By Debra Soufleris, B.S., DTR
It is always a smart idea to fill your grocery cart with seasonal produce. It saves you money, and you can be sure the produce will be at its best when consumed during the peak of freshness. As we transition away from summer produce and into the cooler seasons, we can look forward to all the delicious, nutritious fall and winter vegetables that are in season right now.
It wouldn’t be fall without giving a shout-out to its most famous star—the pumpkin. Hello pumpkin-spiced EVERYTHING. Love it or hate it, pumpkin has been around for centuries, and it’s not going anywhere. Like all winter squash, pumpkin squash is a good source of fiber, which is helpful for improving digestion, lowering cholesterol, and providing your gut with healthy bacteria. Pumpkin squash is also an excellent source of vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant, as are butternut squash and sweet potatoes, all in season right now.
You can roast or bake fall vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness, puree them into soups, or crisp them in the oven as a nutritious alternative to french fries. It’s hard to determine how much fiber we consume per day, so be sure to supplement your diet with fiber-rich treats like pumpkin squash.
The cooler months are a great time to cook up a batch of broccoli, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts. As members of the cruciferous family of vegetables, these veggies may help lower your risk for certain types of cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables can be steamed to make a nutritious side dish (Be careful not to overcook them, though! They should be slightly crisp and not mushy.). Mashed steamed cauliflower makes a great substitute for its heavier cousin: mashed potatoes. You can add roasted garlic and chives for a burst of flavor and additional health benefits. Roasted brussels sprouts are especially delicious if you add a touch of olive oil and a small amount of ham or bacon. For a sweeter meal, dried fruit such as cherries also pair well with brussels sprouts.
Sometimes we get stuck in a salad rut, opting for the same old iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Why not shake things up a bit and use some seasonal leafy greens? Some of the most nutrient-dense powerhouse salad greens are in their peak season in the fall and winter. Greens like kale, Swiss chard, and endives are all beaming with flavor and nutrients.
There’s a reason kale makes it on almost every superfood list. It’s full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and vitamin K. Swiss chard and endives also contain many of these nutrients, and they have a slightly bitter taste that adds variety to your salad’s flavor profile. Swiss chard also makes for a delicious side dish when sauteed with olive oil, onions, and garlic. And endives can be stuffed with hummus or other fillings to create a great appetizer, or they can be simply grilled on the barbecue with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Apples, pears, grapes, pomegranates, cranberries, and figs are all in season during the cooler months. They provide a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth during the holidays if you are looking to avoid the heaviness of many traditional seasonal treats. These sweet fruits are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and they help control appetite, ease digestion, and boost immunity.
For a quick, simple treat, bake or microwave a sliced apple or a pear until slightly soft and sprinkle with cinnamon. Yum! You can also try adding cooked or dried cranberries to salads, rice, or quinoa for more color and flavor. Cranberries can also be tossed into homemade trail mix or added to muffins or morning oats.
Make the most of what the cooler months have to offer at your local farmers market or grocery store. Stock up on the season’s freshest produce and get excited about cooking up some cozy meals for your family and friends. Below is one of my favorite recipes for preparing brussels sprouts. I never really liked them until I learned how to cook them properly. Enjoy!
Adapted from Together as Family