Fall is my favorite time of the year, hands down. I love the pumpkins, the leaves, the crisp mornings and evenings and the bonfires.
Fall always meant the start of something new - a new semester, a new hobby, a new class.
It can also be a time to start a healthier lifestyle -- enjoy a brisk walk outside, try a new recipe, try a new fall produce pick. Variety is important for a healthy diet. When is the last time you tried beets or spaghetti squash?
Here are few to consider -- and some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Association on how to prepare them.
Pumpkin -- full of fiber and vitamin A, which is great for skin and eyes. Balance pumpkin's sweetness with savory herbs, such as sage and curry, in a pumpkin curry soup.
Beets -- edible from their leafy greens down to the bulbous root. The leaves are similar to spinach and can be sauteed. The red color in beets is caused by a phytochemical called betanin, making beet juice a natural alternative to red food coloring. Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates and may help to support healthy blood pressure. Roasting or steaming beets whole takes the fuss out of peeling -- the skin easily slides off after cooking. They also are delicious raw, shredded and tossed in salads or thinly sliced and baked into chips.
Sweet Potato -- high in fiber and vitamin A and can even make a great breakfast dish by cubing any leftover sweet potatoes and sprinkling them with cumin and coriander. Then toast in the oven until golden and serve with poached eggs and sliced avocado.
Spaghetti Squash -- a fun, kid-friendly vegetable that is a lower-calorie and gluten-free alternative to grain-based pasta. Spaghetti squash has only 27 calories and 7 grams of carbohydrates per cup. To prepare, cook whole in the microwave for 10-12 minutes, then it easily cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds. With a fork, scrape the flesh to reveal spaghetti-like strands. The squash can be layered with ricotta and spinach and a marinara sauce for a low-calorie, healthy entree.
Kale -- a nutrient powerhouse that even gets sweeter after the first frost and can survive a snowstorm. A cup of raw kale has only 8 calories and is loaded with vitamins A, C and K as well as manganese. Saute it, add to soup or use it raw in salads paired with carrots or apples. One advantage of kale is that it doesn't wilt with dressing like many lettuces; it simply gets more tender.
Pears -- best in the fall when they're at their peak. Like apples, they can be eaten fresh or cooked. Try them on the grill, poached in red wine, added to a soup or smoothie or added to a grilled cheese sandwich. If you eat the peel, a medium pear has 6 grams of fiber.
Cranberries -- may protect from urinary tract infections because they contain a compound called proanthocyanidin, which prevents harmful bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Both fresh or dried cranberries pair well with a variety of meats and poultry. Fresh cranberries can be eaten raw but are often cooked into a relish. Dried cranberries can be added to grain and vegetable salads or a trail mix.
Q and A
Q: Are nutrients lost by rinsing canned beans?
A: Many recipes advise rinsing and draining canned beans, which reduces sodium (by 41 percent, on average, in one study). However, some of the minerals beyond sodium and certain vitamins (such as folate and other B vitamins) that are soluble in water also leach into the liquid part of canned beans. So, portions of these nutrients are lost by draining and rinsing. But there are still plenty of nutrients left in canned beans after rinsing and draining, including a good amount of fiber. You can make up for small losses of nutrients like potassium and folate by tossing beans on a leafy green salad or adding an extra vegetable to your dish. If you don't plan to rinse canned beans, such as if you're including the canning fluid in chili, stew or soup, it's especially wise to buy reduced sodium (or no-added salt) cans of beans. Canned beans labeled reduced sodium have at least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the regular version. -- Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.