The first cool breeze, a couple of fallen leaves, the smell of a pumpkin spice latté—it’s here. Fall is officially in the air. As the summer months come to a close, and we swap out our bottles of rosé for warm spiked cider, we also start to think of all the delicious autumn grub headed our way. Apple pies are nice on occasion, but there are a lot of better-for-you fall foods to get excited about.
These seasonal ingredients are full of sustaining nutrients that will help get you through the cooler days. They also lend themselves to lower calorie cooking, which can help promote weight loss if that’s something you’re interested in doing. If not, they’re still delicious and nutritious enough to deserve a spot in your diet.
1. Apples and pears
Now you have an excuse to finally go apple picking. Maxine Yeung, M.S., R.D., owner of The Wellness Whisk, tells SELF that apples are, a good source of fiber, full of vitamins, and relatively low in calories. And the same is true of pears. There are infinite different ways you can use these autumn favorites—both sweet and savory. Throw them in your salads, dry them out with a dehydrator and snack on them, or just munch on one plain. As they say, an apple a day…
There are so many different and wonderful kinds of winter squash. One that Yeung loves is spaghetti squash. It’s a favorite among the carb-cutting community for a reason—it has a taste and texture that’s extremely similar to actual pasta, but higher in fiber and way, way lower in carbs. To bake a spaghetti squash, she explains that all you need to do is “slice the squash in half, season with a bit of olive oil and bake until tender.” Then simply scrape the insides out with a fork, and voilà—spaghetti! Er…kind of.
She also loves butternut squash, which she’ll add to soups, or roast with a few sprinkles of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice.
3. Squash seeds
Yeung likes to take the seeds she has leftover from her squash, roast them and then use them as salad or soup toppers. You can do this with nearly any squash—she prefers butternut, but pumpkin totally works, too. “The seeds are a plant-based protein, just like nuts, and are rich in vitamins such as folate, potassium, and vitamin A and C.” They’re also a great high-protein snack to keep at your desk for when you start to feel that afternoon slump.
This cruciferous vegetable is a known shape-shifter, another favorite of carb-cutters, and an early-fall favorite to be on the lookout for. You can turn it into low-calorie versions of pizza crust, rice, bread, and so much more.
“Even though they are available all year round, during the fall they are the ripest,” Yeung explains. Figs are loaded with fiber, which makes them a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth while satisfying your stomach. Yeung likes to eat them with a bit of cheese or nut butter as a snack, or quarter them and add them to salads.
6. Sweet potatoes
These spuds aren’t just great when topped with marshmallows (though they totally are great like that). They’re full of complex carbs, so you should definitely add them to your dinner plate when you just can’t stomach the thought of eating another whole grain (a girl can only eat so much quinoa!). Try them roasted, mashed, or even turn them into soup.
7. Cinnamon and nutmeg
These low-calorie spices aren’t just meant for eggnog. Yeung recommends adding them to roasted vegetables, soups, salad dressings. Get creative, they work in a lot of different things and definitely deserve a permanent place in your pantry. Plus, cooking with them will make your whole house smell like an autumn Yankee candle, and who wouldn’t want that?