Nutritious Fall Foods That Are Also Good For Your Waistline!
When you hear "fall foods," what comes to mind? Pumpkin pie? Gravy? Stews, pot roast, and turkey? Whatever you associate with fall fare, chances are that healthy foods don't top the list. But they should: The right foods can help you shed pounds, and autumn's produce is no exception.
So what should make an appearance on your plate? “When talking about weight loss with my clients, I avoid recommending specific foods but focus on certain food groups. I recommend making vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins — such as chicken, fish, turkey, beans, and tofu — the main attraction of a meal,” advises Kristen Smith, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“Specifically, the goal is to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit,” she says. And that advice coincides with the MyPlate recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It’s also easy to do this time of year (hello, in-season apples, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower!), with so much fresh and delicious produce available.
“Balancing your energy intake is much easier when you load up on vegetables at every meal,” adds Julie Stefanski, RDN, also a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who is based in York, Pennsylvania.
The power of a veggie- and fruit-filled diet is real. A study published in March 2020 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that various diets, including the Mediterranean diet, helped people lose weight and improve their health. This diet encourages eating foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, eating a diet that’s loaded with vegetables and fruit is not only good for your waistline but also good for the health of your entire body.
A meta-analysis published in November 2018 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition singled out some fall produce staples like pears, apples, cruciferous veggies, and Brussels sprouts, plus green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits, as being especially beneficial to health. “A good intake of these plants was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death from all causes,” explains Stefanski.
Here are the best fall foods to eat right now: They'll help keep you slim while still allowing you to enjoy all of the delicious dishes the season has to offer.
1. Spaghetti Squash Is a Weight Loss-Friendly Pasta Substitute
Move over, butternut — there's another healthy squash in season. Spaghetti squash is a dieter's dream: With the shape and texture of pasta but a fraction of the carbohydrates and calories, it's a great way to satisfy pasta cravings and score extra nutrients.
Cooked spaghetti squash has 10 grams (g) of carbs and just 42 calories for a whole cup, according to the USDA. Plus, you get 2 g of fiber, which is 7 percent your daily value (DV), and 180 milligrams (mg) of potassium (4 percent your DV) — not too shabby!
A fiber-filled diet helps keep your digestive system running smoothly, lowers your odds of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers, and — you guessed it — contributes to a healthy weight, notes the Mayo Clinic.
Potassium is also a crucial nutrient: According to Harvard Health Publishing, it regulates your heartbeat and makes sure your muscles and nerves function properly.
Meanwhile, a cup of plain cooked pasta has 43 g of carbohydrates and 220 calories per cup, according to the USDA. Compared to spaghetti squash, you’re getting more than 4 times the carbohydrates and 5 times the calories in each cup with regular pasta.
Try this Sweet Spaghetti Squash recipe for a bowl of savory fall goodness for less than 100 calories!
2. Apples Can Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth and Help Keep You Full
“Like most fruits, apples may aid with weight loss because they are rich in fiber and lower in calories, which means they can help keep you feeling satiated for fewer calories,” says Smith. The Mayo Clinic confirms this — fiber-packed foods take up volume in your stomach and are slow to digest, so you feel fuller, longer, often on few calories.
A medium apple has over 4 g of fiber (that’s almost 16 percent of your DV, making it a good source) and about 95 calories, according to the USDA.
“For some individuals, apples may also satisfy your sweet tooth naturally without offering added sugar and calories,” Smith says.
Recent research touts other apple — and pear — perks: A study published in August 2020 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet rich in special compounds called flavonoids (which are found in apples and pears) may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
While apples make a smart, portable snack as is, they also work well in a variety of recipes. For starters: “Apples can easily be added to many breakfast and snack items like oatmeal, yogurt, or cold cereal,” says Smith.
Then you can up your salad game with apples. “Including sliced or diced apples with salads can help naturally sweeten a salad. One of my favorite salads to add apples to includes spinach, goat cheese, walnut halves, and dried cranberries,” says Smith. You can bring apples to the dinner menu with a tangy twist on coleslaw, which is great as a side dish or as a topping on your favorite burger or sandwich. For a savory, fall-inspired carb, whip up some Apple Raisin Risotto — a more nutritious take on the classic Italian dish.
3. Sweet Potatoes Are Slightly Lower in Carbs Thank the White Variety
Sweet and colorful, this starchy veggie makes a perfect substitute for your classic Idaho. While it isn't dramatically lower in calories, it's slightly lower in carbohydrates and — as a bonus — higher in certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A.
For the sake of comparison, consider that 100 g of sweet potatoes (slightly larger than a small sweet potato) has 17 g carbohydrates and 764 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A, according to the USDA — that’s almost 85 percent of your DV, making it an excellent source. And the scoop on vitamin A? The Mayo Clinic notes that it can help with everything from vision to immunity. On the other hand, the same amount of white potatoes have about 20.5 carbohydrates and just 18 mcg of vitamin A, according to the USDA.
“Sweet potatoes contain both easy to digest carbs to fuel a workout and enough fiber to help you feel satisfied,” says Stefanski. The USDA notes that 100 g of sweet potato has almost 2.5 g of fiber, which is about 9 percent of your DV.
For all the french fry lovers out there, be sure to bake up a batch of these Crispy Sweet Potato Fries. And really, the possibilities for sweet potatoes are endless — you can whip up a sweet potato casserole or even a sweet potato latte.
You can also try sweet potatoes for breakfast. “I love to microwave a sweet potato and have it before a morning run,” says Stefanski. “Make the breakfast as large as you need to by adding Greek yogurt, toppings like granola, or even mixing in an overripe banana,” she says.
4. Brussel Sprouts Are a Flavorful, Low-Calorie Veggie
If you're looking to cut back on calories without sacrificing flavor, sprouts are your new best friend. “Vegetables like Brussel sprouts offer few calories yet are loaded with fiber to help keep you feeling full for the long haul,” says Smith. As with other produce, this fact makes them a great go-to side dish in your weight loss meal plan.
In terms of fiber, ½ cup of Brussel sprouts have just over 2 g of fiber (so over 7 percent of your DV) and only 28 calories, according to the USDA.
And the health perks don’t stop there! “Brussel sprouts are loaded with vitamin K and vitamin C, which aid with functions such as blood clotting, immune health, and growth and repair of body tissues,” says Smith. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health confirms that vitamin K is beneficial to blood clotting and rebuilding of bone tissues, while Mayo Clinic points out that vitamin C is crucial in your body’s healing process.
A ½ cup of Brussel sprouts have 109 mcg of vitamin K (91 percent of your DV, making it an excellent source) and 48 mg of vitamin C (53 percent of your DV, also an excellent source), according to the USDA. For those watching their carb intake, the same serving has only 5.54 g of carbs, making Brussel sprouts ketogenic diet- and diabetes-friendly.
If the shape or texture of typical Brussel sprouts turns your family off, try Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad a try — they don't even have to know they're eating sprouts!
5. Cauliflower Is a Low-Carb, Nutrient Rich Option
Low in calories and rich in some vitamins and other nutrients, it's no mystery why cauliflower is a go-to fall food when it comes to our health.
A cup of cauliflower has just about 27 calories and around 5 g of carbohydrates, according to the USDA.
These days, the cruciferous veggie gets a lot of hype because of its ability to serve as a sub for mashed potatoes, since the flavor is delicious and similar to potatoes, with fewer calories and carbs. To enjoy, simply blend cooked cauliflower with some sea salt, low-fat sour cream, and olive oil, and you have yourself a delish mash remix!
And cauliflower’s benefits don’t stop there. “Cauliflower is packed with phytochemicals that help support healthy cells and fight the development of cancer,” says Stefanski. The National Cancer Institute explains that cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower contain glucosinolates (the sulfur-containing chemicals that give the veggie its strong odor), which may help lower the odds of developing certain cancers.
Plus, cooking with cauliflower doesn’t have to be boring. “If you’ve never been a cauliflower fan, try roasting it with olive oil and a little salt and pepper, then topping it with Parmesan cheese or everything bagel seasoning — it has a milder flavor compared with boiling it,” explains Stefanski.
You can also use cauliflower to make a rendition of macaroni and cheese or even hash browns.
6. Pears Are an Excellent Source of Fiber, Making Them a Weight Loss Powerhouse!
Just like the apple, pears are full of fiber and low in calories, delivering a sweetly satisfying snack without the weight woes.
Here’s the lowdown: According to the USDA, one medium pear has 5.5 g of fiber (which is about 20 percent your DV, making it an excellent source) and just 101 calories. Plus, it comes with other vitamin perks — you’ll get 206 mg of potassium (which is about 4 percent of your DV) and almost 8 mg of vitamin C (which is about 9 percent of your DV).
As for how to cook with them? “The subtle flavor of pears makes it an ideal complement to many fall dishes,” says Stefanski. “Fresh pears can be sliced and added to yogurt, salads, or grain bowls; canned pears in their own juice are an affordable option to keep on hand for adding to a fall-flavored smoothie,” she says. What’s more, they also make a nice base for a pear-flavored salad dressing, Stefanski suggests.
Barrie, L., & Lynn Grieger, C. (2020). 6 Nutritious Fall Foods That Can Support Weight Loss | Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/reciperehab/6-delicious-fall-foods-that-help-you-lose-weight.aspx?slot=0&xid=nl_EHNLhealthyliving_2020-09-22_21576508&utm_source=Newsletters&nl_key=nl_healthy_living&utm_content=2020-09-22&utm_campaign=Healthy_Living