Now that we are heading into winter, farmers markets become more and more scarce. It may seem that some fruits and vegetables are hard to find, but you can still use plenty of them throughout the fall and winter in your daily meals. Check out below for some of my favorite fall power foods that I’ve shared with the Together CountsTM program, and give them a try yourself to add a healthful kick to your family meals.
Apples come in many colors and varieties and are a great source of fiber and antioxidants. They’re delicious raw, either as themselves or decorated with peanut butter, honey or any of your favorite toppings, or cooked in sauces, pies or jams. In fact, how you intend to use them can help you determine which type to buy— Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Fuji and Gold Delicious are good for consuming raw, while cooking/baking apples include Granny Smith, McIntosh Honeycrisp and Braeburn apples.
One of the newer “super foods,” kale is low in calories and packed full of nutrients like iron, calcium and Vitamins A, C, K. Whether you use it as a substitute for spinach in recipes, eat it raw or make kale chips, you can reap the benefits of this nutritious vegetable. As an extremely versatile leaf, some athletes even add it to protein shakes to give them a more healthful kick.
Winter squash come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some examples include butternut squash, acorn squash and spaghetti squash, all of which can be transformed into nutritious foods for your family. Winter squash can be low-calorie, are good sources of fiber and are high in Vitamins A and C. After spaghetti squash is cooked, use a fork to scrape the inside of the squash to mimic spaghetti noodles – add pasta sauce for a lower-carb version of pasta. Acorn squash and butternut squash can be peeled, sliced and baked into squash fries. Both are also great additives to chili or soup!
(See also 4 Tips for On-the-Go Family Meals)
Known for its seeds and juice, pomegranates are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, and their seeds are high in dietary fiber. Pomegranate juice has increased in popularity due to the difficulty of obtaining the seeds from the peel of the pomegranate. Try making a pomegranate sauce for your next meal or add a bit to your lemonade or iced tea!
Pumpkin can be used for more than just pies! It’s extremely versatile and is a great source of beta carotene, vitamin E and fiber. Depending on how it’s cooked, it can be a low-calorie food as well. You can use the puree for a variety of foods – from soup, breads and muffins, to cheesecake and cookies. Pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc, magnesium, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber and make a perfect school or work snack. Whether you cook them yourself or buy the pre-packaged version, make sure it’s lower in sodium to get the most benefit without the extra salt.
Cranberries are a popular holiday food rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, manganese and vitamin K. Dried cranberries can be a great snack to throw in a school or work lunch, or use fresh cranberries cooked with apples to make applesauce. Cranberry can also be added to stuffing for holiday meals. Since they are tart in flavor a small amount can pack a big punch!
Regardless of whether the fruits and vegetables are fresh, frozen or canned, it is good to try to get nutrients from a variety of sources to maintain a proper diet. The more you involve your children, the more likely they will be to try new foods and incorporate them into their daily life!
What fall super foods are you most excited to try with your family? Share your recipes in the comments below!
This article was written by Ellen Sviland, MS, RD, CNSD, LD, a pediatric dietitian from Washington, DC. She balances her daily hospital work life with cooking (her favorite is baking desserts) and with a part-time job counseling patients.
Get inspired for other seasonal foods with additional resources from the Together Counts site: