Foods eaten at the peak of their season not only offer the best flavor, but they overflow with nutrients. Scientists continually discover new components in these fresh foods that benefit our health. The healthy qualities of these fall foods will give you even more reasons to fill your plate.
Always considered a nutritious food, apples have more recently made health news due to quercetin. This antioxidant not only helps to prevent cellular damage, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin prevents the release of histamines leading researchers to believe it could reduce symptoms of allergies.
Tip: Keep the skin on. According to University of Illinois Extension, almost half of the vitamin C in an apple is located just under the skin. The skin also contains nutritious fiber.
Move over carrots, pumpkins promote healthy vision too. Pumpkin contains lutein and zeaxanthin which are associated with preventing cataracts and reducing risk for macular degeneration. Pumpkin is also rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Tip: Orange-flesh winter squash share these health benefits. A few varieties to look for: Cinderella pumpkins, Kabocha, Cushaw, Butternut squash, and Delicata squash.
Crunchy purple cabbage contains sinigrin, which is converted to an isothiocyanate compound with unique properties linked to cancer prevention. The purple variety has a slight advantage over green cabbage due to anthocyanin pigments. These polyphenols act as antioxidants to protect against chronic disease. Cabbage is also packed with vitamin C, and because cabbage is often eaten raw in salads and slaws, the vitamin C isn’t destroyed during cooking.
Tip: Top tacos with shredded purple cabbage instead of iceberg lettuce for a boost of nutrients, flavor, and texture.
Related to garlic and onions, leeks are part of the allium family, but they get much less attention for their star nutrient content. Leeks contain the flavonoid kaempferol which has been shown to prevent damage to the lining of blood vessels making leeks beneficial for cardiovascular health. Leeks also provide folate. Folate has been found to balance homocysteine levels to protect against cardiovascular disease.
Tip: The whole leek is edible, but the highest concentration of nutrients are found in the lower leaf and bulb.
Tart, red cranberries contain polyphenols with anti-bacterial properties, which reduce risk of urinary tract infections. Whole cranberries also have anti-cancer properties and provide antioxidants. This berry promotes a healthy cardiovascular system and digestive tract because it reduces the inflammation that is associated with disease.
Tip: Chop fresh cranberries in a food processor, and add them to salads and cereals for tart flavor and extra crunch.
A snack helps you push through a tough workout, but eat the wrong thing and you may have to check out of the gym early. Everyone is different, so determining the best foods and the best time to eat them is a learning process. These tips will help you pick the right snack whether you exercise morning, noon, or night.
Before Your Workout
The Mayo Clinic suggests that large meals be eaten at least 3 to 4 hours before a workout, small meals 2 to 3 hours before, and small snacks about 1 hour before. Choose foods that are balanced in carbohydrate and protein, and low in fat and fiber. Each person tolerates fat and fiber differently so experiment with food options to find what works best for you.
½ of an English muffin topped with 2 scrambled egg whites. (94 calories)
½ cup of cherry tomatoes with a ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese. (112 calories)
1/4 cup of oatmeal prepared with water and mashed with a ½ of a banana, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. (135 calories)
20 mini pretzels with 2 tablespoons of hummus. (156 calories)
2 slices of unsweetened dried mango and 2 tablespoons of shelled pumpkin seeds. (140 calories)
1/4 cup of low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt topped with a ¼ cup of brown puffed rice cereal, and a ¼ cup of blueberries. (118 calories)
After Your Workout
Eat within two hours of finishing a hard workout to replenish muscle glycogen stores. Depending on the time of day you exercise, this may be a full meal, or it might be a small snack that gets you through to lunch or dinner. Choose foods that are balanced in protein and carbohydrate, but add more heart-healthy fat and fiber during your recovery. Also, include foods with high water content such as fruits and vegetables for rehydration.
A smoothie made with 1 cup of low fat milk, a ¼ cup of vanilla Greek yogurt, a ½ cup of frozen blackberries, a ½ cup of kale leaves, and 1 teaspoon of honey. (286 calories)
3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of honey, with 1 cup of red grapes for dipping. (219 calories)
A wrap with 1 whole wheat tortilla, 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado, 2 slices of smoked turkey, ¼ cup of shredded romaine lettuce, and 2 teaspoons of spicy brown mustard. (232 calories)
1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes mixed with 2 tablespoons of diced olives, a ½ cup of white cannellini beans, a ½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and two chopped basil leaves. (212 calories)
1 cup of prepared black bean soup, and 1 piece of whole wheat bread topped with avocado spread (2 tablespoons of smashed avocado mixed with 1 tablespoon of prepared salsa). (270 calories)
1 cup of chopped, grilled summer squash drizzled with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 2 ounces of chopped, cooked chicken over ½ cup of whole wheat pasta. (302 calories)
As long as you stay within your daily caloric requirement, a bedtime snack will not ruin your efforts to lose weight. If you eat an early dinner, and can’t stomach a snack before a morning workout, a snack before bedtime can be beneficial. Be sure to keep it light so that it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
1 sliced banana drizzled with 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter that has been heated for 20-30 seconds in the microwave. (215 calories)
1/4 cup of dried tart cherries and a ½ ounce of raw walnuts. (220 calories)
Hot chocolate made with 1 cup low fat milk, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. (144 calories)
Soaking oats overnight is an easy way to have a quick and healthy breakfast ready to go first thing in the morning. The milk and yogurt create a creamy cereal that is delicious straight out of the refrigerator.
Tips for the cook: Any type of milk, yogurt and fruit can be used in your oats. Stir fruits that brown easily (apples, bananas) into the oatmeal. Berries and stone fruits can be placed on top of the oats before sealing and refrigerating. Save crunchy toppings like nuts or seeds to add just before serving so that they don’t soften overnight.
Serving Size 1 recipe
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2.8g
2%Saturated Fat 0.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrate 37.7g
Dietary Fiber 4.4g
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Replacing high-sugar soft drinks with low-calorie beverages is an easy dietary change that can impact your health in a big way. A 12-ounce soda contains 9 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. Extra-large drinks with nearly 48 ounces of soda contain 36 to 48 teaspoons of sugar. They also have 600 or more calories! It is easy to consume one-third to one-half of the calories your body needs on a daily basis through soft drinks alone. Choosing a lower calorie option will help you maintain a healthy weight.
One characteristic of soda that many people enjoy are the bubbles and fizz that come from carbonation. You don't have to give this up. There are many drinks that will satisfy your craving without the excess calories and sugar, or artificial sweeteners.
Carbonated waters come plain or lightly flavored with fruit essence, such as citrus or raspberry. Be sure to read labels and check for added sugar, artificial flavors, and sweeteners.
Reduce your use of plastic bottles, and purchase a home carbonator unit that allows you to carbonate water from your tap. This is an economical and environmentally friendly way to enjoy carbonated drinks. Add a slice of citrus fruit, or fruit essence flavors that can be purchased with the unit.
Spritzers are a great way to add variety. Mix one half carbonated water with one half fruit juice. Experiment with orange, grape, pineapple, grapefruit, and cranberry juices until you find a satisfying combination. Spritzers contain vitamins and half the calories compared to soda.
Juice mixed with shaved ice is another delicious option. There are many different snow cone makers and ice shavers available. Food processors and blenders can also pulverize ice cubes.
Tea is a good option if you are after a drink to quench your thirst, and do not want the carbonation. There are many varieties ranging from caffeine-free herbal teas to green and black teas. Enhance the flavor with a twist of lemon and mint leaves.
Creating a more exciting drink will make breaking the habit easier. Throw out the paper cups and treat yourself to a new set of brightly colored tumblers or elegant drinking glasses to celebrate your healthier drinks. You'll find it is much more satisfying to indulge in a nicely prepared drink than it is to pop open a sugary drink from a can.