HealthZette

How Fall’s Bounty Can Benefit Our Health, Right This Minute

None of us wants weight gain as the weather gets cooler — here are smart tips for eating well and feeling great, too

Fall is the season for comfort eating, as colder days call for warmer, heartier foods — and these foods usually call for expanded waistlines.

For most of us, pumpkin risottos, apple crisps, and in-season foods that celebrate fall’s bounty not only taste delicious but also make us feel good by reminding us of family gatherings and the feelings of comfort we associate with food.

So how can we enjoy comfort foods this fall in healthier ways?

We can learn to make smarter choices with tasty in-season options, soothing our insides but avoiding weight gain.

It is important to work with the smells, colors and flavors of the harvest to give us a full sensory meal that satisfies.

Comfort foods to avoid. Let’s stay away from fried potatoes, creamy sauces, and refined white breads and pastas.

Better choices include baked sweet potato fries, butternut squash with a drizzle of olive oil, hearty whole grains such as quinoa and farro, and healthy fats from nuts and oils.

Seasonal vegetables. When it comes to these, choose vegetables that are grown underground. Think root vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips.

Pumpkin, plus the many varieties of winter squash, are perfect fall foods to eat.

USDA Organic is considered the golden seal, but if it is not available, look for produce from local farmers.

These vegetables tend to be very fresh, and most farmers practice organic methods even though they may not have the USDA Organic seal.

Related: Five Great Foods to Boost Your Immune System This Fall

Fruits for fall. Fall fruits include an abundance and variety of apples and pears, which leave no room for disappointment.

Local apples range from tart and tangy to sweet and crisp. Bake them, slice them raw, stew them — the choice is yours. We still are left with raspberries and watermelon through the month of October, so choose them as your go-to fruits as well.

Pantry essentials. It’s very wise to have a well-stocked pantry as we head into the colder months, as we tend to spend more time inside, which can sometimes translate into more mindless eating.

If we are well-prepared with the best possible food choices, we are more inclined to stay on track and feel good.

Organic broths, grains, oats, and nuts are on the top of my list. Nuts, in particular, have their biggest harvest from late summer to the fall months, so keep them on hand as well.

Related: Foods to Eat This Fall for Glowing, Gorgeous Skin

Fall for nuts. This year we’ve experienced record-breaking harvests for pistachios, which means delicious choices for snacks, meals and baking.

My favorites are Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites; they’re filled with protein, heart-healthy fat, and fiber. They also contain cranberries that are rich in antioxidants.

You can find amazing recipes at www.settonfarms.com and www.sarasiskind.com. I love tossing them into salads and grains, and even using them as a crumbled topping on an apple crisp. Setton Farms’ Dark Chocolate Pistachios are also on the top of my list for a satisfying healthy treat.

So what does your shopping cart look like?

Here is my latest “Sara This Season” list to help you navigate your market — and stock your pantry with all the essentials you need to create nutritious meals for you and your family.

Vegetables: dry beans, lima beans, snap beans, beets, beet greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, onions, parsnip, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips

Fruit: apples, pears, raspberries, watermelon

Grains: quinoa, brown rice, farro, polenta

Spices: cayenne pepper, Himalayan pink salt, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika

Oils: grapeseed oil, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil

Nuts: pistachios, almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts

Sara Siskind, a certified nutritional health counselor, is the founder of Hands on Healthy, cooking classes for adults, families and teens based in New York. She’s dedicated her career to educating clients on how food and lifestyle choices affect health.