A Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie in a glass jar with a straw. The words "Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie, a sweet and healthy treat!" on it.

Want to enjoy something sweet AND healthy this Thanksgiving? Our pumpkin cheesecake smoothie recipe gives you lean protein and healthy fat – and is full of great fall flavor!

Pumpkin isn’t just a delicious holiday pie flavor. While pumpkin does add delicious flavor to many recipes, it also provides some key nutrients. Pumpkin is full of beta-carotene that helps promote healthy vision and immune function, and pumpkin is also a great source of fiber.

To top it off, adding heart-healthy oats will keep you fuller for longer and add even more heart-healthy fiber, and the low-fat yogurt and protein powder add plenty of lean protein.

“Pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamin A, which is important to preserve vision, fight infections and maintain healthy skin,” said NCHPAD Registered Dietitian Emily McCallister. “Pumpkin is also a great source of fiber – a nutrient that helps stabilize blood sugar, along with potassium, which helps with muscle contraction, blood pressure and mineral balance within our cells. Be sure to purchase 100% pumpkin puree to receive all its health benefits without the added sugar.”

Watch the video below and check out the ingredients below the video.


1 cup canned pumpkin

½ frozen banana

1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 cup fat-free milk

½ cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon ground flax seed

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Sprinkle of nutmeg

Sheet pan with roasted veggies

For individuals with diabetes, reducing your carbohydrate intake and managing your blood sugar levels are vitally important. But what healthy meals are out there that are also delicious? For National Diabetes Month, we’ve got three sheet pan meals that are easy to make, packed with flavor and contain well-balanced portions – a key component to keeping a healthy blood sugar level.

“Lifestyle modifications like eating consistent meals throughout the day and having a balanced plate can help manage blood sugar,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “A balanced plate contains half non-starchy vegetables, a quarter lean protein and a quarter whole grains or starchy vegetables.”

Each of the following recipes contains a balanced plate, including healthy carbohydrates, fats and protein. “When managing blood sugar, it’s important to choose carbohydrates that are fiber-rich, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, peas and beans,” says Gammon. “Pair carbohydrates with a protein and healthy fat to slow digestion and prevent high spikes in blood sugar.”

All three recipes are also perfect for meal prepping, so try them out – and save the leftovers for later in the week!

Watch the video and check out the ingredients & instructions for each recipe below.

1) Chipotle Chicken, Veggies, & Brown Rice | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 medium lime, halved, divided
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 can of chipotles in adobo
  • Cooked brown rice, for serving
  • 1.5 cup broccoli
  • 1.5 cup sugar snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Place the juice from the chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, garlic, oil, honey, cumin, juice of half a lime, and salt in a bowl and stir until smooth.
  2. Place the chicken, sweet potato, and red onion in a large zip-top bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat everything in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  3. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F.
  4. Place the chicken and the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the chicken registers 165°F in the thickest part of the meat not touching bone and the vegetables are tender and lightly caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, squeeze the remaining lime half over the chicken and vegetables, and let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve over rice.

2) Lemony Salmon, Asparagus, and Carrots | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 4 (6-oz.) skin-on salmon fillets
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, for serving
  • ¼ cup low-fat, non-flavored yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 lemon), divided
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • ¼ cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. small carrots with tops, cut lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place salmon, skin side down, on half of prepared baking sheet. Stir together yogurt, mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper in a medium bowl. Spread over salmon fillets in an even layer; top with panko, and press lightly to adhere. Spray with cooking spray.
  2. Toss together asparagus, carrots, olive oil, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Place vegetables on empty side of baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until salmon is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 18 minutes. Serve with brown rice and lemon wedges.

3) Southwestern Sweet Potato & Black Bean Bowl | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 1 cup microwavable brown rice
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, chopped into 1” pieces
  • ½ red onion, chopped into 1” pieces
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained, rinsed and towel-dried
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional toppings:

  • Sauce: honey-chipotle or honey-dijon from previous recipes
  • Avocado
  • Salsa
  • Hot sauce
  • Cilantro
  • Lime juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook the rice according to package directions
  3. Combine the broccoli, sweet potato, red onion, chickpeas, black beans, olive oil and spices in a large mixing bowl. Gently toss together until evenly coated.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  5. To serve: place the roasted sweet potatoes and beans over a bed of brown rice. Top with any of the optional toppings. Enjoy!

Written by Sydney Colligan, UAB Dietitic Intern

Fall season has arrived, so you know what that means: all things pumpkin! Often thought of as a vegetable, pumpkin is actually a fruit that is full of nutrients and health benefits. Because of pumpkin’s rich antioxidant content, it can also reduce inflammation – especially important for individuals with disabilities.

Whether it’s fresh or canned, pumpkin is an amazing addition to your diet. Try the recipe below to reap all the health benefits pumpkin has to offer!

Fall in a Bowl Smoothie


  1. ¼ cup pumpkin purée, frozen
  2. ¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt, frozen
  3. 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  4. 1 tablespoon almond butter
  5. 1 banana, frozen
  6. ½ cup almond milk, more as needed


  1. Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until a creamy consistency forms.
  2. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Want even more pumpkin? Try our savory and delicious pumpkin ravioli with sage brown butter sauce.

Stirring ingredients to make delicious soups, sauces and healthy meals can be easy with these tools and tips!

These universal tips and tools support safe and accessible food preparation while you are stirring in the kitchen. Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more:

  1. Accessible kitchen levels. Try to bring your bowl to a lower level. You could use a lower table or even your lap!
  2. Bowl stabilizer. A bowl stabilizer can go under any bowl to make it nonslip. Place the tool under the bowl to keep it steady while stirring.
  3. Automatic stirrer. Place an automatic stirrer in a pan or a pot and turn it on. It will be begin to automatically rotate!
  4. Hand mixer. A hand mixer, which is a hand-held blender with attachments, is optimized to whisk, mince, and in this case, shred!
  5. Immersion blender. An immersion blender can be used to whisk eggs, mix pancakes, or even puree soup! The head is interchangeable with attachments that can purée.
Woman eating watermelon

You probably hear the terms inflammation and anti-inflammatory thrown around a lot, but what does inflammation mean – and how can it be managed or even prevented?

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury or irritation. There are two different types of inflammation:

  1. Acute inflammation. Examples include joint pain, headache, wounds, sore throat, ingrown nails and skin irritation.
  2. Chronic inflammation. Examples include disability, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and bowel disease.

Our bodies have a natural inflammatory response, which is our body’s way of protecting itself from illness and infection by producing more white blood cells. SOME inflammation is a good thing.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is at the root of several illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

On the bright side, inflammation can be controlled through healthy lifestyle behaviors including the following:

  • Healthy eating
  • Moving more
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Resting
  • Taking medications as prescribed

Having a high intake of anti-inflammatory foods will also help you in increasing these healthy habits.

“Inflammatory foods create byproducts during digestion that raise inflammatory compounds in the body,” says Emily McAllister, Registered Dietitian here at NCHPAD. “Anti-inflammatory foods contain higher levels of antioxidants and other protective compounds which help fight against inflammation.” Here are some examples of both.

Anti-inflammatory foods:

  • Salmon/tuna
  • Fruit
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Blueberries
  • Walnuts
  • Olive oil
  • Whole grains

Inflammatory foods:

  • Fried food
  • Soda
  • Red meat
  • Sugar
  • Highly processed food/meat
  • White flour products

There really isn’t one “diet” out there you must follow to prevent or manage inflammation. The goal is to maintain a healthy lifestyle for overall wellness.

Click the links below to learn more about several different healthy, flexible diets and see how they are similar by emphasizing foods full of antioxidants while limiting highly processed foods.

Meal prepped food

Meal prepping is a great way to save time in the kitchen. Anyone can do it: it doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming.

Meal prepping also saves time without sacrificing nutrition or flavor. It promotes nutrient rich ingredients that can be individualized to your taste, ability and cooking skills. Follow these steps to get started with meal planning and prepping for the week.

  1. Find your “why.” Understanding why you want to prepare meals for the week will guide you to a starting point. Do you want to focus on eating breakfast? Eating more vegetables? Limiting salt? How much time do you have to dedicate to preparing your meals? Do you need meal prep to be fast and simple, or do you have time for more complex recipes that require extra cooking time?
  2. Plan your meals. Planning a week at a time will ensure you have a variety of nutrients from different food groups, and the ingredients you prepare will not go bad. Pick a day to plan, review recipes and browse your pantry to make note of what ingredients you already have. Stick with familiar foods and recipes if you’re just getting started.
  3. Make a grocery list. Making a list is a great way to make sure nothing is forgotten. This also avoids additional trips to the grocery store for one or two ingredients. Create a list by using a pen and paper or app on your smart phone, verbally recording your list, or by asking for assistance from a friend or care partner. Lists can also help you stay within your budget and avoid purchasing impulse items.
  4. Go shopping. Select what grocery store you like to use and plan your visit. If you need assistance in getting to the store, ask family/friends or utilize delivery options and store employees. Remember most whole foods are sold around the perimeter of the store (so start here) while the packaged foods are in the center aisles. Also consider bulk buying foods to save money if you plan on eating a specific item a lot. Meat, grains and legumes are some examples of foods that can often be cheaper if you buy them several pounds at a time. Don’t forget to include reusable food storage containers to your list if this is your first time.
  5. Slice and dice. Once all the ingredients have been purchased, it is time to prepare them for each recipe. This step includes the following processes:
    • Wash all firm produce. Slice or chop them as the recipe calls for.
    • When washing delicate produce like lettuce or fresh berries, make sure they are completely dry before storing. This prevents them from becoming soft and watery.
    • Cook whole grain items, like rice or pasta, ahead of time. Cook at least 2-3 portions worth to use for multiple meals.
    • Drain and rinse canned vegetables.
    • Cook any fresh protein sources, such as chicken or fish.
    • Label prepared ingredients to make sure you know which meals they should be used for. Include the date they were prepared so you know when they go bad.
  6. Take shortcuts to save time. Utilize precut, pre-sliced, frozen, canned or ready to use ingredients to cut down on the prep time. Commonly used items like garlic and onions can be found already minced or cut and ready to buy. Other examples include:
    • Dry spices and herbs to add flavor without adding salt.
    • Microwavable brown rice to quickly incorporate whole grains.
    • Canned chicken or fish to save on cooking time.
    • Prewashed, bagged salad to use throughout the week.
    • Prechopped broccoli, baby carrots and snap peas.
    • Frozen vegetables that don’t require cooking.
    • Cookware, like slow cookers, can also be a time saver for larger meals.
  7. Cooking and Storage Tips.
    • Separate foods that reheat well from those that don’t:
      • Most grains, lentils, meat, beans and cheese reheat well.
      • Some vegetables like leafy greens, whole/sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. may wilt when heated.
    • Freeze some of the meals that may be eaten later in the week so they stay fresh.
    • Adjust the recipe to the amount you need. Take your favorite recipe and double it.
    • Glass or microwave safe plastic containers are best for reheating in microwaves.
    • Multicompartment containers make it easy to pack multiple foods into a small, easy to carry container.
      • Smaller containers can be filled with dressings, sauces, dips and toppings.
  8. Food Assistance Resources –

You may have been told to “eat the rainbow,” meaning to eat colorful fruits and vegetables to get a variety of important vitamins and nutrients. This is generally a good rule to follow, and it’s especially true with colorful berries like blueberries.

Research shows that 1 cup of blueberries a day has been shown to decrease the type of inflammation that causes heart disease, stroke, cell death (that causes cancer) and poor cognition.

Blueberries (and other blue and purple foods) get their color from a phytochemical called anthocyanin – and anthocyanin is a powerful nutrient with many health benefits. In addition to blueberries, other foods like blackberries, grapes, plums, purple cabbage and red onion are all good sources of anthocyanin. “Just keep in mind that nutrients found in highly processed foods can make inflammation worse,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator, “so target whole fruits and vegetables for your vitamin and nutrient needs.”

Want to incorporate more blueberries into your diet? Try these three recipes:

Watch: Blackberry Blueberry Mint Water

Recipe: Heavenly Blueberry Smoothie


  • 1 frozen banana, thawed for 10 to 15 minutes
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 cup vanilla fat-free yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons flax seed meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 2/3 cup frozen blueberries


  • Cut banana into small pieces and place in blender. Add the soy milk, yogurt, flax seed meal, and honey.
  • Blend on lowest speed until smooth, about 5 seconds. Gradually add the blueberries while continuing to blend on low.
  • Once the blueberries have been incorporated, increase speed, and blend to desired consistency.


Recipe: Simple High-Fiber Snack


  • 1/2 17-ounce box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran Cereal or Shredded Wheat
  • 1/2 cup mixed dried berries (strawberries, cranberries, cherries, blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup natural pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup broken walnut pieces or almonds


Combine all ingredients in a large zip-lock bag and gently shake mixture. Best if consumed within 4-5 days and kept in an air-tight container or zip-lock sealed bags.

3 Anti Inflammatory meals in 15 minutes or less

Looking for delicious and nutritious meals that combat inflammation? We’ve got you covered with three easy-to-make recipes that are not only packed with anti-inflammatory goodness but can also be prepared in just 15 minutes!

“Decreasing inflammation in your body decreases risk for heart disease, stroke and certain cancers,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “From fatty fish and dark, leafy greens like kale to nuts, watermelon and sweet potatoes, these recipes feature many ingredients that can help decrease inflammation and support your health.”

In this video, we’ll guide you through the process of creating a refreshing watermelon arugula salad, a delicious seared tuna salad with fruit and hummus dressing, and a hearty sweet potato hash with broccoli and walnuts.

Watch the video and check out the recipes for each meal below.

Watermelon salad

Serving size: 2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes


  • 2 cups watermelon, diced
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 1 cucumber, diced into ¼” cubes
  • 1 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)


  1. Dice watermelon in ½” cubes and set aside.
  2. Toss arugula in bowl with half of the oil, season with salt and pepper and arrange on a plate to form a mound in center. Place cubed watermelon around base.
  3. Sprinkle goat cheese evenly around salad. Place cucumber around watermelon and drizzle the rest of oil over cucumber and watermelon.
  4. Drizzle balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze to finish. If looking for more crunch, sprinkle 1 teaspoon toasted, sliced almonds, pumpkin seed, walnuts, or personal preference.

Seared tuna salad with fruit and hummus dressing

Serving size: 1

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes


  • 1, 4-6 oz. tuna fillet
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 ½ cups kale
  • ¼ apple, sliced
  • ¼ cup assorted berries, (strawberries, blueberries, pomegranate, etc
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup hummus
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh basil


  1. Place kale in bowl, add apple slices and berries. In smaller bowl, mix hummus with vinegar and pour over salad.
  2. Heat pan on high heat. Season tuna on both sides with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan and sear tuna 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Pull tuna off heat and let cool 2 minutes. Slice thinly and add to top of salad.

Add-on or substitutions:

Tuna may be replaced with salmon or chicken. Assorted berries may be used according to season. Kale may be replaced with spinach or other lettuces.

Sweet potato, broccoli and walnut hash

Service size: 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes


  • 1, 6 oz bag of prechopped sweet potato (or 2 small sweet potato, cut in to cubes)
  • 1 cup prechopped broccoli
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup halved walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup low sugar craisins
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Chop fresh vegetables into equal sized pieces. About ½” cubes.
  3. Spread ingredients on to a prepared baking sheet.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil and mix until all ingredients are covered. Add walnuts.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender, lightly caramelized, and walnuts are toasted.
person cracking an egg

With patience, consistency and a focus on balanced nutrition, you can achieve healthy weight gain and improve your overall well-being.

Healthy weight gain doesn’t mean you have to indulge in highly processed foods that are often high in saturated fat, salt or added sugar. Prioritize your health by gaining weight in a balanced and nutritious way. Remember that it’s important to keep your heart healthy while safely gaining weight.

“Before starting a weight gain journey, consult with a registered dietitian or an appropriate health care provider,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “They can assess your individual needs and guide you in developing a plan tailored to your specific requirements.”

Here’s what you should know:

  1. Increase your serving size. If you are trying to gain weight due to a medical condition, cancer diagnosis or disability, consider increasing portion sizes of food at meals and snacks. Focus on increasing your calorie intake through nutritious, whole foods that provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy body. Double portion sizes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to ensure you are still getting a variety of nutrients from healthy foods.
  2. Eat frequently. Try eating 3 meals and 3 snacks each day. Incorporate high calorie, nutrient dense foods between meals for slow weight gain. Gradually work towards this goal if you have a poor appetite or feel nauseous. Listen to your body while you continue to make small changes.
  3. Snack smart. Avoid heavily processed foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Opt for snacks that have a balance of carbs, fat and protein that are also rich in fiber and nutrients. Snack on items like trail mix, nut butter, Greek yogurt with fruit, protein bars or whole-grain toast with avocado.
  4. More calories without extra food: It’s possible to boost calories without adding extra portion sizes. Consider adding an extra dab of butter or tablespoon of olive oil to vegetables when cooking. Top foods with sour cream or cheese to add extra calories. When making a sandwich, add an extra slice of cheese for an additional 100 calories. A tablespoon of heavy whipping cream to oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, or potatoes adds 50 calories. Add mayo and avocado to tuna or chicken salad.
  5. Incorporating healthy fats into your diet is essential for weight gain. Choose avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fatty fish like salmon. These fats provide essential fatty acids, support brain function and contribute to a healthy heart while contributing to calories for weight gain.

High calorie, nutrient dense foods:

  • Full fat dairy
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Rice (white, brown, wild rice)
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes (sweet or white)
  • Peas, beans (even refried), lentils
  • Meat
  • Salmon, tuna
  • Eggs
  • Nut butter
  • Nut
  • Hummus
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Chia, flax or wheat germ
  • Heavy whipping cream
frozen food with a smiling face

Navigating the frozen food section can be tricky. Knowing what to look for and what to avoid is key to making healthy choices. Frozen vegetables without seasoning are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. They are frozen at their peak ripeness, so they maintain much of their vitamin, mineral and fiber content.

“Frozen foods that have added sauces or seasonings are often higher in fat and sodium than other healthful nutrients, but check the ingredients list,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “The fewer ingredients and additives there are on the label, the more confident you can feel about making a healthy choice.

If you find yourself struggling with low energy, a lack of focus or constant fatigue, these delicious and nutrient-packed dishes can help. Each recipe is easy to make and features frozen food as a main ingredient, making meal prep a breeze.

Watch the video and check out the ingredients for each recipe below.

Teriyaki Shrimp Stir Fry


  • Brown Rice
  • Frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • Frozen shrimp
  • Teriyaki sauce or soy sauce
  • Ginger
  • Garlic

Turkey Meatball Sub Sliders


  • Frozen turkey meatballs
  • Hawaiian bread
  • Marinara
  • Low fat cheese
  • Frozen green beans

Loaded Southwest Sweet Potato


  • 2 baked sweet potatoes, halved
  • 1 bag southwest protein blend
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese
  • Cilantro