butternut squash

When I think of fall cooking, only two things come to mind…Thanksgiving dinner and holiday baking.

But what about eating a little healthier during this crisp autumn season? After all, the shorter days and cooler weather tends to bring most of us indoors, which means we may consume higher calorie foods and exercise a lot less in the fall than we do in the summer.

My children play a lot of school sports, especially during the fall season.  It is so important that they keep a healthy diet and a good balance of fruit and vegetables during the colder months.  It seems as though many people enjoy their fruits and their salads during the hot summer months, but don’t eat as much fruit in the fall and winter.

Fall fruits are good to eat because they are stock full of vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids. Each fruit or veggie has their own unique health benefits that will keep us healthy all season long.

Which fresh fruits and vegetables are seasonal in the fall? There are so many to choose from!

Here are some of my favorite fall superfoods:

Pears. This sweet fruit is full of fiber and also pectin, which helps lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol naturally. One medium pear contains about 6 grams of fiber, which is about 50 percent more than what you get from an apple or a cup of quinoa. The skin of a pear is full of antioxidants with anti-inflammation powers.

Add fresh pears to baked goods, eat them fresh on their own, or chop the up and toss onto salads or into oatmeal, protein shakes, yogurt or cottage cheese.

Apples. Apples contain vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, and are also great diet food. They increase bone density and slow aging. They help in preventing a variety of diseases, like cancer and high cholesterol. They have been linked to brain cell protection, preventing Alzheimer’s. Eating an apple each day helps control osteoporosis in menopausal women.

Choose unblemished but firm apples and add them to your pies, jams, jellies and yogurts. Fuji apples have the highest amount of antioxidants.

Cranberries. These little berries are a great way to load up on vitamin C which will help fight off winter colds. The antioxidant “proanthocyanidin” which is found in the spade of the cranberry helps to reduce cholesterol, artery stiffness, inflammation, and prevent urinary tract infections. For exercise lovers, higher intakes of these little gems can improve exercise recovery. Cranberries are full of fiber and low in calories. They are good for your teeth and aid in decreasing the growth of certain cancers.

Add some fresh cranberries to salsas, yogurts, oatmeal, cottage cheese and salads. Simmer in a pan with chopped apples, orange zest and cinnamon. Make a sauce and top it over chicken or pork.

Walnuts. Fall is the perfect time for eating walnuts. They are a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. They help in preventing heart disease and benefit cardiovascular system. Walnuts are good sources of fiber, magnesium, and vitamins Band E.

Add a cup of walnuts to your favorite foods or eat them alone as a snack.

Pumpkin. The alpha- and beta- in pumpkin is converted to retinol to promote healthy vision and cell growth. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of carotenoids, fiber, and alpha-linoleic acid – an omega-3 fatty acid that may help those with heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Pumpkin also contains a mood boosting amino acid.

Cook some with your favorite meal, or toss pumpkin seeds into your favorite yogurt or salads. Pumpkin puree can also be added to soups, pasta, breads, and pumpkin pie. Pumpkin seeds are a great nutritious snack you can take with you anywhere.

Beets. Beets are at their best during the fall season. Choose beets that are firm and smooth, making sure to trim them right away or else they will lose important nutrients, especially betaine, which helps prevent liver and heart disease, and nitrate, which helps increase blood flow to the brain and may reduce risk of dementia. Another great reason to consume beets is that they help to improve muscular endurance by allowing more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles during workouts, which generates good muscle energy production. Since beets have the highest natural sugar content of any vegetable, they help stop those cravings for sugary snacks.

Roasting beets is the best way to bring out their natural sweetness. Wrap in tinfoil and bake at 350 degrees F for about one hour, or until tender. Shredded raw beets are also great in salads and on sandwiches. Beet juice is also available for those who prefer to eat “on the go.”

Butternut Squash. One of my favorite vegetables of all time, butternut squash is packed with beta-carotene, fiber, vitamins C, B6 and magnesium. A top-heavy squash with little skin blemishes, when stored in a cool but dry place, is good for three months. High beta-carotene levels help lower LDL cholesterol, and magnesium is important for good muscle contraction.

To savor the sweet side of butternut squash, try roasting it with a little bit of butter at 400 degrees F until tender. Or, puree your squash and add it to your morning oatmeal or shake.

Not too fond of butternut squash? Try acorn squash instead. Acorn squash is full of potassium and helps prevent muscles from feeling weak or fatigued.

Sweet Potatoes. Like squash, these beautiful orange vegetables are full of beta-carotene, which promotes good eyesight and aids in vitamin A deficiency. The skin of the potato has about five grams of fiber in it. This scrumptious potato is loaded with vitamin C, calcium, and potassium, and it contains anti-inflammation properties. Make sure the sweet potato is not shriveled or doesn’t contain black spots.

Serve them hot, with melted butter or a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. When making potato salad, substitute a sweet potato for your white potato instead.

Cauliflower. This vegetable is full of cancer-preventing properties that you may want to add cauliflower to your diet regularly. It is full of antioxidants vitamin C and manganese. To get the most out of your cauliflower, look for tightly packed florets and check that there are no yellow spots. Cauliflower can be stored on the fridge for about five days.

Look for these fall fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and in produce departments for the best flavor (and greatest value) in season. If you can’t get to a Farmer’s market, don’t fret! Frozen fruits are just as good because they are usually picked at their height of ripeness and then quickly frozen to lock in their nutrients and antioxidants.