For healthy and fresh fall eating, keep it colorful

Continue eating fresh ingredients into the fall

  • Continue eating a variety of colorful produce.
  • Give your body the nutrients and vitamins it needs to stay healthy.
  • Try sweet and savory recipes with fresh fall vegetables and fruits.

[3 MIN READ]

Fall is here and it may look a little different this year than what you’re used to due to COVID-19. While some people can’t wait to indulge in pumpkin spice everything, others find the transition from summer to fall particularly difficult, especially this year, when favorite fall rituals like football and bonfires with friends may be absent.

Sareena Oncea, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a diabetes prevention program health coach at Providence Health & Services in Portland, Ore., believes the transition is easier to handle if we choose our food wisely.

Colorful produce is filled with a variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that are linked to boosting your immune system and helping your body work best.

“One of the most important things to do when moving into the next season is to continue eating a variety of colorful produce,” she says. “Research is growing around the link between eating more nutritious foods and your psychological well-being. Currently, we know that colorful produce is filled with a variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that are linked to boosting your immune system and helping your body work best. Many times, when people feel their best physically, they feel better mentally as well.”

Don’t forget the power of healthy eating on the immune system. Stocking up on vitamin and nutrient-rich food can protect you while COVID-19 is still lingering and as we head into cold and flu season.

Berries and melons in the fall

Don’t assume that berry season ends with summer. Huckleberries, for example, which grow wild throughout northwestern regions of the U.S., are available as late as mid-September. And some years you can still find ripe blackberries after August. However, if that’s not an option in your neck of the woods, it’s a good time to transition to frozen berries. And because frozen fruits maintain their phytonutrients and fiber, you’re not losing out on the nutritional perks (just watch out for added sugars). 

Using fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries or raspberries can give you that taste of summer even as the days shorten and the temperatures dip.

One way to keep berries in your life year-round is to hone your smoothie skills. Using fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries or raspberries can give you that taste of summer even as the days shorten and the temperatures dip. Try this recipe for a nutrient-packed breakfast smoothie – a great and filling way to start the day.

Triple berry smoothie recipe

Ingredients

1 banana

1 c. frozen strawberries

1 c. frozen blackberries, plus more for garnish (optional)

1 c. frozen raspberries

1 1/4 c. almond milk

1/2 c. Greek yogurt

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Divide between 2 cups and top with blackberries, if desired.

Melons are excellent transitional fruits, too. They’re colorful and sweet, for starters. Although they don’t have as much fiber as berries,  they have plenty of vitamins, including vitamin C, to help boost your immune system.

Here are a few other colorful fruits that are fresh and available in the fall:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Kumquats
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates

Return to your roots

After the fall equinox, leafy green vegetables are also plentiful. While some types of lettuce thrive in summer heat, others, such as red-leaf varieties, are cold-hardy, which means they’ll grow in gardens and still be available at farmer’s markets through fall. Swiss chard, kale, arugula, spinach and mache also grow in cooler temperatures.

If you’ve ever been to a Halloween pumpkin patch you know there are ample varieties of squash available, and they’re all excellent sources of fiber and nutrients, including vitamins A and C, magnesium and other antioxidant compounds. You’ll also find an abundance of fresh nutrient-rich Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, beets and sweet potatoes.

Looking for a way to include more root vegetables in your life? Try this recipe for dressing up your sweet potatoes.

Savory oven-roasted sweet potatoes

Ingredients

4 cups chopped peeled sweet potato

1 sweet onion (such as Vidalia®), cut into wedges

2 cloves garlic, sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste

1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  • Mix sweet potatoes, sweet onion, and garlic in a bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture and toss to coat; pour into a shallow roasting pan.
  • Roast sweet potato mixture in preheated oven, turning frequently until the vegetables are soft and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the vegetables; season with salt and pepper.




Getting the most nutritional benefits out of your fruits and veggies

“The way you prepare vegetables affects their nutritional value,” Sareena says. She recommends eating them raw, roasted, steamed or blanched. “Limit boiling or cooking vegetables in large amounts of fat. If you want to use fat, aim for a plant-based oil and just use a little drizzle,” she says.

Cooking some vegetables, such as carrots and tomatoes, increases their health benefits. “Cooking carrots increases the beta-carotene that’s available. But if you prefer raw carrots, dip them in a dressing or hummus. Adding a little fat to raw vegetables helps you absorb the nutrients better,” she says.

Frozen vegetables are a good choice when fewer fresh options exist, but look at labels to ensure there’s no added sodium. That applies to canned foods, as well. Look for canned vegetables with no added sodium and fruits canned in “lite syrup” or its own juice. Rinse canned fruits and vegetables before serving to remove additional sugar and salt.

Treat your body well this fall

By making a plan to include fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet, you’ll not only boost your immune system’s function, but you can also improve your mental well-being leading into the fall cold and flu season.

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Related resources

From the kitchen of Chef Tse: Is takeout safe?

American Heart Association

Keeping Portions Under Control

Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

How to stock your pantry, fridge and freezer

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

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