Jasmyn Walker, MS, RD, CSO, CNSC, LD
Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, butternut squash soup, apple cobbler…. I better stop because my mouth is watering. Fruits and vegetables abundant in the fall include pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and apples.
My goal in this blog post is to provide you with reasons to incorporate these powerhouse fruits and vegetables into your Thanksgiving meal traditions.
Keep in mind that it’s always important to choose produce that’s in season so you get the maximum amount of nutrients.
Pumpkin is full of nutrients that can benefit the body. It contains fiber, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C. Don’t throw away the seeds! They are full of zinc, magnesium, protein and iron. The nutrients in pumpkin can aid with digestion, immunity and eye health. Not only that, zinc has been known to aid with taste changes, which patients receiving cancer treatment may experience.
This hourglass fall staple is also full of fiber and vitamin A. It is rich in folate, too. If that’s not enough, because of its high antioxidant content, butternut squash has anti-inflammatory effects. Reducing inflammation in the body has been known to reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
Why use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, you ask? I know that white potatoes are a traditional side dish at Thanksgiving dinner but sweet potatoes are a better option. These orange spuds have a low glycemic index, which means they won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. Sweet potatoes also contain so much natural flavor that they rarely require additional salt, sour cream or butter to make them taste good.
Last, but not least, are apples. Though apples are available during the whole year, they are even sweeter and cheaper in the fall. Why should you eat them? Three words: fiber, fiber, fiber. Fiber can aid with digestive health, blood sugar control and heart health by reducing inflammation and cholesterol levels.
Unfortunately traditional dishes made with these foods include a great deal of sugar, butter or cream. These fruits and vegetables are naturally full of sweet and savory flavors. Try using recipe replacements for the high-fat, high-sugar additives. Consider using plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, applesauce instead of oil in sweet breads, and half-and-half or evaporated skim milk instead of heavy whipping cream.
Watch for holiday recipe replacements in one of my next blog posts. Remember, the holidays are not a time to forget about good nutrition!