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MEGAN MONDAY Super Squash – One of Fall’s Best (and Healthiest) Foods

squashMegan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach
With Halloween right around the corner, nothing represents the fall season more than arrangements of colorful pumpkins, gourds, and favorite recipes utilizing the comforting and rich flavors of different squashes. While MySuperFoods has already covered the health benefits of pumpkins (which is technically a fruit that belongs to the gourd family) in an earlier post .  I often find the plentiful health benefits and uses of squash to go unnoticed as much as they should. Most notable are the plentiful phytonutrient, fiber, mineral (such as copper, manganese, magnesium, and potassium), vitamin (namely vitamins A, C, B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid, folate, and vitamin K), anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant (specifically carotenoids) quantities that give squash their vibrant color and hearty flavor.
Some of the squash shining stars to not overlook this season are: butternut squash, acorn squash, winter squash, delicata squash, and spaghetti squash. Delicata squash is absolutely delicious, but not easy to find in some places; if you do have the luxury of finding some, they roast deliciously with walnuts or pecans…and nothing else is needed because of their deep, rich flavor and natural buttery texture.
Below, I’ll highlight the health benefits of two of my favorite squashes – butternut and winter squash.
Butternut Squash:
Low in fat (and the fat it does possess is the heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory type), this winter-season squash delivers tons of nutrients, namely dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. Other health kudos to add to the list are significant amounts of potassium (important for bone health), and vitamin B6 (essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems). The folate content adds yet another boost to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spina bifida, so pregnant moms – eat up!
When you cut into the dense flesh of butternut squash, one of the first thing you will notice is its bright orange color. This indicates the squash’s most noteworthy health perk – the abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. Butternut squash boasts very high levels of the carotenoid beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), helping to protect against different types of cancer and eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration. As if those are not enough reasons to want to eat butternut squash as often as possible, eating this if you are pregnant or breastfeeding will help support healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns. Butternut squash also makes a wonderful first food for babies (and it’s super easy to make! All you need to do is steam or roast and then mash up or puree). Who said citrus fruits are the only way to get vitamin C? With only a 1-cup serving of butternut squash, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C.
Try adding butternut squash into your family’s foods and recipes as much as possible, for this is one of the best foods for anti-inflammatory effects, high antioxidant content, and fiber content (so you feel fuller longer after eating a smaller amount compared to other foods). Individuals who suffer from inflammation-related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma have reported an alleviation of symptoms from eating high doses of foods like butternut squash.
Nutrient Facts for Butternut Squash, per 1 cup cooked, approximately 205 grams (SOURCE:
Calories:82 kcal
Fat:0.2 g
Vitamin A:1,144 mcg = 163 percent* of DRI**
Vitamin B6:0.3 mg = 20 percent of DRI
Vitamin C:31 mg = 41 percent of DRI
Folate:39 mcg = 10 percent of DRI
Potassium:582 mg = 12 percent of DRI
* Percentages are for women 31 to 50 years old who are not pregnant
** DRI, Dietary Reference Intake, is based on National Academy of Sciences’ Dietary Reference Intakes, 1997 to 2004
Winter Squash
Some people often compare squash to that of a sweet potato or other starchy vegetable; in reality, about 90% of its total calories come from carbohydrate, and about half of this carbohydrate is starch-like in its composition. For those concerned about consuming starchy/carbohydrate-rich foods, it’s important to note that all starch is not the same, and the starch content of winter squash brings along with it some key health benefits. For example, many of the carbs in winter starch come from polysaccharides (“many sugars”…used for energy in the body) found in the cell walls. These polysaccharides include pectins (usually referred to as fruit sugars) —specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. An increasing number of animal studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.
Like butternut squash, winter squash has long been recognized as an important food source of carotenoids (key antioxidants). Recent studies have shown that for some groups of study participants, winter squash turns out to be the primary food source of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene in the entire diet. Additionally, winter squash tops the charts as one of the top three food sources for lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin (three other health-supportive carotenoids).
As mentioned with butternut squash, 1 cup of winter squash contains 15% of the recommended daily allowance of folate, which has been shown to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects and other birth defects when taken by women before and during pregnancy. An added health benefit from eating winter squash is that the high folate content also works to prevent heart attacks by working against elements that break down blood vessel structures in your body. There is also a correlation between folate intake and reduced incidences of colon cancer.

In utilizing every part of the squash, World’s Healthiest Foods has a great use of squash seeds:
“Seeds from winter squash make a great snack food, just like pumpkin seeds. If you scoop the pulp and seeds from inside the squash and separate out the seeds, you can place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170°F (about 75°C) in the oven for 15-20 minutes. By roasting them for a relatively short time at a low temperature you can help minimize damage to their healthy oils. Linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid that is plentiful in olive oil) account for about 75% of the fat found in the seeds.”
Something important to consider when buying any type of squash, especially winter squash is that winter squash is a vegetable that might be especially important for us to purchase organic. Interestingly, recent agricultural studies have shown that winter squash can be an effective agricultural “tool” for use in cleaning up contaminated soils (namely by chemicals referred to as Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or “PAHs”). Such chemicals in this family occur in oil, coal, and tar deposits, and are produced as byproducts of fuel burning (whether fossil fuel or biomass). As a pollutant, they are of concern because some compounds have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic. These dangerous and unwanted contaminants can be effectively pulled up out of the soil by winter squash plants. When winter squash is planted as a food crop (as opposed to a non-food crop that is being planted between food crop seasons to help improve soil quality), the farmer’s goal is definitely not to transfer soil contaminants like PAHs up into the food. But some of that transfer seems likely to happen, given the effectiveness of winter squash in removing contaminants like PAHs from the soil, so you may definitely want to make a special point of purchasing certified organic winter squash. Soils used for the growing of in certified organic foods are far less likely to contain undesirable levels of contaminants like PAHs.
Be sure to check out former posts on squash and delicious recipes you can try:

Article resources:
World’s Healthiest Foods
Livestrong Organization
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail

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MEGAN MONDAY GMO 101: What You Should Know

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach

You may or may not have heard of the acronym “GMO”, standing for “Genetically Modified Organism(s)” – but whether or not you knew what the term stood for, there have been many developments to the research and overall understanding of the concept of GMOs and what it means to our food supply, environment, sustainability, and most importantly – short and long-term health effects.
Many times when I speak to individuals, they may have heard of the term GMO used in news headlines or denoted on food products, claiming if something is “GMO-Free,” but often, I am asked, “So does it really matter if something is a GMO? Why would it be allowed to be used in our food supply if it was not safe?!” Especially with recent legislative movements occurring across the nation with states like Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia submitting bills to be passed to allow for some form of GMO limitation and/or labelling requirement (California’s bill failed by a margin last year), the issue is becoming more and more popular and people want to know more about lies behind the “GMO curtain.” [To see a complete list of states and current legislative efforts focused around GMOs, please see:
In all honesty, I could write a novel with all of the heated debates and extremely controversial issues surrounding GMOs – but that is not my purpose for this article, as I simply want to highlight some key features to what GMOs are, what individuals should be concerned about regarding them, and what you can do/look out for concerning GMO issues – from detecting them in foods (even freshly grown produce!) to becoming involved with legislation and movements on a local and national level. I certainly have developed my own opinion regarding GMOs, and it’s not a favorable one, but that has been after years of tracking scientifically-based research that has studied the sourcing of GMO development and what the health and environmental effects have been and can be in the future. While I always support individuals forming their own opinions and following a course of action based on educated understanding, my goal is to help shed some basic knowledge about GMOs and what they mean to the health of the world and its people.
I recall when I was in high school filling out college applications, tapping into my love of science and thinking that I thought it would be so cool to go into genetic engineering so I could conduct experiments on plants and “revolutionize the food supply for the world.” At the time, with my limited knowledge of what this whole proverbial jigsaw puzzle of organics, healthy eating, and sustainability, etc. meant, I was basing my fascination off of articles and “studies” I had read in publications that were ultimately funded and sourced by powerful agribusiness and agrichemical companies (i.e. Monsanto, Cargill, etc. that are the bane of existence for many people around the world today). Through researching and learning more bit by bit, I was able to piece things together to have a clearer picture and understanding of what GMO meant. From something that sounded so cutting-edge and progressive almost two decades ago, my opinion (and those of many other individuals) has completely shifted in the opposite direction (and has even led to sheer anger that our food supply and the innocent natural state of food, agriculture, and the environment, coupled with some government corruption and lobbying, could have been tainted so much all in the essence of profit and power). Has it ever raised an eyebrow to how rates of food allergies, sensitivities, and digestive disorders like Celiac Sprue Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Acid Reflux, and rates of digestive organ cancers have been on a dangerous rise over the past 20 years? While there are critics who will vehemently argue that GMOs have nothing to do with the correlation, millions of people think otherwise and are demanding answers and action, if anything, simply to know and have the choice of being aware of what’s in the food they select and pay for.
Breaking It Down: What Is a GMO? (As stated directly from The Non-GMO Project, The Non GMO Shopping Guide and Stronger Together Co-op)
A GMO is a plant or animal that has been genetically altered by scientists to improve its ability to grow in non-native environments, resist pests, tolerate extreme weather conditions, produce more food (like milk in cows), or show other desired traits. In other words, a GMO is a new version of a food plant or animal created by scientists through genetic engineering (GE) techniques. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional cross-breeding.

These techniques are used to insert genes into or delete genes out of plant or animal DNA. Scientists have used GE technology to create plants, animals, and bacteria with biological characteristics that would never occur in the natural world—such as a tomato with an anti-freeze fish gene designed to resist cold temperatures, or corn plants with a bacterial gene that tolerates increased herbicide use.

Genetic engineering differs from what’s known as traditional breeding, which includes techniques such as hybridization and selective breeding. One hybrid plant is the boysenberry, a cross between a raspberry, blackberry, and sometimes loganberry. Examples of selective breeding include mating only the healthiest beef cattle or saving the seeds of only the tastiest, most pest-resistant carrots for next year’s crop. These traditional breeding techniques have been a central part of agriculture for 10,000 years and have been used to domesticate and increase yields of virtually every plant and animal used in agriculture today.
Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.
Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.
The first genetically modified crops were corn, soybeans, and cotton, which were engineered to control the growth of weeds and resist insects. Since corn and soy are two of the most common ingredients in processed food, these genetically modified ingredients are now appearing in more and more places on our market shelves. But because there’s no regulated food label that indicates whether a product contains GMOs, it’s hard to tell what you’re getting.

Are GMOs safe?
Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Increasingly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.
Many consumers are wary of eating genetically engineered products and are concerned that genetically engineered foods are a step in the wrong direction. Basic laws of nature prevent plants from breeding with fish or bacteria, so we have little experience or history with these kinds of combinations. The process of creating GMOs is highly unpredictable and untested; it’s assumed that if the original food was safe, the genetically modified version will be too. As a result, new allergens may be introduced into common foods, and long-term effects of eating GMOs remain unclear.
And it’s not just direct consumption of GMO food that causes concern. The most common use of GE technology in agriculture creates herbicide-resistant plants that allow farmers to use more chemicals without killing the crop. The result has been a substantial increase in the use of herbicides and the rise of approximately 15 herbicide-resistant weeds in the United States. Different or more chemicals are then needed to combat these weeds, leading to what’s called an “herbicide treadmill.“ When one chemical stops working, another is used until it stops working, and then another. For many, this is a major environmental concern.
The threat of GMO contamination of crops is equally unsettling to organic farmers. In nature, plants naturally distribute their pollen near and far, which spreads their genes from one plant to another. In this way, GMO plant pollen can contaminate organic plants. As a result, many organic farmers fear for their livelihood and their ability to fill consumers’ desire for organic products.
Hasn’t research shown GM foods to be safe?
No. The only feeding study done with humans showed that GMOs survived inside the stomach of the people eating GMO food. No follow-up studies were done.

Various feeding studies in animals have resulted in potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy or increased density of the liver, odd shaped cell nuclei and other unexplained anomalies, false pregnancies and higher death rates.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM)* recently released its position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that “GM foods pose a serious health risk” and calling for a moratorium on GM foods.

Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes “there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects” and that “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.”**

The AAEM further called for a moratorium on GM food, with implementation of immediate long-term safety testing and labeling of GM food. They recommended that Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GM foods and to consider the role of GM foods in their patients’ disease processes. The AAEM is just one of many organizations worldwide calling for these steps to be taken.

Are GMOs labeled?
“Unfortunately, even though polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans want to know if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs, the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping this information from the public. In the absence of mandatory labeling, the Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers the informed choice they deserve.”
Do Americans want non-GMO foods and supplements?
“Polls consistently show that a significant majority of North Americans would like to be able to tell if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs (a 2012 Mellman Group poll found that 91% of American consumers wanted GMOs labeled). And, according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, 53% of consumers said they would not buy food that has been genetically modified. The Non-GMO Project’s seal for verified products will, for the first time, give the public an opportunity to make an informed choice when it comes to GMOs.”
How common are GMOs?
“In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food.”
What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment?
“Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture, and are developed and sold by the world’s biggest chemical companies. The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment these novel organisms cannot be recalled.”
How do GMOs affect farmers?
“Because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents with which to restrict their use. As a result, the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields are contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of inevitable drift from neighboring fields. GMOs therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown, including the United States.”
Based on the science behind GMOs and the grave concern they pose to our health, the health of our food supply and environment, it’s no surprise why more and more people want to avoid GMOs as much as possible, if not altogether (this is another reason why eating organic is beneficial, as all certified organic foods ban any GMO ingredient). Many individuals are signing petitions against GMOs and also signing petitions in support of GMO labelling. If this is an issue that concerns you, it takes a few seconds to do your part in voicing your concern. Check out:
Here are a few things to consider when wanting to avoid GMOs (SOURCE: Stronger Together Co-op):
Agricultural products are segmented into two groups: (1) those that are high-risk of being GMO because they are currently in commercial production, and (2) those that have a monitored risk because suspected or known incidents of contamination have occurred and/or the crops have genetically modified relatives in commercial production with which cross-pollination (and consequently contamination) is possible. For more information on the Non-GMO Project’s testing and verification of risk ingredients and processed foods, please see the Non-GMO Project Standard.
High-Risk Crops (in commercial production; ingredients derived from these must be tested every time prior to use in Non-GMO Project Verified products (as of December 2011):
• Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
• Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
• Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
• Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
• Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
• Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
• Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
• Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
ALSO high-risk: animal products (milk, meat, eggs, honey, etc.) because of contamination in feed.
Monitored Crops (those for which suspected or known incidents of contamination have occurred, and those crops which have genetically modified relatives in commercial production with which cross-pollination is possible; we test regularly to assess risk, and move to “High-Risk” category for ongoing testing if we see contamination):
• Beta vulgaris (e.g., chard, table beets)
• Brassica napa (e.g., rutabaga, Siberian kale)
• Brassica rapa (e.g., bok choy, mizuna, Chinese cabbage, turnip, rapini, tatsoi)
• Curcubita (acorn squash, delicata squash, patty pan)
• Flax
• Rice
• Wheat
Common Ingredients Derived from GMO Risk Crops
Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products.
You may also be wondering about…
• Tomatoes: In 1994, genetically modified Flavr Savr tomatoes became the first commercially produced GMOs. They were brought out of production just a few years later, in 1997, due to problems with flavor and ability to hold up in shipping. There are no genetically engineered tomatoes in commercial production, and tomatoes are considered “low-risk” by the Non-GMO Project Standard.
• Potatoes: Genetically modified NewLeaf potatoes were introduced by Monsanto in 1996. Due to consumer rejection by several fast-food chains and chip makers, the product was never successful and was discontinued in the spring of 2001. There are no genetically engineered potatoes in commercial production, and potatoes are considered “low-risk” by the Non-GMO Project Standard.
• Salmon: A company called AquaBounty is currently petitioning the FDA to approve its genetically engineered variety of salmon, which has met with fierce consumer resistance. Find out more here.
• Pigs: A genetically engineered variety of pig, called Enviropig was developed by scientists at the University of Guelph, with research starting in 1995 and government approval sought beginning in 2009. In 2012 the University announced an end to the Enviropig program, and the pigs themselves were euthanized in June 2012.
Here are some great websites that contain excellent info graphs and guides that are easy to read and provide useful information on GMOs:
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail at:

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My Daughters Drew on the Wall with Marker…and How I Got it Out (with Baking Soda)

200455917-001I’ve been waiting for this day.  Markers on the wall.  Not “waiting” in the sense of standing over the coffee maker, pleading with it to drip a little faster.  But expecting.  Anticipating.  Dreading.

I’m actually shocked that we made it nearly 4 years and since their are two of them…well, I’m amazed.

So it happened.  The wall was white, the marker was pink and the outcome wouldn’t get us on a cover of any home decorating magazines.

My daughter Claire was immediately remorseful.  Crying “I’m sorry” and “please forgive me”, she layered me with hugs and sobs simultaneously.  I’m just glad this display of apology was reserved for our house and not out in public where people would surely think I locked her in the closet for forgetting to clean up her toys.  My daughter Rachel, on the other hand was basically pleased with her performance.  Displaying a level of “cool” that is usually reserved for the minister’s daughter in a made-for-TV movie, she draped her arm over the back of her chair and looked at me with nonchalance as I asked, “what happened?”

“Claire did it.”  Was her reply.

“No,” I said. “You both did.”

“Oh.” (searching for another excuse) “Claire told me to do it.”

Quickly calculating if she were still nearly 4 years old or the 12-year-old that seemed to sit in front of me, I reminded her that this behavior is not ok and that I would have to take markers away for a week.

Busted.  Markers are her favorite.  “Sorry mom.”

(If you ever need a reminder on the fact that part of kids behavior is just who. they. are. come over to my house.)

Now.  About that stain.

A quick Google search led to me two roads.  Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and baking soda with water.  Let me be clear, I do own cleaning products in my house with a whole host of chemicals in them.  But, I’ve made some small changes over the years and was really hoping for a natural remedy if I could find one.  But baking soda and water???  Why didn’t I just stand in front of the stain and wish it away?  Surely, baking soda and water would not be enough.  I decided to try and be proven wrong, and got out a small bowl and mixed a tablespoon of baking soda and a few drops of water.  Just enough to create a heavy paste.

Using a paper towel, I gathered some of the baking soda paste and applied it to the pink stained walls.  Within minutes, all of the stains were gone.  Gone!  I was in total shock and denial.  Still am.

I’m hooked.  What other amazing natural cleaning solutions should I be using???


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Oat Bran: The Unsung SuperFood

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Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach

Oat bran (not to be confused with oatmeal) has long since been an unsung health hero, for its original use was to feed livestock after oats were processed.   Oat bran looks like ground oat flour (not whole oatmeal grain flakes) and is what’s left over once the bran is removed from the actual oat (the outer covering of the oat is stripped for a more “appealing” look).  Because of its rich bran content, oat bran contains about 50% more fiber and soluble fiber than oatmeal, which as we know, helps to lower cholesterol and promote healthy digestion.  That’s not all, however.  This delicious “alternative” grain adds fluffiness and a punch of powerful nutrients to foods, such as protein, selenium, calcium, iron, thiamin, phosphorus, riboflavin, magnesium, and zinc, which is why more and more people are incorporating them into their recipes.  It’s a good thing the smarty-pants at MySuperFoods were wise enough to include this super grain in with their MySuperSnacks Granola Bites!

Here are the other health highlights to this wonder food:

–        FIBER: as aforementioned, a 1-cup cooked serving of oat bran provides 5.7 g, which is about 25% of your daily recommended intake of fiber.

–        POWER PROTEIN: Oat bran also supplies a significant amount of protein, which is important for adult and growing bodies alike to make and repair cells.  Additionally, protein is essential for healthy fetal, childhood and adolescent growth and development.  Our bodies require the essential amino acid phenylalanine, which is plentiful in oat bran.

–        SELENIUM: The important dietary mineral that helps reduce the effects of free radicals and lowers your risk of heart disease and cancer is present in a hefty amount of just 1 cup of cooked oat bran – you can fulfill 31% of your daily recommended dietary allowance!

–        THYROID HEALTH & BRAIN BOOSTER: The essential amino acid mentioned above – phenylalanine – is critical in maintaining neurological health and thyroid function.  Phenylalanine deficiency can cause confusion, lack of energy and studies have even linked it to anorexia, which is why it’s important you get enough…and you certainly will by eating oat bran.  Selenium combines with proteins to produce selenoproteins which combat the effect of free-radicals, disease (like heart disease and cancer), and also boosts thyroid and immune health.

–        HELPS TO REDUCE CHOLESTEROL: the high fiber and soluble fiber content help to lower bad cholesterol levels and raise healthy levels.  The soluble fiber in oat bran helps to reduce the low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a.k.a. the “bad” cholesterol.  This fiber also reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream and is considered much more efficient than oatmeal, which contains 50% less fiber than oat bran.

–        FIGHT INFLAMMATION: the high fiber content also attributes to lowering inflammation in the body, which can help those suffering from arthritis, high blood pressure, or auto-immune diseases.

–        FEEL FULLER LONGER: there is no better way to keep your belly full longer than to fill it with a high-fiber food that takes longer to digest and travel through the digestive system (which is also really helpful at cleaning out all of the “junk” left behind in your body!).  Many people have added oat bran to their foods to help them stay fuller longer and burn energy slower.  Once consumed, oat bran enters the digestive tract where its soluble fiber absorbs water, “takes up space”, and forms a gel-like substance, creating a feeling of fullness.  Interestingly enough, oat bran absorbs about 25 times its volume in liquid, so you can imagine how much space that takes up in your stomach.  To be exact, a tablespoon of oat bran (about half an ounce) forms a 13 ounce ball in the stomach.

–        BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR AND HELP BEAT TYPE II DIABETES: help combat blood sugar spikes by eating foods higher in fiber, which oat bran definitely promises.  Because it takes longer for the body to digest fiber (or not break it down at all), blood sugar levels stay stabilized longer and do not experience the “crash” that happens when high-sugar or carbohydrate foods enter the body.  As a result, this definitely helps keep blood-sugar diseases like hypoglycemia and Type II diabetes from standing a chance.   The gel-like ball that forms once oat bran is eaten passes through your digestive system and is broken down into a mix of fatty acids, amino acids, and glucose (all for energy, growth, and repair).  This process also slows down the break-down of sugar and further helps to remove calories from the body by reducing the absorption of dietary fat, while keeping your blood sugar levels low and stable (remember….unused sugar in the body turns to and is stored as fat).

–        CONSIDERED GLUTEN FREE: While oat bran is gluten-free by nature, it all depends on how and where it is processed, packaged, etc.  True gluten-free products need to be manufactured/packaged in a facility that is completely sterile from gluten (ANYTHING that contains wheat, barley, or rye).  You can find specially manufactured brands of oat bran that are certified gluten free.  Regardless, what a great alternative for those who suffer from gluten sensitivities or intolerances!

–        RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS: Who knew that a bran could be rich in free-radical, aging, and disease-fighting antioxidants!??!  Another bonus for oat bran and all of its ways to keep the human body healthy.

How to Use Oat Bran

Oat bran has a natural nutty taste and texture.  There are many different ways to incorporate oat bran into your family’s diet, but here are some of the more common and delicious ways:

  • You can eat it by itself as a hot cereal made with water and/or milk (or nut milk).  Combine 1 part oat bran with 2 parts liquid (milk or nut milk) and cook over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Toss with fresh or dried fruit and drizzle with honey for a wholesome breakfast.
  • Try mixing it in with yogurt or cottage cheese to add fiber with your calcium.
  • Add a scoop to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, cookie, or other baked good recipe.  The possibilities are endless with what you can add oat bran to.
  • Add a tablespoon or two into a smoothie.
  • Bread meat or fish in egg and then coat with oat bran for a crunchy texture and nutrient boost without added fat.
  • Add 1/3 cup of oat bran to meat loaf.


Like flaxseed, oat bran contains a little naturally-occurring fat that is susceptible to going rancid.  When buying in the store, look for products in well-sealed containers.  If you’re buying in bulk, buy from a store that moves its stock quickly and be sure the product is free from any moisture (the oat bran will be clumpy looking) and has a faint nutty smell (this is natural).  Because oat bran has a tendency to go rancid quickly if not stored properly, take precautions to prolong its shelf-life.  It should be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place.   Even better, store it in the freezer in a tightly sealed container.  You can cook with oat bran directly out of the freezer in recipes or on its own – no thawing required.



Nutrition Information (Per 3/4-cup of cooked oat bran)

Calories 66 kcal
Protein 5.3 g
Fat 1.4 g
Carbohydrate 18.8 g
Fiber 4.3 g
Sodium 2 mg
Calcium 16 mg
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) 0.26 mg
Vitamin B2 0.06 mg


Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching.  Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail at: Shot 2013-10-14 at 3.23.32 PM



Priyanekeshu Parihar (Yahoo Contributor)

Leslie Beck, RD



Five Awesome Reasons Your Kids Should Be Eating Apples

apple red1. They are in season!   Eating foods that are in season maximizes flavor and nutritional value.  It’s also when these foods are most affordable because you can find them locally so they don’t have to travel far.  Check out your what your state is serving up today with this great interactive seasonal map from Eat Well Guide.

2. Apples are packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, K, B6, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium and manganese.

3. Fiber.  Among it’s many benefits, fiber keeps kids fuller longer and helps to clean both teeth and gums.  Additionally, it aids in digestion and regular bowel movements. (If you’ve ever had a constipated kid, you are probably already on your way to pick up some apples right now)

4. Apples balance blood sugar levels, which is essential in all kids and especially those with diabetes.

5. The are delicious, sweet, crunchy and make a great snack for any time of day.  My daughters love to eat them whole, slice and dip them in peanut butter, bake them in the oven as chips and add small cubes of them to oatmeal, yogurt and muffins.  The options are endless.

For more in depth explanations, please visit Organic Facts:

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My New Favorite Recipe For Apple Butter

This is my favorite time of year.  When the temperature drops and we layer up to play outside.  When we take our kids apple picking and pumpkin picking and I start making chili that sits on the stove for hours.  Fall.  Ahhhtumn.

We took the girls apple picking at two different farms a couple of weeks ago.  We gathered way more than we needed, thinking we had to feed 40 instead of 4 but there’s something about picking food right from a tree that is hard to resist.  Plus, there’s all the amazing health benefits of apples.  A medium apple boasts 4g of soluble fiber, 95 calories and immune-boosting vitamin C.


Being the type of person that eats at least 2 apples a day (overachiever for “really liking to keep the doctor away”) I wasn’t worried when we unloaded two gigantic boxes of apples from our trunk.  In fact, I was excited.  Then reality sunk in that it would take a small army to help me make it through the first layer of Macouns.

Thanks to some of our amazing Facebook followers, I tackled some much needed new recipes and made the best apple butter I’ve ever had in my life.  The recipe and instructions come from Eating Bird Food, an adorable site with great resources that I’m planning to revisit soon.  The recipe estimated making (8) 1/2 pint jars which could be easily frozen for later.  Although I loved this idea, I did not have that kind of room in my freezer when I made this so I cut the recipe in half.  In the end, I made (2) pint jars full.  Maybe my apples were small.

Healthy Homemade Apple Butter (adapted from Eating Bird Food)

  • 5 medium sized apples (I used 4 different kinds for best taste – as I do in apple pie)
  • 1 cup of unsweetened apple juice
  • 2 T water
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • pinch of sea salt


1. Place cored and sliced apples (not peeled) into a large crock-pot / slow cooker.

2. Pour juice on top of sliced apples. Add water, apple cider vinegar and spices. Stir all ingredients together, cover pot and let it cook for 15 hours on low.

3. The liquid will reduce and the apples will be very soft, darker in color, and smell lovely. Turn the crock pot off and let the apples cool down a bit (about 30 minutes), then transfer the mixture into a blender (or use emersion blender) and blend until completely smooth.

4. Let the apple butter cool and then transfer into storage containers. It should store well in the fridge for about 3 weeks.  If it makes it that long.


Frightened By What To Hand Out For A Halloween Treat? Here Are Some Healthy Alternatives

halloween candyAs a healthy-minded individual, Halloween is one of those times during the year when I feel my moral compass spinning around for a moment before I need to decide what to do. Being a nutrition and health coach, I need to walk my talk and set the example for others, rather than live hypocritically and not practice what I preach to clients.
Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year – there’s just something about the festive spirit of Halloween – from the awesome Autumn snacks (namely pumpkin-flavored goodness), the aroma of cinnamon and spice (is anyone else obsessed with cinnamon brooms?!?!), to the creative ways to decorate and dress-up – you just can’t beat it in my book. However, one thing that has gravely concerned me over the years since I have become so health-conscious is obviously the obscene amount of candy and junk food that kids (and adults!) collect and engorge in.

Believe me – I have FOND memories of the 20 pounds of candy I would collect each year and organize in an obsessive-compulsive manner on our living room floor. I had a category for everything, and through my hours of cataloging candy, I sampled plenty. I’m not going to lie – Halloween candy tastes delicious. I can still recall the exact taste of everything I used to glom. I would even create obscure combinations in my mouth – not that I would say Raisinettes tasted particularly well with Smarties, but it was an experiment I didn’t mind undertaking. I am guessing I probably engulfed hundreds (yes, you heard me right…HUNDREDS) of grams of sugar perhaps even in one day, not to mention that week of Halloween. I mean, packed lunches the week of Halloween were the best because I had candy for a snack, with lunch, another post-lunch snack, and a treat for the bus ride home (obviously I packed my lunches this particular week when I was a kid).

The thought of it now makes me shake with insulin-overload, but at the time, we didn’t know how bad it was; just as long as we brushed our teeth effectively and didn’t get cavities, that was the main precaution. Nowadays, reflecting back on my happy candy memories, I almost feel guilty thinking that for just for one day, I can’t bend my rules and priorities for the anxious Halloween-partakers who will ring my doorbell. Even more so, my 20-month-old son will be old enough to enjoy dressing up, going door-to-door. Gasp. What do we do with the candy he’ll receive? Obviously he’ll be curious and wonder what this nugget of intrigue is that he has never sampled before in his life (and I plan to keep it that way as long as I can, eh-hem). Do we just walk around and not ring doorbells? (Which may be easy to do since he’s still young).

The other dilemma I run into is what WE will be handing out to the trick-or-treaters without seeming like the “weird house” that everyone wants to stay away from (you know, like “those” houses when you were a kid where it was just a hand dumping some pennies or linty-mystery-candy in your bucket??). The first year I implemented a healthy Halloween hand-out was when we were living in California, so I thought that it wouldn’t be too obscure to pass along healthy treats. I bought organic pouches of fruit snacks for a reasonable price in Whole Foods (yes, you heard me right). I personally thought these snacks were delicious in all of their natural flavoring/low amount of sugar/no artificial anything glory. Yet when the kids were given these treats, they remarked, “What the heck is THAT!?!? Do you have anything else?!” Such a Halloween fail for an avid Halloween fan can be harrowing. So, I have tried to get crafty over the years and think of other alternatives, but in all honesty, I can’t go back to the dark side and just pass out what every kid would love. I need to start setting an example, as this is what I believe in. It’s so important for kids to be exposed to different things, in addition to showing parents that not every “treat” has to be a piece of candy. So, I figured this would be a great opportunity to help some like-minded folks out who may have been wondering the same thing. If you really feel passionately about dishing out a representation of your healthy ways and beliefs, then do so…and realize you’re not alone.

This is also a time of year I get many concerned requests from parents: “WHAT DO WE DO!??!” (as in…with the candy). This can be a tough one, and I feel it should be left up to each family to decide upon, but I have found some great lessons focused around compromise, negotiation, and some just hard-lining priorities and boundaries be set. While we do not want to alienate our children or make them feel bad or like outcasts, it IS important to teach them limits and reasonable ways to navigate through what we like to refer to “societal norms.” Check out the additional list of suggestions for what to do with any candy your child DOES collect on Halloween (and sneaking and eating it yourself, while tempting, is not on the list…nor is bringing it into your office to pollute the health and well-being of your co-workers).

First things first, I think it’s important to note candy has changed over the years. I recall when being a child, a chocolate bar was a chocolate bar. Twix was caramel with chocolate and a cookie. Now….I feel like the ingredients list on candy resembles that of a horror film. I looked at about 15 different bags of Halloween candy the other day – and was shocked at how many added, harmful, artificial ingredients were listed. Doing that alone quickly turned my nostalgic fondness for the candy I once loved into nothing but disgust. It’s important for parents to know what is IN this stuff – everything from chemical stabilizers and preservatives to artificial colorings and flavorings to loads of sugar and even fat (and even the “sugar-free” stuff is full of artificial sweeteners). Think back to all of the hard work you conduct on a daily basis teaching and modeling for your children about being and eating healthy. If you make exceptions and let them go nuts with Halloween candy “as a treat” – then that is sending very mixed signals, which you want to avoid.

So, without further ado… here are some great alternatives for surviving a healthy Halloween. I tried to keep in mind a variety of budgets, too, as some people really like to splurge on their Halloween treats, whereas others are on tighter budgets due to the volume of kids to expect (like myself):
What to keep in mind when purchasing treats:
• Should be made from organic, pesticide-free, and/or non-GMO ingredients.
• Food items are made from healthy and whole ingredients and do not include hydrogenated oils, trans-fats, artificial colors or flavors. The items have limited or no salt, sugar or caffeine (including chocolate).
• Non-food items are made from safe materials and do not pose any suspected immediate or long-term health risks.
• Try to avoid “homemade” food treats to give out, unless you are giving them to kids who know you and their parents are OK with it. Due to severe food allergies, it’s important to be aware of what certain children can/can’t have.

Food treat ideas:
• MySuperSnacks! What kid wouldn’t want to get a pouch of sheer healthy deliciousness?!?
• DRIED FRUIT BAGS – Natural sweetness at its finest! Many stores sell small pre-packaged bags of dried fruit, which is a healthy alternative. MY only word of caution is I’m not a fan of dried fruit that was prepared with sulfites to act as a preservative.
• GRANOLA BARS – That’s what’s on the menu for Casa Kalocinski this year (I hope I didn’t ruin the surprise for anyone in my neighborhood). While not perfect, they are a decent and easy alternative. I was able to buy numerous boxes of 60 granola bars (natural versions, of course) for $8 a piece at Costco (while I am sure any warehouse store has them). Comparing this to the $14 of a large bag of candy, I was pleased with my savvy comparison skills. Granola bars are still tasty and have a sweet treat appeal, without all of the added garbage. Besides, they keep well and are easy to pass out.
• PRETZELS – Bags of pretzels are another good alternative to candy. While they may not be as exciting as pieces of candy, there is bound to be a salty snack craving after all of that sugar overload to balance out the taste preferences.
• CRACKERS – Natural crackers come in a wide-variety of little pouches that you can buy in bulk for a reasonable price. Like pretzels, they may not be the top choice, but at some point, a craving for a savory snack will emerge amidst all of the sugar.
• NATURAL-INGREDIENT COOKIES – Again, not something I would be giving to my child every day, but I would feel so much better handing this out as a snack rather than candy that is full of artificial ingredients.
• NATURAL-INGREDIENT FRUIT SNACKS – Just because my go-around wasn’t a hit with all kids the year I inaugurated this Halloween treat alternative does not mean that it won’t be enjoyed by the rest of the lot. Still sweet and treaty, these fruit snacks are made with much healthier alternatives than candy.
The folks at had some additional great suggestions:
• Organic juice boxes
• Organic apple sauce snack packs
• Real-fruit strips and rolls
• Boxes of organic raisins
• Pouches of natural yogurt drops
• Raw or roasted nuts (ask parents before giving out nuts due to allergies)
• Organic Twisted Fruit
• Trial size packs of dried veggie chips
• Organic, gluten-free treat-sized crispy rice bars
• Snack sized bags of organic or natural popcorn
• Individually wrapped pumpkin seed treats

And who says you need to hand out candy? Here are some non-food treats you can test out (be sure to keep in mind age-appropriateness when handing out small items to children):
• Adhesive “bandages” with pirate, black cat and other fun themes
• Barrettes or other hair things
• Decorative beads (not to be handed out to small children)
• Bean bags (homemade)
• Charms
• Crayons
• Little bags of assorted craft supplies
• Fake jewels (lead free)
• Fortunes
• Small container of Play-Doh or Mary’s softdough (or homemade dough)
• Money (I heard it grows on trees)
• Pencils made (preferably eco-conscious varieties)
• Mini pumpkins
• Spinning tops
• Stickers
• Temporary tattoos
• Yarn bracelets
• Purchase entry coupons for local zoos, water parks, movies etc. This will work especially well if you have a set amount of children at a Halloween party, you might like to consider giving each child an entry coupon instead of candy. (Obviously you’ll be handing treats like this out to special children you know, unless you’re cool with bankrolling your neighborhood’s Halloween).
And some suggestions as what to do when your child trick-or-treats:
• You may even try to avoid trick-or-treating altogether with a fun alternative – HAVE A PARTY! Kids can still have a ton of fun and engage in all the festivities, but you have control over serving healthier food like homemade pizza, dips and pita pieces and fresh fruit. Focus on fun games more than the food and give intriguing non-food prizes. Break out the scary music and ghost stories to crank up the fear factor and liven things up. Even better, you won’t have to worry as to where your children are.
• DONATE THE CANDY – To get rid of the candy, some places like dental offices, fire houses, or “buy back programs” will take Halloween candy off of your hands while making your child feel like he/she is serving a good deed.
• SIMPLY THROW IT OUT – I remember one year my mom was pretty much over how much candy we collected. Being she was a dental hygienist, I also think she was paranoid we’d lose our teeth. The Halloween Candy Fairy visited our house that night, having made a successful sweep of our candy buckets to take it away to Never-NeverLand. Due to the mystical spin she put on the whole ordeal, we bought it and got over it pretty quick.
• COMPROMISE ON THE CANDY – while putting a ban on all candy may be your ultimate wish, that will likely cause a backlash of rebellion and sneaky behavior of trying to acquire it from other places. Instead of banning sugary snacks altogether, try allowing a limited amount or making rules beforehand about how many treats your kids can have.
• EXPLAIN WHY THE CANDY IS BAD – I am one of those up-front people who feels giving the facts straight-up is a great way to start enlightening individuals on why I preach what I do. Perhaps explaining to your children what the ingredients in candy are and how bad they are to your health, while simultaneously giving some healthy alternatives instead, will help them understand why. I am a huge fan of using educational videos and images on Google (i.e. in this case pictures of badly rotten teeth, etc.) to make a point even more clear (obviously use your judgment for age-appropriateness).
• TEACH MODERATION – Try not to make too big a deal out of the candy. A little candy (i.e. one or two pieces) is better than a long, sad memory of being totally denied treats at Halloween. Again, explain why you hold the stance you do about traditional Halloween candy by talking sensibly with them about diet, health and good eating habits at all times, not just at Halloween, so that they grow to understand the relationship between eating and body health. Help them to learn that some indulgence on special occasions is okay, as long as they don’t consume too much and they accept that treats belong only to very special occasions. Kids are perfect at understanding and your continued support and good example are what they need the most.

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching (of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC). Megan educates and empowers men, women, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail at:

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My Kids, My Plate Art

Plate art is nothing new.  It’s just taking ingredients and turning them into a face or an animal or anything artistic on a plate.  When I was a kid, plate art had a different name.  It was called “ants on a log”.  Celery, peanut butter, raisins.  I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of it.  I’m not sure if my mom was not into other options or just really tired from being home with us all day.

It comes as no surprise to me that introducing plate art at meal time is a way to get the kiddos’ attention.  It’s fun, interactive and begs to be pulled apart.  Nearly any time I put a plate in front of my daughters that has been constructed into something (anything) they smile.   Then take a big bite.

I know you think you know where this is going.  That I’m going to tell you that I spend 30 minutes before dinner crafting the Mona Lisa with some spaghetti and broccoli.  Hardly.

I apply the same philosophy to anything that I know will gain me full attention from my kids.  Moderation.  If I go in full force, the novelty wears off and we’re back to a rut at breakfast time.  If I throw in an unexpected waffle butterfly,

butterfly wafflephoto 4  then they eat it right up…










One night, I had no intention of crafting anything.  But as I prepped the plates I noticed an alarming number of green things on the menu.  “Are they even going to touch this?” I wondered.  Then it hit me.  Turn it into a tree.

green tree dinner

Maybe I’ll lose the potatoes on the bottom next time.  I was told they looked a little…anatomical.  Either way, there was no complaining and my daughters tried everything.  I’ll worry about the biology lesson when they’re older.

Snack time is also a great time to play around.  Think about the things you talk to your kids about every day.  Like the traffic lights you just saw coming home from school

traffic light

Or make something fun out of the apples you just picked from the farm.  If you’re anything like us, you have about 50 extra apples lying around for just such an occasion.


Whatever you do, make it fun.  Keep it simple.  As the kids get older I let them help me and come up with their own ideas.  Plate art is fun for many reasons, but I love it most because it helps teach my daughters that healthy food is anything but boring.

Check out the day I showed Dr Oz a healthy carrot hummus plate art snack!  He loved it.


(Healthy) Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies!

CookieI am always on the hunt for healthier versions of our favorite comfort foods, and while I usually like the outcome, my 3.5yr olds aren’t so easy to please.  Lately, they have been obsessed with cookies, particularly anything with chocolate, and the softer, the better.  Aside from Christmas baking, I steer clear of sugar and white flour in most recipes, so when I came across a recipe that called for neither, I was psyched!

The recipe is simple and uses really clean ingredients.  There is no added sugar and the base is whole oats!  But, most importantly, they are super moist and delicious!  I made them with the kids in less than 20 minutes and the mess was manageable.   These cookies are moist and delicious, low in sugar, and provide both fiber and protein.   What a great after school snack or after dinner treat! My kids could not get enough.  They were negotiating these all day, like this “Mama, if I have good behavior can I have another one?”


2 Ripe Bananas, Mashed

1/3 C. Peanut Butter (no sugar added) **you can substitute sunflower butter, or any seed butter, for peanut butter if you have allergy concerns**

2/3 C. Unsweetened Applesauce

1 Tsp. Vanilla

2 Tblspn Coconut Oil (melted)

1/2 Tsp. Salt

1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

1 1/2 C. Old Fashioned Oats

1/4 C. Dark Chocolate Mini Chunks

Mix banana, applesauce, vanilla, peanut butter and coconut oil in a bowl.  Add oats, spices and chocolate.  Drop teaspoon size dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.


adapted from:

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