The fall season is upon us, which means it’s time to bring out the winter gourds like pumpkin and acorn squash, tuberous roots such as rutabaga and beets, and the classic dark green leafies like kale and collards. But as colder weather approaches, many of us find that our food preferences begin switching over to the so-called comfort foods. We begin swapping out salads and other cold dishes for warm baked (usually gooey) foods. And if the thought of eating veggies or anything “healthy” makes you cringe, read on. You may just find a few tasty ways to get those vital nutrients by incorporating these superfoods into your diet this fall season and perhaps beyond.
Dark green leafy vegetables are always a great addition to any meal. In addition to fiber and vitamins C and A, kale is a great source of iron and the antioxidant lutein, which helps gobble up the free radicals associated with cancer, heart disease and other health issues.
Ways to Enjoy
Kale can be chopped and added to soups, stir fried into Asian dishes, simply sautéed, or my favorite, baked into crispy chips.
1 bunch of kale
1 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt (to taste)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Strip off kale leaves from stem and tear into bite sized pieces. Arrange on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil and salt. Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Enjoy!
If you’re looking for a veggie to help you feel full for very little calories, you can’t go wrong with cauliflower. While typically available year-round in grocery stores, cauliflower is typically more reasonably priced in the fall and winter when it is in-season. It’s nutritionally similar to cabbage and broccoli, containing healthy amounts of folic acid, vitamins A, C and K, and sulforaphanes, which are phytochemicals believed to have antimicrobial properties that have been studied for potential benefits in managing colon and lung cancers.
Ways to Enjoy
Cut off the florets and serve raw with your favorite dip, roast in the oven on a baking sheet until golden brown, or steam and top with melted low-fat cheese mixed with salsa for a little southwest flair. You can also use cauliflower in place of potatoes and make a creamy, low-carb substitute for mashed potatoes.
Creamy Mashed Cauliflower
Spices can help increase the healthy benefits of foods while also improving their taste. One of the most touted spices is cinnamon, which in small quantities, appears to have antibacterial properties; when taken in large quantities, however, it can be toxic. As an additive, it has a number of beneficial properties, including one of the highest antioxidant levels of any herb or spice. Researchers are currently exploring cinnamon’s purported ability to manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and working to identify optimal therapeutic dosages.
Ways to Enjoy
Adding cinnamon into hot cereals, smoothies, guilt-free French toast and baked goods are all common ways to enjoy this amazing spice. But how about adding a bit of cinnamon to hot cocoa for a drink similar to what the Aztec culture enjoyed many years ago, or perhaps enjoying a hot spiced cider on a crisp Autumn day. Cinnamon can also be used as a savory spice and works well in foods like baked chicken or turkey.
Spiced Hot Cider
Although most nuts are good for you in moderation, walnuts are one of the healthiest choices. Walnuts are a great source of vitamin E, selenium, magnesium and antioxidants. They also contain the most omega-3 fatty acids of any nut—omega-3s have been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in the arteries.
Wow, bet you didn’t see that coming—cauliflower, kale and chocolate on the same list? Absolutely! Most of us have heard that dark chocolate is good for us because it’s loaded with antioxidant-rich flavonoids. But many people don’t know that it has also been associated with improving blood flow, boosting memory and concentration, and even lowering blood pressure.
Ways to Enjoy
Rule of thumb: The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants it contains. But like everything else, moderation is key. Just a bit is all it takes to get those wonderful antioxidant benefits. Any more than that and we risk adding calories to our diet beyond what we need to maintain a healthy weight. For tips on incorporating chocolate into your balanced meals, check out Healthy Cocoa Recipes Kids Will Love and Cooking with Cocoa.
Chocolate Bark with Pistachios & Dried Cherries
A healthy diet isn’t about consuming a single superfood in mass quantity, but instead making a variety of healthy choices to ensure you get a great combination of nutrients while keeping your meals interesting and exciting. Take advantage of what’s in season in your area and don’t be afraid to try something new! Who says eating healthy has to be boring?
For more delicious meal ideas jam packed with nourishing ingredients, check out Choose This! For a new spin on healthy eating.
By Gina Crome
Gina M. Crome, M.S., M.P.H., R.D.Gina Crome is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise. She holds a dual Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology as well as a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from Loma Linda University whereby she received the Selma Andrews Award for Excellence and Professionalism.
Over the past 20 years, Gina’s mission has focused on guiding individuals towards gaining a better quality of life. She has previously struggled with her own weight issues and has since lost a total of 172 pounds, driving her passion home to promote healthier lifestyles. Gina is available for media interviews and community appearances and she is the author of various online nutrition and fitness columns.