Thanksgiving Recipe: Farro Stuffing with Cranberries & Walnuts

This farro stuffing with cranberries and walnuts is a healthy twist on a holiday dinner staple that doesn’t sacrifice any flavor.  Farro is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein and also contains vitamin B3, zinc, magnesium, and iron.


  • 1 cup Farro
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar


  1. Cook farro according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat frying pan over medium high heat, add walnuts and toast for about 5 minutes or until lightly fragrant, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove walnuts from pan and chop. Add walnuts to bowl with cooked farro.
  4. Add olive oil to pan and swirl to coat.
  5. Add onion and celery to pan and sauté for about 5 minutes or until softened.
  6. Add cooked onion and celery to bowl with farro and walnuts.
  7. Stir cranberries, thyme, and salt into the farro mixture.
  8. Toss farro mixture with apple cider vinegar.
  9. Use stuffing in any recipe that calls for stuffing or serve as a warm or cold side.


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Tips for a Leaner Thanksgiving

by Staci O’Connor MS, RD, CLC, CDN

Thanksgiving only comes around once a year but you can still satisfy your desire for traditional family favorites and enjoy a guilt-free Thanksgiving by following the below tips.

  • Stay active and create a calorie deficit by exercising before you indulge in your favorite foods. Remember the phrase:  Eat less and exercise more.  Make fitness a family adventure by taking a walk early in the day before the main meal and again after or even consider tossing around the football or shooting hoops.
  • Remember to start your day by eating breakfast! Eating a small meal in the morning can give you more control over your appetite.  Start your day off with a small but satisfying breakfast such as: scrambled eggs mixed with vegetables on a slice of whole wheat toast or a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts.  By incorporating breakfast you will not be starving when you arrive at your Thanksgiving gathering.
  • Make your recipes healthier with less sugar, less fat, and less overall calories. Whether you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a few dishes, look for recipes that use lower calorie ingredients.  For example:  use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey or try plain non-fat Greek yogurt in creamy dishes or in mashed potatoes.
  • Watch your portions. Survey the buffet table first so that you can decide what foods you are going to eat.  Next select a reasonable sized portion of the foods that only come around once a year.  Remember to fill half of your plate with vegetables and try to resist going back for seconds.
  • Savor your meal. Eat slowly, put your fork down between bites, and taste each mouthful so that you can enjoy your meal and feel satisfied instead of stuffed.
  • Go easy on the alcohol. Alcohol calories can add up quickly.  Have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to stay hydrated and to limit calories.
  • Finally, focus on your family and friends. The holidays are a time to celebrate relationships and the quality time together not just what is on the buffet table.


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Breakdown of a Pushup

The pushup is one of the oldest body weight exercises and can be a huge benefit to core and total body strength, but performing it correctly is the key to achieving those benefits.

The pushup starts with the body in the prone position with feet together.  Hands should be flat on the floor pointed forward and under the shoulders.  From this position, push the body off the ground until the arms are straight.   Once you are completely up, you will reverse the process and slowly lower your body back down toward the floor.

In the pushing phase, movement happens at the elbow, shoulder and scapular joints. In the elbow, extension occurs, in the shoulder joint, horizontal adduction occurs and at the scapular joint, scapular abduction occurs during the pushing phase.  In the lowering phase, the same muscles that work in the pushing phase are active, but this time eccentrically.  It is important to keep the core engaged at all points during the pushup to ensure the low back does not sag to the ground.

The more you train the body to perform a pushup, the easier the motion with become and the more strength you will build.  Start with 1 set of pushups to failure (even if that means one) 2-3 times a week.  Continue this process until you are able to correctly perform 10 consecutive pushups (or more if you have a set goal).

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In your dreams…

The medical and sports performance fields are aware of a simple health fix that will vastly reduce your risk of disease, bring your work and athletic performance to new heights and increase your mental sharpness by leaps and bounds…what is it you ask? More sleep of course!!

Many of us are walking around sleep deprived and we don’t even know it.  Social media and work email access on our smartphones and tablets at home have made it easy for us to waist at least an hour that would be better off spent on zzzzzzzzzzz’s.  Not to mention the bright lights of our devices are throwing off our circadian rhythm prior to going to bed (easily put–light means stay awake, darkness means sleep) so its harder to fall asleep so stimulated.

Its not just the quantity of sleep either…its the quality!  Do you get enough sleep, do you get enough of the REM cycle and deep sleep? The Princeton Longevity Center has been studying the sleep of our patients for the last few years and it has helped us manage and improve our patients health literally while they sleep!! Feel free to check out to schedule an appoint to better improve your health…with your eyes closed!

In the meantime, here is a great article that explains sleep and its health benefits.

For the more athletically inclined, this article explains the performance enhancing benefits of a good nights sleep.

Good night!

Chris Volgraf, CSCS, cEP

Senior Exercise Physiologist

Princeton Longevity Center

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Sausage and Barley-Stuffed Peppers

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cup pearl barley
2 tsp olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian-style turkey sausage, casings removed
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8-oz package sliced mushrooms
5-oz package spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups marinara sauce (if using jarred, choose low-sodium)
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
4 red bell peppers, cut in half and blanched
1. Preheat oven to 400° F.

2. Bring the broth and water to a boil. Add the barley, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the barley until soft but not mushy, about 55 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
3. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown. When the sausage is partially cooked, add the onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, and black pepper. Cook until the onion is soft and sausage is fully cooked, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside and keep warm.
4. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sweat until they release most of their liquid. Add the spinach to the pan and cook just until wilted but still bright green. Add the mushroom mixture to the sausage mixture. Add the marinara sauce, barley, and one-half of the cheese.
5. Stuff each pepper half with 1 cup of the filling. Cover the stuffing of each pepper with a square of foil coated in cooking spray. Place the pepper foil side down in a baking pan. Bake until the juices are bubbling, about 30 minutes.
6. Turn peppers over and remove foil. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and serve.
Nutrient Analysis per serving Serves 8
Calories: 286; Protein: 18 g; Carbohydrates: 31 g; Fiber: 6.5 g; Total fat: 11 g, Sat fat: 1.5 g, Sodium: 585 mg

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Whole Grains, What’s The Deal?

There is a big difference between whole grains and refined grains and good reason to choose whole grains to better meet your dietary needs.  Whole grains are comprised of the “whole” grain including the bran, germ and the endosperm. These are important parts of the grain because the bran includes the fiber component; the germ includes the vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins and iron. Refined grains have had the germ and the bran removed, which means that these nutrients are also removed during the process1.  You might see products labeled as enriched this means that the B vitamins and iron are added back to the product however the dietary fiber is still left out.

Why should you choose whole grains?

Whole grains not only provide variety to the diet, they increase satiety and fullness and also offer vitamins, minerals, fiber as well as phytochemicals and antioxidants. Studies show that consuming whole grains can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases including the following2:

  • stroke risk reduced 30-36%
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
  • heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
  • better weight maintenance
  • healthier carotid arteries
  • reduction of inflammatory disease risk
  • lower risk of colorectal cancer
  • healthier blood pressure levels
  • less gum disease and tooth loss

How much is enough? 

The USDA recommends that we make at least half of the grains we consume whole grains. Women ages 31-50 should include 6 ounces of grains and least 3 of these 6 ounces should be whole grains.  Men ages 31-50 should include 7 ounces of grains per day and make at least 3.5 of the 7 ounces whole.3


Grains to try!

  • Barley – Tossed in a cold salad
  • Brown Rice – As a healthy side dish with vegetables
  • Farro – Used in risotto and salads
  • Millet – Goes great in soups and stews and is gluten free
  • Quinoa- Very versatile in salads, soups and even as a side dish

Tips and Tricks! 1

  • Store in refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container for up to 6 months
  • Prepare for the week by cooking larger amounts and storing in the refrigerator for 5-6 days.
  • Grains will be done when all water is absorbed





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Coronary Calcium Scans Predict Mortality:

by John A. Rumberger, PhD, MD, FACC, FSCCT

The coronary calcium scan or HeartScan has been available since the early 1990’s and is the main subject of the documentary ‘The Widowmaker’ [Netflix] regarding the controversy of finding early heart disease through non-contrast CT and the very profitable treating of advanced heart disease using stents and other devices.
Heart disease remains the single largest cause of death in the US, killing 40% more people than all cancers combined – but unlike screening tests supported by the American Cancer Society such as mammography or colonoscopy – screening for heart disease has not been adopted by the American Heart Association or the American College of Cardiology.

The coronary artery [Agatston] ‘score’ [CAC] is a measure of the volume of the calcified coronary artery plaque which was demonstrated 20 years ago to be a reliable surrogate to the coronary atherosclerotic plaque burden. The supposition has been that the higher the score, the higher the risk – this has essentially been demonstrated in studies with 3 to 5 year follow-up and the question remains if the CAC score retains its predictive power out beyond a decade.
A recently published study [Ann Intern Med, July 7, 2015, vol. 163:1, pp 14-21] in nearly 10,000 asymptomatic individuals who had a non-contrast CT HeartScan in Nashville, TN between 1996 and 1999 looked at a 15+ year follow up on all-cause mortality.

The results of the initial CAC score distributions and subsequent overall all-cause mortality are shown in the table below:
Unadjusted All-Cause Mortality vs. CAC Score
CAC Score CAC Category All-Cause Mortality/year [based on 15 year follow-up]
0 No visible plaque 3% [~0.2% per year]
1-10 Very Mild 6% [~0.4% per year]
11-100 Mild 9% [~0.6% per year]
101-400 Moderate 14% [~0.93% per year]
401-1000 Extensive 21% [~1.5% per year]
>1000 Severe 28% [~1.87% per year]

Although conventional risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and family history were also important, age and CAC score remained the top predictors in this 15+ year follow up. For those at the top of the CAC chart, the authors indicated that mortality “is quite high and can approach 30%, 40%, and even 50% over the 15 years.”

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