Fall is in the air, and with it, bright images of apple orchard, pumpkin patches and the want for delicious comfort foods that the weather naturally seems to conjure.
Lyn M. Steffen, Ph.D., who is a registered dietitian and associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, says that fall is a great time to take advantage of locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables for amazing flavor.
“Locally grown vegetables don’t travel as far and they’ve probably been allowed to stay in the ground a little bit longer, so the flavors have had a chance to develop better,” she says. “I think they taste better and fresher.”
The American Heart Association recommends eating eight or more fruit or vegetable servings each day. This fall’s harvest offers the opportunity to revisit the classics while searching for new flavors.
Steffen shared her fall favorites to look out for, along with some of her own tried-and-true recipes.
“Root vegetables in the fall are at their peak, and they probably taste the best,” says Steffen. Common root veggies include:
- Sweet potatoes
Root vegetables are filled with vitamins, beta carotene, potassium, flavonoids and anti-oxidants. She loves to chop up potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, rutabaga and turnips and toss them into a soup or stew, or simply roast them with a little extra virgin olive oil. Try recipes like Lemon Chicken and Cinnamon Glazed Root Vegetables and Shredded Root Vegetable Pancakes from the American Heart Association.
Fall is prime squash season. Watch for all kinds of these slightly sweet squash—butternut, turban, spaghetti, acorn and others—at farmers’ markets, produce stands, pick-and-pay farms and at your local grocery store. Steffen suggests quartering different types of squash and baking them at 350°F for a half hour or 45 minutes, until they’re fork-tender.
Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage are a perfect complement to a brisk fall day. Packed with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, these crunchy vegetables are delicious when prepared a number of different ways. Cabbage can be braised, sautéed or used raw in a slaw. Cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are great raw (shred the sprouts into a salad), roasted or boiled. You can even mash cauliflower for a delicious, low carb, high-fiber mashed potato alternative.
Soups and stews
As the weather cools off, soups and stews taste delicious. These easy, one-pot dishes are incredibly versatile. Simply choose your favorite protein and throw in fall vegetables, like fresh onion, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots. Or puree your favorite vegetables and add a low-sodium vegetable broth. Seasonal soup recipes like Broccoli Cheese, Turkey Squash or Tortilla Soup with Grilled Chicken are great options.
Green leafy vegetables
Deep green leafy vegetables like kale are rich in nutrients, according to the AHA. Kale and swiss chard are delicious in autumn. You can make them into a wilted lettuce side dish or chop them up and eat them fresh on a salad. Try this Sautéed Kale with Apples and Mustard recipe from the American Heart Association.
Green and red apples
Did you know an apple a day may keep strokes away? Of course, the American Heart Association’s heart-healthy eating plan is the best way to help keep strokes and heart disease away. Fall brings a wide variety of apples to market, including Golden and Red Delicious, Fuji and more. With only 80 calories in a small apple, they also contain healthy nutrients like fiber and vitamin C and are free of saturated fat, trans fast, cholesterol and sodium.
When it comes to cooking, apples have many uses—a delicious addition to both sweet and savory recipes. The American Heart Association recommends the following appetizing apple snacks and recipe ideas:
- Snack on apple slices with no added salt peanut butter.
- Make applesauce by cooking chopped apples with cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Make a salad with chopped up apples, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and spinach
- Add diced apples to your homemade meatloaf.
- Mix canned, low sodium tuna with chopped apples, celery and ¼ teaspoon or less spicy brown or yellow mustard for a sandwich or salad.
- Slice thin and layer apples with low sodium turkey, low fat, low sodium cheese and lettuce on a whole wheat tortilla wrap (choose a reduced or low sodium wrap with 0 g saturated fat and 0 g trans fat.
- Blend chopped apple, frozen banana, low fat, no added sugar vanilla yogurt and orange juice for a refreshing smoothie.
- Stuff an apple (with core removed) with raisins, cinnamon and oats. Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.