Falling into Seasonal Produce

Falling into Seasonal Produce

Fall.  Autumn.  The change of seasons is marked by changing leaves and Pumpkin Spice flavored…..everything?  This year, don’t let pumpkin spice flavored oreos be your only seasonal food experience.  There are many seasonal vegetables and fruits that can help welcome the feeling of the cooler temperatures into our homes. 

There are benefits to eating produce when it’s in season beyond helping to usher in a new season.  When we choose in season produce we get the maximum nutritional benefits of those foods.  When foods are picked at the peak of ripeness, they contain their peak content of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  Some phytonutrients in foods decline when stored for long periods of time. Phytonutrient is just a fancy word for the naturally produced chemicals from plants that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Antioxidants prevent or delay cell damage. This means that they keep us healthy for longer and also looking vibrant.  They reduce inflammation which contributes to chronic illness. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant.  Many of us know that Vitamin C can also be important in reducing the length of a cold or other winter illnesses.  Vitamin C is jam packed into many of our Fall grown produce.  All plants contain phytonutrients.  This includes whole grains, nuts, beans and vegetables and fruit.  Examples of seasonal vegetables and fruits are below, but including a variety of plant foods daily is good for overall health and wellness.

Fruits and vegetables are less expensive when purchased in season.  It takes less time and money for them to get to the store and that savings is passed onto the consumer.  Eating seasonally is one of the best things you can do to reduce your grocery budget while bulking up your nutrition. 

When trying to eat healthier, the most valuable thing we can do is make sure that our food is delicious! Eating delicious food every day helps us to sustain our healthier habits.  Eating produce in season is a way to ensure that your fruits and veggies taste their very best.  Lastly, eating in season also provides the opportunity to support local producers.  Supporting local farmers allows for more sustainable food production and also reduces fossil fuels used to transport items from across the world.  Below are some options for including seasonal produce that are usually available locally.  Enjoy the season this year by trying something new or by having a familiar food prepared in a way that is new to you.

Acorn Squash

One serving of Acorn Squash is an excellent source of Vitamin C.  The easiest way to prepare all your winter squash is to halve, scoop out seeds and then bake in the oven until soft.  The tender flesh can be scooped out of the shell and used as a side dish as is.  The shape of the acorn squash also provides the perfect bowl shape for stuffing with goodies such as a combo of Italian sausage and wild rice.  Winter squash is also wonderful for roasting.  Acorn squash can be sliced in strips and roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and seasonings to taste.  

Butternut Squash

Another delicious and slightly sweet winter squash, one cup has more than 100% of the daily value of Vitamin A along with being another excellent source of Vitamin C.  After baking, butternut squash makes a delicious, creamy soup.  It’s also wonderful roasted or topped with cheese and whole wheat breadcrumbs in a casserole.

Sweet Potatoes

Swapping a baked potato for a baked sweet potato is an easy way to increase your Vitamin A and Vitamin C intake for the day.  If you’re looking for more ways to include this versatile vegetable into every day eating, try slicing them thin and using as “toast” substitute or dicing and making a sweet potato hash. 

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts often get a bad reputation for being a least favorite food.  However, when not over-cooked, most people are able to change their opinion of this notorious vegetable.  If you’ve tried Brussels Sprouts before and found them mushy, try a dry heat for cooking.  Slice in halves and roast with olive oil.  You can also try parboiling (boiling for 1-2 minutes and then immersing in cold water to stop the cooking process) and then sautéing.  They can also be steamed, but careful not to overcook. Nuts are a perfect addition to Brussels Sprout.  Try toasted walnuts or almonds on top.

Parsnips

Parsnips look like a white (possibly more boring) carrot and are often overlooked.  Despite their similar shape, they are not from the same family of vegetables.  Parsnips have a lightly sweet flavor but with more of a spiced taste than their orange counterpart. When paired with carrots in a rich beef stew they can add depth of flavor.  They are also delicious when roasted with other fall/winter vegetables. 

Cool weather Greens (Kale, Chard, Spinach, etc)

Many dark greens such as kale and spinach get an improved, sweeter flavor when exposed to frost.  This makes them a perfect fall, winter and early spring vegetable.  We all have heard of the benefits of brightly colored greens and now is a perfect time to add them to the rotation.  A more hearty, winter salad can be assembled by starting with kale and adding toasted walnuts, goat cheese, dried cranberries, topped with sliced steak.  Add Kale or Spinach to smoothies or toss greens into soups for a nutrition boost.

Pears

Pears are an excellent source of fiber with a good mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Getting enough of both fiber types can help regulate blood sugar, increase satiety, improve bowel regularity and keep Cholesterol in a healthy range.  Pears make for a perfect snack on their own anytime but also can be added to smoothies, as a topping for oatmeal or as a salad topping.   And don’t forget pear desserts such as crisps or carmelized pears as a topping for ice cream.

Apples

It would not be the Fall season without trips to the pumpkin patch and apple picking.  The Northwest is home to many apple varieties.  Apple cider simmering on the stove immediately makes the home feel like Autumn.   This year, try apple chips baked in the oven at a low temperature until they dry and crisp.

Cranberries

Cranberries are always featured on the Thanksgiving table but not given much thought the rest of the year.  Washington and Oregon are two of only about five states that grown cranberries in the U.S.  Fresh cranberries can be added to baked goods and in crisps.  Dried cranberries are wonderful in fall-themed salads and as a topper for oatmeal.  They can also be tossed into savory dishes such as stuffed squash to add a hint of sweetness. Cranberries are a phytonutrient rich berry in the same family as blueberries.  Their bright red color signals hidden nutrition benefits. 

Aren’t we glad to live in a world with fall and all the bountiful produce that it delivers to our tables?

by Heather Blazier, RD, CDE

What does a Dietitian eat in a day?

Ever wonder what a dietitian eats in a day?

From people wondering how to improve their diets and eat healthier I get this question a lot- what on earth do I eat? The answer is that it’s going to look very different from person to person! There is no “one best way” to eat or any such thing as a “perfect diet”.

In general a healthful diet:

  • is abundant in a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits
  • contains foods from different food groups including vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, proteins, dairy, and healthy fats
  • provides enough calories for an individual to thrive and maintain a healthful bodyweight
  • is tasty and enjoyable
  • is sustainable long term
  • focuses on water as the primary source of hydration
  • limits highly processed foods

Combining foods in different ways to make them tasty and enjoyable is one of the best ways to prevent food boredom and truly enjoy a healthy diet! One of my best pieces of advice is to get in the kitchen. The best, most nutritious meals can be made right at home using whole food ingredients and simple techniques.

Here is an idea of what I eat in a day- this is by no means prescriptive but instead a source of idea/inspiration on how fun and tasty it can be to eat healthy!

In the morning, the first thing I like to do is make myself a big jar of ice water and chug some. A couple of ways to make water more enjoyable:

  • make it extra cold by adding lots of ice!
  • add fresh or frozen fruit to add flavor- like strawberries, lemon, pineapple, mango, kiwi, limes
  • add fresh herbs like basil or mint
  • add a reusable straw (IDK why this helps me drink more but it does!)

Breakfast

Next comes arguably the most important meal of the day- breakfast! I hear from quite a few people that they don’t enjoy breakfast or don’t feel hungry in the morning. I’d encourage you to take a look at what other times of day you are feeling hungry. Are you extra hungry for dinner? Or find yourself snacking late in the evening? Evidence shows that eating a balanced breakfast every day can help prevent these feelings of “hangriness” later in the day. Breakfast eaters also have a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Score!

For breakfast- I recommend including quality protein, heart-healthy fat, filling fiber and fruit, or vegetables! My breakfast this morning was (my fave!) a slice of toasted sourdough bread with smashed avocado, chopped green onion, red pepper flakes, a sprinkle of feta, and a fried egg. On the side, I enjoyed some blueberries and strawberries and of course, coffee. This is brewed black coffee with about ¼ cup frothed oat milk to give it a bit of creaminess.

This breakfast covers all of the previously mentioned bases:

  • Protein- egg
  • Healthy fat- avocado
  • Fiber- berries and toast
  • Fruit or vegetable- strawberries, blueberries, green onion, avocado
  • And also, it was DELICIOUS.

Lunch

After a few hours of work and a hard workout, I was more than ready for lunch. Today’s lunch is another one of my standbys and perfect for the approaching fall weather.

For those of you who have gotten tired of steamed, mushy veg may I strongly suggest roasted!? Drizzling veggies with olive oil and seasonings and roasting them at high heat (425) for about 25 minutes gives them crispiness and deeper flavor that is simply irresistible!

Today’s lunch bowl included:

  • quinoa (a fabulous high-protein grain)
  • roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli (roasted with olive oil, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and kosher salt)
  • 1/2 of an avocado and a handful of Kalamata olives (gotta love that healthy fat!)
  • a sprinkle of dried cranberries for chew and roasted pumpkin seeds for crunch
  • a vinaigrette made with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper

Snack

An afternoon of work flew by and I was feeling quite hungry by 4:30 pm. I knew I would be over-hungry if I didn’t have a little snack to tide me over till dinner so I snacked on some grapes and a Kombucha tea while making dinner. Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that is very low in sugar and calories and rich in probiotic bacteria- aka those friendly little critters that promote gut health!

Dinner

For dinner, I made a delicious lemongrass noodle salad! Tons of fresh veggies like bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, and scallions, tossed with thin brown rice noodles, peanuts, crispy tofu, basil, cilantro, and a zippy lemongrass dressing. I will link to the recipe below, I highly recommend- it was so flavorful and filling!

Recipe from Pinch of Yum

Dessert

I almost always save a little room at the end of the day for a small sweet snack like a piece of dark chocolate, some toasted coconut chips or a few chocolate covered almonds. Today was a little more indulgent with a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

I strongly encourage including portion-controlled sweet snacks in your diet. Including these foods instead of restricting can:

  • help you feel more satisfied
  • prevent the urge to binge
  • promote a way of eating that feels sustainable and realistic
  • I ate this cookie and enjoyed every single bite!

And that’s a wrap! A full day of eating. I didn’t show it in every picture but I did keep refilling my yummy fruit-infused water all day long and ended up drinking 90oz. The recommended minimum water intake is 64oz/day but it is certainly okay to exceed this, especially if you are active!

My motto in life is to “count colors not calories”. Mindful eating, appropriate portions, and an abundance of colorful veggies and fruits is how I stay on track and lead a balanced lifestyle. I hope this visual and comprehensive day of eating helps picture what types of foods and meals you’d like to incorporate into your day-to-day.

Drop any questions you have in the comment section- we love questions!

by Erica Baty, RDN, CDE