Cool, crisp mornings and colorful, changing leaves are a few of the signs that fall is here. The piles of gourds, apples, and hearty greens at the grocery store are a reflection of the changing seasons and a reminder that Mother Nature has plenty of good food in store for us for the next few months. It’s time to swap berries with apples and summer squash with winter squash. 

Reasons to Add Fall Produce To Your Cart

As the seasons change, you’ll notice changes in the produce section at your grocery store. This is the time when winter squash (think acorn, butternut, kabocha, and spaghetti) replace melons and root vegetables like carrots and parsnips are plentiful. Grab these items and enjoy them while they’re at their peak. 

They Taste Better (And Are More Nutritious)

Consuming fruits and vegetables soon after harvest means you’re getting the best quality. These foods will have matured to their full potential providing maximum flavor and nutrition. While fresh is a great option, don’t forget to check the freezer and canned food aisles too, says Qula Madkin, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES. Canned and frozen varieties of fall produce are often on sale and are just as delicious and nutritious as fresh.

They’re Full of Phytochemicals (AKA Antioxidants)

Laura Geraty, intuitive eating-focused registered dietitian and chef says color is a great indicator of what nutrients the produce contains. “Just look at the spectrum of colors in fall produce and you know this season offers the variety we need to comfortably meet our nutrition needs. Think of the deep reds of late-season tomatoes and apples (that’s lycopene!), purple of figs and eggplants (anthocyanins!); orange and yellows of carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin (beta carotene!); and dark green of broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale (lutein and folates among others!). So while ‘eat the rainbow’ sounds like dated, overly simplistic advice, it’s actually gold standard.” 

They’re Packed with Health Benefits

Don’t forget that including more fruits and vegetables in meals and snacks, in general, is a great way to improve health. Research shows that eating more fruits and vegetables offers multiple health benefits, says Madkin, including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Consuming more produce provides increased opportunities for more nutritional benefits like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, to name a few.  

3 Easy Ways to Enjoy Fall Produce

Keep It Easy (Enjoy Fruits and Veggies Raw)

When it’s cold outside we automatically think we should be cooking all of our produce. Luckily there are no rules! Some of fall’s fruits and vegetables are best enjoyed raw. That means there’s little to no prep for you and no reason to turn on your oven or stove. Gerarty agrees and adds that to keep things even easier, leave the peels and skins of vegetables like carrots and potatoes on, “because plenty of the food’s nutrients are housed in the skins which are edible and delicious in most fall vegetables.” Just be sure to give them a good wash under running water with a produce brush before enjoying them. 

Finally, if it makes sense financially, consider buying pre-cut versions, says Gerarty. This shortcut is a simple and easy way to add more produce to your meals. Find them in the produce section as well as the freezer section.

Leave the skin on for fall fruits too, says Christy Wilson, RDN. Her fall fruit of choice is apples. There are so many varieties, both sweet and tart, and they’re at their best (and lowest price) in the fall. She recommends enjoying them as a snack solo, dipped in almond or peanut butter, or added into a delicious fall crisp with oats, nuts, and honey. 

Roast ‘Em Up

If you’re unsure of what to do with your pile of potatoes or cubed butternut squash, roast them. This is a simple cooking technique that doesn’t require much time or much equipment. Simply cut your produce into uniform pieces, toss with olive oil, and roast at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Check your veggies at 10-minute increments to stir and check for doneness. Finish it with a little bit of kosher salt and black pepper. A nutrition bonus: cooking produce with fat makes some nutrients more bioavailable, says Gerarty, so roast away!

Serve roasted produce as is for a delicious side or add to fall-inspired dishes. Roasted acorn squash pairs well with whole grains, for example. Or add butternut or kombucha squash to salads and soups. Try throwing roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips into stews, casseroles, and stir-fries for added nutrition and flavor.

Complement Fall Produce with Warming Spices

Look to your pantry when it comes to boosting the flavor of fall produce. Warm fall spices are the perfect complement to the squash, gourds, and root vegetables available. Try ground versions of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, and allspice which are also packed with an array of nutrients and antioxidants to help keep you healthy.  

The oil you use matters. Consider tossing your produce with extra-virgin olive oil for cooking, but also finish it with a splash of a more delicate, flavorful oil such as walnut or pistachio, for even more impact and nutrition. That’s right, these oils contain unsaturated fats that are beneficial to heart health.

Head to your local grocery store or farmer’s market for inspiration when it comes to enjoying fall produce. Fill your cart with seasonal items while they’re at their nutritional peak and enjoy them using our strategies above to keep things simple. Don’t forget to leave the skins and peels on for an easy nutrition boost.

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