There is a chill in the air and the days are getting shorter. Ready or not, fall is on its way. My favorite part about fall is the comfort foods. We crave heartier meals like chili, stews, and soups that warm us from the inside. Most of us equate comfort foods with rich, fat laden dishes. On the contrary, comfort foods can be healthy…if you have the right recipe! Meat is used more to flavor soups and stews instead of being the main attraction. Vegetables can be the bulk of a stew, soup, or chili.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports most Americans eat less than half the amount of recommended vegetable servings. Fall is as good a time as any to start increasing vegetables in your diet for more healthful eating. Here, I list three of my favorite fall vegetables, discussing why they are so good for us as well as tips for incorporating them into your dishes. Not only are these vegetables ripe and at their most delicious in the fall, they all keep well and are versatile.
Why is pumpkin good for us? Pumpkin is a low-calorie vegetable at 40 calories per cup of pumpkin fruit. Yet it is a storehouse of many antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
What are the best ways to use pumpkin? It seems pumpkin is used in everything these days from pumpkin breads and muffins to pumpkin beer. Pumpkin puree is easy to add into many foods, such as soups, stews, and chili. It boosts the nutrition value of your recipes without significantly changing the taste. Pumpkin puree can also replace a portion of oil in baking you favorite breads, muffins, or brownies. Blend some pumpkin puree into your oatmeal or pasta sauce for added nutritional benefits. The possibilities are endless!
Why is cabbage good for us? Cabbage is a mere 17 calories per cup, which classifies it as a “free food.” Like most of its Brassica relatives, cabbage is rich in vitamin C and fiber. Purple cabbage, in particular, has a high level of anthocyanins, which may be effective in preventing certain cancers, reducing heart disease, and improving eyesight.
What are the best ways to use cabbage? Instead of the traditional creamy coleslaw, mix your cabbage in a blend of olive oil and rice vinegar with salt and pepper to taste. This cuts calories as well as saturated fats. Cabbage can also add texture and fiber in soups and salads. Shredded cabbage makes for an interesting taco or pulled pork sandwich topping.
Why is squash good for us? One cup of cooked winter squash is high in both vitamin A (214 percent of the recommended daily value) and vitamin C (33 percent of the recommended daily value). Squash is also a great source of vitamin K, potassium, and folate. At only 80 calories per cup, squash is lower in calories when compared to the sweet potato, which provides 180 calorie per cup.
What are the best ways to use squash? Nothing says fall like butternut squash or other winter squash. It has a creamy texture and sweet flavor that is a great addition to many recipes. It may be cut up (or purchased pre-cut in grocery stores) and added to many soups and stews or roasted along with other root vegetables for a nutritious side dish. See below for a tasty squash recipe as from Eating Well magazine.
Roasted Squash and Pear Soup with Crumbled Stilton
- 2 ripe pears, peeled, quartered, and cored
- 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 medium tomatoes, cored, and quartered
- 1 large leek (pale green and white parts only), halved lengthwise, sliced, and washed thoroughly
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 cups vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
- 2/3 cup crumbled Stilton or other blue-veined cheese
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives or scallion greens
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Combine pears, squash, tomatoes, leek, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl; toss to coat. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 40 to 55 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Place half the vegetables and 2 cups broth in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan. Puree the remaining vegetables and 2 cups broth. Add to the pan and stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- Cook the soup over medium-low heat, stirring until hot (about 10 minutes). Divide among six bowls and garnish with cheese and chives (or scallion greens).
- Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to one month. Add more broth when heating if desired.
Per serving: 235 calories; 10 g fat (5 g sat, 5 g mono); 11 mg cholesterol; 34 g carbohydrates; 6 g protein; 6 g fiber; 721 mg sodium; 700 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (350% daily value), Vitamin C (70% dv), Potassium (21% dv), Calcium (20% dv)
Carbohydrate Servings: 2
Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fruit, 2 fat
Would you like more information on eating healthy as you get older? Download “Feed Your Body Right: Nutritional Needs After 50.”