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fruitThe bounty of summer produce may be coming to an end, but the fall season has a lot to offer in the way of healthful fruits and vegetables. And since a recent study found that eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily reduces your risk of death at any age by 42 percent (and decreases your risk of heart attack and stroke), here are five of our favorites!

Apples: In addition to beneficial vitamins and antioxidants, apples are chock full of soluble fiber—which is not only important for digestive health and regularity but also promotes cardiovascular health and healthy cholesterol levels. Because of their high fiber content and fewer digestible sugars, Granny Smith apples are a great choice. They have also been shown to help increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut and may support weight loss and healthy weight management, according to a recent Washington State University study.

Pumpkin: Put down the carving knife… unless you’re carving up that pumpkin for soups and smoothies! The Halloween staple is loaded with essential nutrients like vitamin A for healthy vision (a cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of your RDA), vitamin C to support immune health, the antioxidant beta-carotene, potassium, iron and of course plenty of fiber. And did we mention the seeds? In addition to magnesium and zinc, pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is linked to serotonin production and a positive mood.

Arugula: Spice up your fall salads with arugula! Dark leafy green are essential for healthy detox, gut health and overall wellness—and arugula stands out in particular. Its peppery leaves are high in fiber, antioxidants and health-promoting plant compounds called glucosinolates, as well as vitamin K (needed for calcium absorption), essential B vitamins and beneficial compounds that support a healthy inflammatory response in the body. Arugula is also an aphrodisiac!

Cranberries: Cranberries are low in sugar and loaded with vitamin C and fiber—not to mention they have more immune-supporting antioxidants (including vitamin E) than nearly any other fruit or vegetable. In studies, cranberries have been shown to support immune function as well as promote healthy blood pressure levels, and research shows they also promote urinary tract health. Just remember to avoid high-sugar juices and sauces!

Brussels Sprouts: Gone are the days of turning up our noses at these little green bulbs. Belonging to the same family as broccoli and kale, non-starchy Brussels sprouts are loaded with good things like fiber, vitamin C, folate, iron, potassium and B vitamins—along with powerful antioxidants and other plant compounds shown to support immune function and overall health. And the best part? Brussels sprouts are really simple to prepare: just cut off the ends, mix them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven for about 35–40 minutes.

When shopping for fall fruits and veggies, go organic whenever possible and check out your local farmers market first. You should be able to find locally grown, in-season produce that’s fresh and affordable—in addition to being a healthful and delicious addition to your table!

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kids-cafeteriaJust two years after new federal nutrition standards went into effect requiring U.S. schools to provide more healthful lunch options, a study conducted by the National School Nutrition Association reveals the dismal truth: most children aren’t making the switch. In fact, much of the healthier food is being tossed in the trash.

The National School Lunch Program provides meals for more than 30 million schoolchildren nationwide, but according to the study 81.2 percent of schools surveyed said they saw an increase in the amount of food being thrown away by students since the new standards took effect. That amounts to nearly 4 million dollars a day in wasted food, say researchers at Cornell University and Brigham Young University.

As part of the new standards, schools are now required to provide more fruits and vegetables, but just making healthy choices available may not be enough. “The concept is just wonderful—but in fact, if a student is only going to take it and then discard it—it’s going to be a waste,” said one school nutritionist.

Indeed, just putting healthy foods in front of kids is not a solution. Parents can help by setting the example at home and encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle habits early on. Talking to kids about choosing the right foods (and why) as well as the importance of physical activity and a healthy body weight can have an impact on the choices they make in the school lunchroom. Getting them involved in the process of preparing and cooking dinner can also have lasting benefits.

It comes down to this: when kids see parents making healthier choices, they will want to do the same. Keep junk food out of the house, and encourage healthy snacking on low-sugar fruits, non-starchy veggies, dairy products, healthy fats and protein. That way, they’ll be more inclined to seek out those foods in the cafeteria.

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