooks – even more so now that I have kids. I’m a summer baby at heart, but I love the change of seasons in NY and fall is quickly approaching. (I mean, c’mon, all the coffee shops are already serving pumpkin lattes, so it must be fall.)


I dare to call these little bites of baked goodness, “cookies”, because, of course, cookies have the connotation of being “unhealthy” which implies other nutrition behaviors, which we wrongfully shun when we don’t eat intuitively……..but I digress.


Miriam Webster defines a cookie as a “sweet baked food that is usually small, flat and round and is made from flour and sugar”. So, I suppose these are “cookies”. Of course, I call them cookies to give them the extra anticipation of deliciousness for my kids. But even with slashing the sugar, a little banana gives these pumpkin cookies natural sweetness, along with a few chocolate chips sprinkled throughout.


I cut the flour in the base and substituted oatmeal for extra more fiber. Oat fiber contains beta-glucans, a soluble fiber that helps lower LDL, or "bad", cholesterol. Soluble fiber in oats may also lower non-HDL cholesterol as well (apo B), which carries bad cholesterol through the bloodstream. Oat fiber, combined with other dietary sources of soluble fiber, may help lower your risk of heart disease.


My family ate these pumpkin cookies right up when they came out of the oven. There were definitely better right out of the oven, but the 2 cookies that were left over went into the kids’ lunchboxes and were gobbled up.


Because I love food and learning about food’s origins, I find the origin and nutrition of pumpkins quite interesting.


Pumpkin Origins


Pumpkin may creep up in artificial flavor form in the fall, but there was a time when Americans consumed them more in their natural form. Pumpkins were a staple in Native Americans’ and early colonists’ diets. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Mexico. There have been seeds from related plants found in Mexico in 7000 to 5500 B.C. (And the name, pumpkin, originated from the Greek word “pepon”, which is “large melon”.)


In today’s Mexican markets, though, there aren’t Jack-o’-lantern varieties (which are used more for carving than eating). In Mexico, you’ll find Calabaza, which are bulbous or round, being or green-striped and with crooked necks.


Pumpkin Nutrition


Pumpkin, fresh or canned, is superbly nutritious, packed with fiber, potassium, vitamin K, beta carotene, and iron. I’ll focus on canned pumpkin since it’s more user-friendly.

The fact that canned pumpkin has a high water content, keeps the calories low, and fills you up more. It is also a low sodium food.

According to the USDA, ½ cup canned pumpkin contains:

Calories: 40

Total fat: 0

Sodium: 5mg

Total Carbohydrates: 10g

Dietary Fiber: 4g

Sugar: 4g

Protein: 1g

Vitamin A: 380%

Vitamin C: 8%

Calcium: 4%

Iron: 10%


This makes pumpkin a real nutrient dense food. It is high in fiber, keeping you fuller longer and helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. It has 4 grams of fiber per ½ cup, which is more than a medium sized banana.

The high beta-carotene content (which turns into Vitamin A in the body) is a powerful antioxidant. This may help boost our immunity and protect your skin from UV rays, warding off wrinkles.


Pumpkin’s low-calorie content makes it perfect for mixing in with other ingredients in a recipe to really boost the nutrition….like these pumpkin oatmeal cookies.


Healthy pumpkin oatmeal cookie

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies


Makes about 13 cookies


Ingredients:

½ can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie)

½ banana, mashed

½ cup flour

1 ½ cups whole oats

4 Tbsp coconut oil (or canola/vegetable)

3 Tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup chocolate chips


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flour, oats, pumpkin pie spice).

Mix wet ingredients in another small bowl (pumpkin, banana, coconut oil, vanilla maple syrup).

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.

Mix until just combined.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop on greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake for, about 25 minutes, or until slightly browned.


Nutrition:

Per cookie:

Calories: 100

Carbohydrates: 11 g

Sugar: 6.7 g

Fat: 6 g

Protein: 1.2 g


Healthy pumpkin oatmeal cookie

Did you make them?? Tell me how they came out!

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  • Theresa Gentile

Your mindset and how you perceive the world can predict if you achieve your goals. Mindset is an important element in achieving success in school, business, life and your eating habits. I love this Oprah Winfrey quote: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Ok, easy to say coming from a billionaire, right? But there is research to prove this theory of the abundance mindset.


What is a scarcity mentality versus abundance mindset?


The terms scarcity mentality versus an abundance mindset were coined by Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (For which I can thank my high school for including on a summer reading list.) The scarcity mindset is where one feels there are limited resources to achieve our goals. It’s the idea that life is a pie and if people take too big of a piece, there won’t be enough left to go around. It makes us competitive for scarce resources, driving the primitive part of our brain to its evolutionary roots of survival.


On the flip side, there’s the abundance mindset. This is the growth mindset, where there is enough to go around; money isn’t lacking, resources aren’t lacking, and food isn’t lacking. When we’re not acting in the context of the feeling of scarcity, we aren’t pulled automatically towards unfulfilled needs. We don’t have to act in the moment; we can take our time, savor, appreciate, and avoid always feeling like your decision is a trade-off.


How an Abundance Mindset Can Help you Reject Diet Culture and Lose Weight


The scarcity mindset creates short-sightedness. When you’re micro-managing the minutiae of your calories each day, you need to resist and avoid so much. “Since I ate a cookie, (which was baaad!), now I need to deduct those 100 calories from somewhere else in my day. Ok, 50 calories here, 50 calories there. I won’t eat at the party; I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!”) This constant worry eats away at your self-control facilities. It’s no wonder you’re not left with much will-power at all after scarcity thinking like this all the time.


When you restrict foods you believe are “bad” or off-limits, it triggers your scarcity mentality. You wind up focusing on those foods you “can’t” have. Scarcity mindset creates the desire to hoard these foods.


I can’t tell you how many times a client has come to me and told me that they just had their “last meal” of pizza (or some food they thought I was going to restrict) because, after seeing me, they can never eat that again, right?


The abundance mindset frees you from the diet cycle. Frees your mind to be more in tune with your hunger, fullness, desires and habits.

The abundance mindset allows you to make better decisions around food. It allows you to be intentional and intuitive with your food choices and with the timing of your meals.

Abundance mindset frees you to meal prep and make healthy choices at tempting events and in stressful situations.


The abundance mindset also helps you to avoid falling prey to shiny wrapper syndrome. Training your brain to act in light of an abundance mindset means you don’t have to eat the Entenmann’s cake at AND your Grandma’s homemade cheesecake at your Christmas spread. The Entenmann’s cake will always be there. It’s not going anywhere. It’s just decorated in red and green on the outside.


Plus, you CAN have both if you want. You don’t have to restrict. It’s a choice, not doctrine. You’re in control of your food choices. NOT the other way around.

Scarcity mindset also makes you focus on the present scarcity, blinding you to the future. You have to have an abundant mindset to value future benefits to overcome immediate temptations. You have to be able to see the larger picture.


OK, How Can I Shift My Mindset from Scarcity to Abundance?


1. Be grateful for what you do have


When you’re feeling inadequate, flip the script to accentuate what you’re really good at. Accentuate your abilities and gifts. Actually write them down – on paper. Keep a list of achievements handy, so you can revisit this when feeling down.

Also, consider keeping a gratitude journal and jotting down 3 things for which you’re grateful every day. I try to do this often with my kids as a way to foster optimism and help them savor and appreciate life’s everyday things. The science of gratitude indicates that gratitude can actually change our brain to increase our mental and physical well-being by decreasing inflammation and increasing optimism.


2. Practice being happy for others


The corporate world breeds scarcity mindset. Competitiveness abounds, everyone fights to hoard information, and there’s a bias towards the here and now, leading to short-term thinking. Instead, notice when a resentful feeling pops up in you and jot down one of your own achievements in that gratitude journal. Try a small act of kindness for someone who didn’t expect it and see how it makes you feel. Don’t compare and despair.


3. Surround yourself with like-minded people


You are the company you keep. If you’re surrounded by those with a fixed or scarcity mindset, you’re likely to think like them.


4. Grow


If you’re stuck wallowing in self-pity or feeling of lacking, try learning and growing. Learning a new skill can foster an immense sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. You’d be surprised how much a little extra boost of pride and achievement can help you view the whole world in a different way.


Although the world may seem like a competitive and difficult place sometimes, if you can alter your own world to decrease urgency and increase happiness, you may find yourself making healthier food and life choices.


Do you find some aspects of a scarcity mindset in yourself?

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