Confession. I’m giddy with the idea of fall cooking and warm nourishment. As summer slips away and cooler days become colder days, my appetite longs for cozier meals like a bowl of warm soup rich with vegetables fresh from harvest. Even the colors of fall leaves seem to share the colors of squashes, pumpkins, onions, apples, and pears.
Fall produce provides abundant nutrition especially vitamins A, C, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber. Because plant-based foods contain a lot of water and no fat, they are low in calories and rich with antioxidants. With so many choices, you have menu and recipe variety to create multiple options for delicious, plant-based healthy meals.
People with diabetes who are trying to shift to lower carbohydrate foods have lots of produce choices that make meal planning easy. Non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrate and packed with nutrients. Fruits and starchy vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals and need more planning because they are higher in carbohydrate.
Buy produce in season as it is fresher and may have a shorter time from farm to market which protects nutritional value. Best of all prices are lower.
Tips to Enjoy the Bounty of Fall
Tip #1: Buy three apple varieties you have never tasted before or play an apple tasting game which is a good way to get kids involved in eating different foods. During this time of year grocery stores may carry 6 to 7 kinds of apples. Buy four or five kinds. Hide the names of the apples. Give each person a wedge of each apple to taste. Then score each apple for flavor, texture, crunchiness, and color. You might discover a new favorite.
Tip #2: Butternut squash. Slice off top and bottom. Peel off skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut off round end and scoop out the seeds. Cut round end into slices. Then cut into 3/4 -inch chunks either for roasting or pureeing for soup. To roast, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss chunks with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread chunks across a baking pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until tender. Turn once.
Tip #3: Spaghetti Squash. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds. Brush cut sides with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down in dish. Bake 35-45 minutes until tender. A smaller squash may need less time. Flip squash cut side up until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Using a fork scrape squash into strands. Squash strands can be served simply tossed with olive oil or butter or served with other vegetables, spaghetti sauce, or made into a vegetable casserole.
Tip #4: Pomegranates: To open fill a large bowl with water. Cut the pomegranate in half (or into quarters). Place the pomegranate sections under the water and start peeling the seeds off the skin and pith. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl as the pith rises to the surface of the water. Scoop out the pith and strain the seeds which are call arils. These jewel-like seeds make a wonderful garnish or addition to vegetable dishes and stuffing. Pomegranates are a great source of antioxidants.
Tip #5: Mushrooms. Wild mushrooms, depending on the variety and geographic location, are harvested from spring through fall while farm raised mushrooms are grown and harvested all year. Their earthly flavor lends themselves to fall dishes and foraging for them is fun if you know what to look for and where to find them. Avoid putting mushrooms in a bowl of water. They’ll be too waterlogged to taste good. Instead, brush off dirt and wipe clean with a lightly damp paper towel. Store in a paper bag to prevent them from becoming soggy. Farm raised mushrooms are raised clean.
Tip #6: Pumpkin Seeds: Select a medium pumpkin for more tender seeds instead of a large one. Clean seeds in a bowl of water. With a slotted spoon skim seeds out the water and dry with a kitchen towel. Spread seeds out on the towel, let dry for an hour. Preheat oven to 325. Toss seeds with olive oil to lightly coat, toss in salt and seasonings like cayenne pepper, smokey paprika, or your seasoning choice. Spread across a baking sheet. Roast 20 to 30 minutes until crisp.
The next time you go to the grocery store stop in front of the produce section. Stand there, take in the beautiful array of colors, shapes, and sizes of the fresh food before you and let Nature’s bounty bless your meals.
This makes a great after school snack or a light fall dessert. For more servings simply multiply the ingredients. Microwave timing may slightly decrease if multiple apples are microwaved together.
1 medium size apple (Galas work well)
1 tablespoon oatmeal (quick cooking or regular)
1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon apple or orange juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Core and peel apple halfway down the side leaving half of the skin on the apple. Place in a small microwave proof bowl.
- Mix together remaining ingredients. Stuff mix into apple firmly and top apple with what is left over.
- Loosely cover apple with plastic wrap or wax paper. Microwave apple on HIGH about 2minutes or until apple is tender.
- Dish is hot. Carefully remove from microwave.
Makes one serving. Approximately 185 calories
Written by: Mimi Cunningham, MA, RDN, CDCES, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator
Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.
On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Mimi Cunningham for her contribution to our community website and commitment to healthy living and aging.