It’s that time of year again: The days are getting shorter, evenings cooler and leaves are changing to a beautiful array of red, yellow and orange. In other words, it’s fall!
Something else happens as well during this season—we eat more. Our appetites change when the weather gets cooler, as research shows people tend to increase their calorie intake in the fall and winter.
So what makes fall so special when it comes to eating? Researchers say it’s probably for biological reasons—our primitive impulses want us to put on weight for the winter ahead. There’s also holiday feasting to blame (it’s hard to say “no” to leftover pumpkin pie and stuffing!).
We know this is the time we crave the taste of hot apple cider, crock pot dinners and comfort food, but that doesn’t mean healthy eating should be thrown out the window! Fall is packed with delicious fruits and vegetables, some of which can actually be healthier than foods of other seasons.
To give you some direction on where to start with eating healthy this fall, we’ve put together a list of our favorite fall foods with popular dishes that taste great this time of year.
Is there any more convenient healthy snack food? This fabulous fall fruit makes a great side dish at lunch and is an easy grab-and-go snack. Look for fresh apples at your local grocery store or during your next trip to the farmer’s market.
Remember if you have diabetes, apples and all other fruit provide carbohydrates (one small apple has about 15 grams) because of their natural sugars. However, fruit is considered a healthy source of carbohydrates because it also provides other important nutrients like fiber, minerals and vitamins. One of our favorite apple dishes is this sweet and savory baked apples recipe.
Whether it’s butternut, acorn or spaghetti, don’t let the name fool you—this nutritious vegetable is available all year long with a peak season in October. Winter squash are drier and have a sweeter taste than summer squash and are low in sodium, a good source of vitamin A and high in fiber.
Butternut squash is a starchy vegetable, so it’s higher in carbohydrates and calories than veggies like lettuce or carrots. One cup of cooked butternut squash has about 15 grams of carbohydrate; if you’re looking for a lower-carb option try spaghetti squash, which has only about 10 grams per cup.
Did you know that nuts also have seasons? Lucky for you, September began the harvest season for several varieties. This month, be on the look-out for almonds, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts.
Here’s some good news if you have diabetes: Nuts are low in carbohydrates and have minimal impact on blood glucose. They’re a great source of healthy unsaturated fats, which have been shown to help lower cholesterol when they replace unhealthy saturated fats in your diet. Be sure to watch your portion size, as they’re dense in calories and fat. You may be surprised at how filling a small portion of nuts can actually be.
Broccoli is inexpensive, easy to prepare and a good source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber and folate. It’s also another food low in carbohydrates and calories. The healthiest way to cook broccoli is to steam or microwave it. Season it with lemon juice, pepper, garlic, parmesan cheese or a small amount of salt for a flavorful, healthy side dish.
Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween! In fact, this starchy vegetable is a good source of both vitamin A and C. Add it to pasta or rice dishes, make a pumpkin soup, add it to your whole grain pancakes or muffins or use it to make a pumpkin hummus or dip. Save the seeds when you carve them this October. Wash, bake and lightly salt them, as pumpkin seeds make a great high-fiber snack. We have just the right pumpkin seed snack mix for you!
One of the most nutritious foods on the Thanksgiving menu is the sweet potato. These orange-skinned vegetables offer plenty of health benefits (especially when cooked without the unnecessary sugar and marshmallows) including dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Try serving your guests our sweet-potato soufflé this holiday season!
Now is the time to set the stage for your health over the coming holiday season. We hope the fruits and vegetables of fall will inspire you to get in the kitchen and try new, healthy recipes. Fall’s harvest is just as delicious as other seasons, if you know what to do with it.