During colder months, it can be easy to cozy up with less than healthy fare, from apple cider doughnuts to the omnipresent Halloween candies. Fall can also be a welcome opportunity to nourish your body. With that in mind, we asked some of the country’s best nutritionists and registered dietitians about their top healthy pick for fall. Here’s what they said:
As it gets colder, many of us gravitate toward simple refined carbohydrates (the carbohydrates that have been stripped of their nutrients like white rice and white pasta, cake, etc.). The result can be cyclical. When we eat simple carbohydrates, the sugar rushes into our blood, so we produce the hormone insulin to carry the sugar out of the blood. Our blood sugar goes from being high to low quite rapidly, and that drop can cause us to crave more and more of those refined carbohydrates. Cauliflower rice, on the other hand, is a vegetable that is water dense, low in carbohydrates, but also high in natural fiber, which slows down the digestion and creates a more stable blood sugar. Plus, you can cook it with all sorts of delicious vegetables to obtain even more nutrients.
As the weather gets colder, I always recommend a source of good healthy fat with every meal. Fat provides satiety (satisfaction) so you will be full for longer in between meals. Your body also uses fat for energy, and it is imperative for healthy brain function. Some examples: avocado, coconut oil, nut butter, salmon, nuts and seeds, avocado or olive oil.
—Courtney Swan, M.S., founder of Realfoodology
We hear a lot about the curse of white foods, but when it comes to vegetables, white foods hold a lot of power. One of my favorite underappreciated fall harvest foods is parsnips. They are loaded with potassium and are a versatile veggie in the kitchen. Mash them, roast them, or make Parmesan-coated parsnip fries that even kids will LOVE.
I love squash in the fall! Fall is the perfect season to enjoy more of this amazing vegetable with many varieties including butternut, acorn, and spaghetti! Squash provides great amounts of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. I love to add squash to warm fall soups and stews or top it with curry or Bolognese sauces.
—Cristal Sczebel, CHN, founder of Nutrition in the Kitch
Not only is salmon delicious, but it’s also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals that play a powerful role in energy, cell repair, and thyroid health and of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain function, including memory, behavior, and performance and may reduce the risk of heart disease, joint pain due to arthritis, and several cancers.
For the highest quality salmon, when purchasing look for a vibrant dark pink or red color. Avoid fresh salmon that smells fishy or has brown spots on the flesh. Fresh or frozen salmon is excellent grilled, broiled, or poached in butter. A simple squeeze of lemon, and you have a delicious meal. Frozen and canned salmon are more economical, but always check to see if the salmon was wild-caught. Here’s a great salmon salad using canned salmon.
—Melanie Beasley, R.D., of Nutritional Weight & Wellness
If you're looking for the perfect fall food, this pumpkin pie (that's healthy enough to eat for breakfast) might just be the winner.