With fall upon us and the Holiday’s around the corner this a great time to start exploring some of the flavors this season has to offer us. The produce of fall gives us a great opportunity to change up our diet and try to include some new fruits and vegetables we do not get to indulge in year round. Pumpkin is one of the more common staples of fall. Pumpkins are used for everything from cooking to decorating. It doesn’t even officially feel like fall until you see pumpkins at the grocery store or coffee shops start serving pumpkin spice lattes. Did you know that pumpkin is really a super food? Pumpkin is fat free, low in sodium, and one (1/2 cup) serving of pumpkin provides more than a days worth of Vitamin A and 16% of your daily fiber needs. Pumpkin is one vegetable that really packs in the nutrients.
The great news about pumpkin is it does not have to be limited to just pies and coffee. There are some great ways you can sneak pumpkin into your meals to get the benefits it offers. Try adding some pumpkin to your spaghetti sauce next time you make pasta. This will reduce the sodium in the sauce and add some fiber. You can also add canned pumpkin to your mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, this will help to decrease the fat content. Add some pumpkin to your next pot of chili to increase the fiber or even to your hot chocolate. Contrary to what many people believe pumpkin actually does not have a very strong flavor, so while it may change the texture of your meals it won’t drastically change the taste. Another great thing about pumpkin is that the cans of puree you buy at the store are just as healthy as the puree you could make yourself at home. This gives you the ability to enjoy the nutritional benefits of pumpkin year round. Just make sure you are getting the “Pumpkin Puree” and not the “Pumpkin Pie Filling”.
A great way to enjoy a whole pumpkin as snack is to slice it up (like you would a cantaloupe) and then microwave it for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Once tender sprinkle the slices with some cinnamon. This tastes very similar to a pumpkin pie but without all of the extra sugar and calories.
Another great fall food is apples. Apples are a food that we find in the supermarket all year round, but they seem to have a special place in the fall season. We bob for apples at parties, dip them in caramel, and use them to make our favorite apple ciders. Apples are so versatile and the ways to prepare them and serve them to seem to be endless. As well as being tasty apples also offer a lot of nutritional value. They are low calorie, fat free, sodium free, and a high source of dietary fiber, and don’t forget that 100% apple juice and applesauce can be another great way to pack some apple into your diet.
Substituting applesauce in your recipes for fat can be a great way to reduce calories and add moisture to your baked goods. Here is a great chart I found comparing vegetable oil to applesauce in baked goods. You can see below how substituting applesauce for an oil can drastically decrease the calories in a baked good.
In a 2009 report by the CDC Oklahoma ranked last in fruit consumption and also very low in vegetable consumption. This is very alarming considering we live in such an agricultural based state. Adding some of these great fall flavors to our diet is one way we can start to increase our fruit and vegetable consumption. Head out to your supermarket and see what great fall flavors you can find and try some creative ways to add them to your diet.
Here is one of my favorite fall recipes that includes both pumpkin and applesauce substitution. It’s very tasty, try it and see what you think!
Sources: Pictures from USDA Flickr account: 150th Anniversary of U.S. Department of Agriculture Album. Retrieved on Oct. 10, 2012 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/sets/72157627857689389/with/6862198794/
Musselmans Bake With Applesauce: Retrieved on Oct. 30, 2012 from http://musselmans.com/recipes/bake_with.aspx .