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The warm weather is now behind us and fall has finally arrived. With that comes a change in produce; berries are replaced with apples and pears, cucumbers and zucchinis are swapped out for winter squash and pumpkin.
While you don’t have to change the foods you’re eating (one of the advantages of living in a modern society), changing your diet seasonally has some benefits.
The first benefit is that it may save you some money because the produce doesn’t have to be imported from warmer climates or grown in greenhouses.
Another benefit is that seasonal produce tends to be more nutritious. Often times, when the produce is grown and needs to be imported, it’s picked unripe. Seasonal produce can be grown locally and therefore is picked when ripe and at the peak of both flavor and nutrition. If you need an example of this, try buying tomatoes in the middle of January. They probably won’t taste as good as the ones you get in the middle of July.
Finally, since the produce is often times local, you support the local economy and can put one of those “shop small, shop local” bumper stickers on your car.
So, what’s in season? Here are 15 fall vegetables to try out this fall:
Butternut Squash:With about half the calories of a sweet potato, butternut squash can easily replace a starch–such as potatoes–at dinner. by. Roasted it is usually the most popular method for making it, but mashed or made into soup are other popular options. Some people have even been successful at making butternut french fries (I failed when I tried).
Butternut squash is full of vitamins and minerals, the most notable being vitamin A.
Delicata Squash: If you haven’t tried them, the flavor is often compared to corn. They are low in calories like the butternut squash (and all other squashes, except for spaghetti), but also full of vitamin A. Delicata also has about 8% of your calcium needs making it a decent plant source of calcium per cup (one of the many reasons this is my favorite squash). It’s best to cut it into half moons, cut in half and roasted, or made into a mash.
Parsnips: Another one of my favorites this season, parsnips are related to carrots but their flavor is described as “nutty.” Similar to winter squash, they are best served either roasted or mashed (my personal favorite)), but can also work well in some soups. They aren’t powerhouses when it comes to vitamins, but they are a good source of minerals in your diet.
Carrots:While also a spring vegetable, many farmers grow them in the fall since they tolerate a light frost. The orange carrots you’re familiar with can grow year round, but usual varieties like purple, yellow, and true baby carrots are grown this time of the year. Most of you already know that carrots are vitamin A powerhouses and low in calories (52 calories per cup), but those unusual varieties can offer other health benefits. Purple carrots have the same types of antioxidants that are found in blueberries and pomegranates (and they still taste like regular carrots).
Fennel: Come November, my wife will be requesting a fennel, orange, and cranberry salad at least once a week. Since it bolts and can become bitter in warm weather, it’s typically eaten this time of the year. It has a flavor similar to anise or licorice, but it’s very mild. It can be eaten raw, or you can saute or braise it. It’s very low in calories but not particularly high in any vitamins or minerals; one thing it does have going for it is that it has a variety of unique antioxidants like rutin, quercetin, and various kaempferol glycosides.
Broccoli:You either like broccoli or you hate it. I ate so much broccoli when I was bodybuilding that I could care less about it. But if you’re not a fan or want to give it a try, this is the season for it. It’s a little more sweet and less bitter in the fall and winter.As you probably already know, it’s ultra low in calories with tons of health benefits.
Brussel Sprouts:So I switched from eating broccoli all the time to these guys. They’ve become a new fad in restaurants and food for good reason; they taste great fried. Since they’re in the same family as broccoli, warmer temperatures can make it bitter. If you haven’t tried them, now would be the time to start thinking about it. Cut them in half or quartered and roast, or if you have an air fryer, you can use that. As a cruciferous vegetable ( like broccoli and kale), brussel sprouts have a ton of benefits including: cancer-fighting properties, possible help with depression, anti-inflammatory benefits, microbiome support, protection and elimination of toxins, cardioprotection, may reduce pain, and may help with insulin levels.
Cabbage:Another one in the cruciferous vegetable family, so you can apply the same benefits of brussel sprouts. The cooler the weather is when cabbage is harvested, the sweeter it tastes. My favorite way to make it is either shredded raw as a slaw or to braise it with apples and onions. The other option is sauerkraut.
Mushrooms:Spring and fall are the best time for mushrooms. Mushrooms have a ton of health benefits that could make for an entire nutrition seminar. You should try and have them at least once a week in your diet. My favorite way is to saute them or follow this recipe with potatoes, lemon, rosemary, and chicken.
I’ve been making that recipe and variations of it for about five years now.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes:While they’re harvested all year long, they tend to be the best this time of year. Sweet potatoes are just slightly higher in calories thanks to the sugar in them, but also a little higher in vitamins. White potato varieties are a little higher in minerals and slightly lower in calories because of the low sugar content. You should keep both in your diet if you’re a fan of potatoes.
If you want to push the boundaries a little bit, try getting purple potatoes or purple sweet potatoes. Like other blue and purple foods, they contain anthocyanins which are the same antioxidants found in blueberries (FYI, they taste pretty much just like regular white and sweet potatoes, but blue mashed potatoes can make for a good Halloween dish).
Turnips:Before potatoes took off, we used to eat turnips instead. They have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor, so they don’t exactly replace potatoes, but they are really low in calories and can be made in pretty much every way a potato can be. I usually roast them with winter squash, parsnips, rutabaga (another vegetable from the same family), onions, and carrots or add them in a pot roast.
Cauliflower:I used to hate cauliflower. Then I learned to roast it and now I like it. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable like Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and broccoli.. It’s a cool weather crop so it’s going to taste best this time of year. I like it roasted, but mashed and riced are two ways to reduce calories by replacing it for your starch. It can also be made into pizza crusts (just don’t go in expecting it to be like the crust from Naples 45 in New York).
Acorn Squash:Low in calories and pretty mild in flavor, a popular way to make them is with garlic. I don’t care for acorn compared to delicata or butternut, but a lot of people do like them. Since their flavor is pretty mild, you can also stuff them almost like stuffed peppers.
Pumpkin Varieties:If you go into a grocery store, you’ll see sugar pumpkins for sale which are decent, but, in my opinion, not nearly as good as butternut squash. Other varieties that you might see but don’t know are good to eat include: cheese pumpkins, cinderella/fairy tale pumpkin, and peanut pumpkins. Cheese and cinderella pumpkins are both sweet and perfect for roasting, baking, and using in pie. Peanut pumpkins get the weird growths on them because the species produces too much sugar and that’s the way the pumpkin gets rid of the excess sugar. The more “peanuts” the sweeter the pumpkin.
Kabocha Squash:This is a type of Japanese squash that is sometimes called a Japanese pumpkin. When roasted, the flesh is drier than most of the other squash varieties, but it is also one of the sweetest squashes. In terms of calories, despite it being sweeter, it’s still about the same as the other winter squashes listed above. Roasted is probably the best way to try this squash for the first time.
Autumn Quinoa Salad
2 Cups Quinoa
4 Cups Low Sodium Bone Broth, Chicken Broth, or Water
Salt and Pepper- To Taste
1 Large Butternut Squash- Peeled and Cubed
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Medium Apples- Peeled and diced
3 Carrots- Peeled and diced or shredded
2 Cups Red Cabbage- Shredded
2 Cups Kale- Chopped
½ Cup Dried Cranberries
½ Cup Dried Tart Cherries
½ Cup Sunflower Seeds
½ Cup Pumpkin Seeds
4 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
4 Tbsp Maple Syrup
Optional: 1 Cup Feta Cheese- Crumbled
Rinse the quinoa in the sink (this removes the bitterness from it). Add four cups of broth or water to a large pot and place on the stove on high. Bring to a boil, then add salt (if using). Add the quinoa, and bring the liquid back up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer and let cook for 15 minutes or until done. Let the quinoa cool.
Preheat the oven to 400. Peel the butternut squash and cut in half. Remove the seeds, then cube the rest of the squash. Add to a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place squash on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until done tossing once at the 15-minute mark. Optional: I like mine a little charred for this recipe, so I turned on the broiler once they were done for a minute or two. Remove squash and let cool.
In a large bowl, add all the ingredients: quinoa, squash, apples, carrots, cabbage, kale, dried cranberries, dried cherries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and feta (if using) and mix well until ingredients are spread evenly throughout. You may need to do this in batches or use two bowls.
This recipe makes a lot, so you’ll be meal prepped for the entire week. If you’re making it for just one person, you might want to cut this recipe in half. If you want it to be lower in carbs, you can reduce the amount of quinoa and/or increase the squash, cabbage, kale, and carrots in the recipe.
I didn’t play with any spices with this recipe, so feel free to add in some if you’d like. Next time I make this, I’ll be adding cinnamon and fresh ginger.
To make this vegan-friendly, simply swap the broth out for water or vegetable stock and don’t add the feta.
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