It’s fall and you’re craving fall foods. Pumpkins, winter squash, nuts, and spices. Orange, red, and sweet things. Slowly over the cooler months, we tend to eat seasonal foods that are prepared in a heartier fashion: a little more meat, a little more fat, a little more sugar—and by the time New Years’ rolls around, the resolution “slim down” makes a guest appearance at the top of most lists.
But eating seasonal, autumnal foods doesn’t have to lead to a heavier tummy. You can enjoy all the fruits of the season with a simple tweak of the recipe—and it’s quite tasty all the same.
Here are five of the season’s most popular foods, and a few lighter recipes to enjoy them. Change your diet with the seasons, but don’t change your waist size.
Brussels sprouts look like miniature heads of cabbage—and they should, as they are in the same cruciferous family. Like all other veggies in the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts are low in calories and very high in fiber—so they bulk and fill you up. They happen to rank higher than all others, though, including cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli, in cancer-protective phytochemicals called glucosinolates.
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad, Epicurious
Enjoy Brussels sprouts in an unusual recipe for a shaved salad with almonds and Parmesan cheese. It’s refreshingly light and crisp—and may get you hooked on these healthy cabbage heads.
Butternut squash, acorn squash, kabocha squash—these brightly colored winter squash are perfect for staying slim, as long as they aren’t baked into marshmallow pies or roasted with gobs of butter. Rich in fiber and natural sugars, eating winter squash helps to satisfy both hunger and a sweet tooth. And it’s loaded with vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium, so you are getting lots of bang for your buck.
Fresh Butternut Squash Salad, Food & Wine
This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy winter squash—sliced into thin ribbons and tossed in a savory vinaigrette. This also works as a pasta replacement for those avoiding carbs or gluten.
Who can resist digging into a pumpkin dish or two (or three, or four!) during the autumn months? Unfortunately, pumpkin dishes are usually loaded with cream, milk, butter, and sugar. Delicious, yes, but tell that to your January resolution list. On their own, pumpkins are a rich source of fiber and beta carotene, and they can help boost the immune system during cold days.
Pumpkin Pudding, Buttermilk Press
Take a break from traditional pumpkin pie, which has a higher proportion of carbs, sugars, and dairy in it. Rather, try out this pumpkin pudding recipe, which is just as satisfyingly sweet and spiced, but much lighter.
Admittedly, beets don’t make the rounds nearly enough at the fall dining table. I think people are still turned off from the canned beets days of slimy, mushy blobs of beet. But fresh, raw beets have become a mainstay at my house. They are nutrition powerhouses.
Beets are full of iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and phosphorus—these are all nutritional metals that are often lacking in the modern diet, and they are linked to decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease, as well as regulating blood pressure. They are a great way to cleanse the blood and body during heavier winter months.
Shredded Beet Apple, and Currant Salad, Serious Eats
This sweet autumn slaw is a stunning magenta color with speckles of black and purple. And it tastes even better, too. It’s like eating a lemony, zesty spring salad, only fit for your falliest fall days.
Cauliflower is a liver detoxifier, and it’s been shown to inhibit cancer development. It’s a great substitute for pasta and potatoes in the diet, and it provides a comforting “starchy” quality in taste and texture. In addition, researchers have found it to help regulate glucose levels in the blood, making it a beneficial food for diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Food Network
Skip out on the regular mashed potatoes for dinner, and sub in this creamy, buttery mashed cauliflower recipe. With just a tad bit of sour cream and butter to keep things real, this dish still doles out a healthier, leaner “potato” dish for cold autumn nights.