Fall and its emerging warm glow signal it’s time to evolve. As the deciduous trees let go of the old to prepare for the new, perhaps it’s a great time for you to shed your old ways of eating and try some new foods, techniques and recipes! If you haven’t already given some of these fall all-stars a try, consider adding a few of the following to your plate this season.
Butternut Squash: This versatile deep orange vegetable can be substituted for any recipe calling for pumpkin. Butternut squash can be roasted, grilled and puréed or mashed for soups, casseroles and breads. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, a good source of vitamin E, fiber, potassium, and magnesium and contain no cholesterol or fat. Compared to pumpkin, butternut squash has twice the amount of A and C.
Japanese Persimmons (or “kaki”): These golden jewels come in several varieties, shapes, colors, and sizes. The rounded, crunchier Fuyu persimmon is squat like a tomato and makes a great snack (eat it like an apple). Fuyus add bright orange color and sweetness to an all-green salad.
Another popular variety, the heart-shaped Hachiya persimmon, is larger in size with a more pointed bottom and is meant to be eaten soft — almost ‘gushy’. You can use the thick, pulpy jelly to make persimmon bread and cookies as they’re a great source of vitamin A, C and fiber.
Traditional to Japan, Hachiyas are hand-peeled, individually hung and delicately hand-massaged for a dried fruit delicacy. For a frozen treat, freeze a whole well-ripened Hachiya in a cup (pointed bottom side up). Thaw slightly when ready to eat and dive in with a spoon for an all-natural ‘sorbet’.
A third type, the Chocolate persimmon, is highly sought after, smaller in size, and has a dark brown flesh. They can be found at specialty or farmers markets. Be patient when waiting for persimmons to ripen. If eaten before they’re fully ripe, they can be very bitter and they’re well worth the wait.
Asian Pears (or “nashi”): Asian Pears are large in size and are also known as ‘apple pears’ due to their shape and crisp texture. They’re a prized fruit in Japan where they’re actually wrapped and sold individually in a decorative box. Ripe Asian pears are very juicy, fragrant and crunchy – unlike soft traditional pears. They’re a great source of fiber and vitamin C and free of fat, cholesterol and sodium.
Sweet Potatoes: Rich in beta carotene which impart their golden orange color, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and C and a good source of fiber and potassium. Steamed or microwaved, they make a satisfying side. Sweet potato pie is a Southern classic made with lots of butterfat. But with a bit of a makeover (recipe to be posted), sweet potato pie (topped with nonfat whipped cream!) makes a satisfying breakfast and a heavenly alternative to buttery candied sweet potatoes and traditional pumpkin pie.
Beets: Beetroot, especially when roasted, is an excellent base for salads as well as a sweet, colorful and delicious addition. They’re a good source of folate, vitamin C and potassium. Recent research has shown that drinking beetroot juice can reduce blood pressure due to its high nitrate content. Also, scientists have found that the nitrates in beets can improve blood flow to the brain and thus, improve mental performance.
Face Your Fall Food Fears
Temptations: Perhaps fall brings visions of binging, bloating and weight gain caused by the annual week-long sugar fests (a.k.a. Halloween), Harvest Festivals, turkey feasts, and football ‘super bowls’, but there IS a way to survive the season. By planning ahead, preparing some healthier alternatives and staying satiated (i.e., no starvation diets! ), you can still share in the food, occasion and fun. Denying yourself food or bowing out of the event altogether can set yourself up for frustration, loneliness and binge eating later.
Football: Prime-time snacking season has also arrived with the long-awaited return of football. But being healthy doesn’t mean you can’t take part in the social feeding frenzy. Just consider some other ways to bypass the greasy processed chips, chicken wings, sodas, and pizza.
Here are a few fashionable fall foods to try:
- Bruschetta with Garden Tomatoes and Basil (brush some fresh pesto on the roasted bread for another layer of flavor)
- Fresh Veggies with California Spinach Dip (a new-fashioned version of an old high-fat classic)
- Cowboy Caviar (a tangy spin on Texas black bean dip) – Great for dunking chips or as a ‘salsa’ for tacos!
- Belgian Endive (also in season) makes an ideal ‘scoop’ for dips
- Zesty Home-Baked Tortilla Chips with Mango-Avocado Salsa
- Chipotle Chicken Tacos (made with chicken breast)
- Catfish Tacos with Citrus Salsa
- BBQ Grilled Shrimp Toast
- Tofu Enchurritos
- Fresh Iced Lemonade Tea
- Cranberry-Orange Spritzers
Be a Healthy Adventurer!
Fall is an excellent time to make changes in your life as fall is all about preparing for new growth. In life, you’re either in a state of growth or decay. Think about taking one small adventurous step toward getting healthier each day. By doing so, in a year, you will have made a significant change in your life.
Fit Tip: Don’t dwell on that morsel of a brownie you couldn’t resist. Beating yourself up because you “went off your diet” will only bring on feelings of failure and defeat. At the end of each day, ask yourself what you did to get you closer to your goal. Those are the kinds of thoughts that will propel you forward and sustain your motivation.