September 22 officially marked the beginning of the fall season. Cue: cozy sweaters, colorful leaves, and best of all: fall-inspired recipes.
While many people across the U.S. recognize autumn as the prime time for frothy pumpkin spice lattes, buttery pies, and sweet apple cider (count us in!), there is an abundance of fall fruits and vegetables that can be used to make healthy, nutritious meals and snacks, outside of routine seasonal offerings.
As the temperatures drop and you’re looking to swap out summer grocery items for fall produce, we have some preparation inspiration that will keep your meals exciting and your stomach satisfied (and well-fed) into winter.
From frozen pumpkin puree to almond butter on sweet potatoes, the possibilities are creative and seemingly endless. Read on to find nutritional insight, and tips and tricks, including the best ways to prepare fruits and vegetables that are in-season for autumn.
Frozen Pumpkin Puree
Pumpkin puree (plus sugar, heavy cream — and the works) is often used to create a pumpkin pie. Instead of crafting a dense dessert, use the nutrient-dense pumpkin puree (full of magnesium and vitamin C) as a base for smoothies or oatmeal, suggests Kylene Bogden, Cleveland based RDN and advisor for LoveWellness. Bogden suggests preparing pumpkin puree in advance by freezing it in an ice cube tray. Once it’s solid, pop one into your smoothie or melt into hot oatmeal in a Side Bowl on demand.
Lunch or Dinner
Roasted Spaghetti Squash
A bowl of pasta can warm up anyone on a cold night, but instead of reaching for a box of dry macaroni or rigatoni, opt for a fresh spaghetti squash. It’s higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals (and it’s less processed, too). “>After gutting the squash, melt grass fed butter and sea salt on top before roasting,” says Bogden. You can use a Sheet Pan in the oven for this step. “This adds for a delicious, satisfying vegetable-based meal.”
This roasted veggie is as healthy as it is colorful and a great side at fall gatherings — not to mention an athletic performance enhancer (for anyone looking to get in shape!). Cristie Besu, a certified sports nutritionist in Miami, Fla., says beets can raise nitric oxide levels in your body (and in short: higher levels of NO2 can improve muscle contraction and increase lung function and blood flow). Besu advises to roast your beets in aluminum foil and peel them once roasted. “This is the best way to get the softest, most delicious texture,” she says. What a great way to fuel fall workouts — you’ll be an Olympian in no time.
Baked Brussels Sprouts
“Brussels Sprouts don’t need to be complicated to be enjoyable!,” says Paige Faustini, a nutritionist in New York City. Faustini notes these veggies are high in Vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant to support a strong immune system and lowers the risk of chronic diseases — not to mention, they’re packed with Vitamin K which promotes good bone health, and fiber which helps maintain good gut health. Her favorite way to prepare brussels sprouts is to brush with olive oil, sprinkle a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and bake. “I like to brush on the olive oil to still get the delicious flavor and crispy outcome, but it saves a lot of calories versus dumping the oil right on!”
Roasted Butternut Squash
As a fall staple, the starchy veggie is fiber-rich, packed with nutrients, with an excellent source of Vitamin A. Faustini says the carotenoids found in butternut squash (what gives it its bright orange coloring) acts to promote strong eye health, bone health, and immune function. Before roasting, she brushes this produce with olive oil, too, to cut back on calories.
Apple picking can be a fun activity, but once your staple pie is baked: there are healthy ways to utilize your extra stash of fall fruit. Bogden says apples contain antioxidants that are great for fighting damage at the cellular level. Instead of eating apples raw, Bogden recommends first slicing them using a Butcher Block and then sauteing them in coconut oil and cinnamon, (in a Saute Pan, naturally). “It’s one of the easiest and healthiest desserts around,” she says.
Cinnamon Apple Wraps
Besu agrees that apples are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth and boost your immune system. Her favorite way to reap the nutritious benefits of the fruit is by sprinkling it with cinnamon and just a pinch of coconut sugar, and placing the ingredients inside a protein tortilla wrap. “Nothing says fall like this low calorie sweet apple treat,” she says.
Almond Butter Sweet Potatoes
Is it even fall if sweet potatoes aren’t part of your Thanksgiving spread? The carby vegetable is not only filling, but nutrient-packed. According to Faustini, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin A. They also contain beta-carotene, which promotes strong eye health, bone health, and immune function, and Vitamins C. For a snack that will keep you full and fully charged: after baking your sweet potato in the oven, Faustini’s pro tip is to add a drizzle of almond butter on your top for a creamy addition. “Trust me!” she says.
As you plan to embark on your first produce grocery hauls of fall, consider these standard fruits and vegetables in a new — and healthier — light. Whether preparing foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, there are different ways to enjoy in-season fare.