Autumn is the season for comfort eating.
The cooler days call for warmer, heartier foods — foods that 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 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’s important to work with the smells, colors and flavors of the harvest to give us a full sensory meal that satisfies.
Here’s how to do that.
Comfort foods. 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 like quinoa and farro, and healthy fats from nuts and oils.
Seasonal vegetables. When it comes to vegetables, choose those grown underground. Think root vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips.
Pumpkin and 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.
Fruits for fall. Fall fruit includes an abundance and variety of apples and pears, which leaves 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 have raspberries and watermelon through the month of October, so choose them as your go-to fruits as well.
Pantry essential. It’s vital to have a well-stocked pantry as we head into the colder months because we tend to spend more time inside — which can sometimes translate into more mindless eating.
If we’re 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 at 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.
‘Fall’ for nuts. In recent years we’ve experienced record-breaking harvests for pistachios, which means delicious choices for snacks, meals and baking.
Pistachios are filled with protein and heart-healthy fat and fiber.
I love tossing nuts into salads, grains — and even using them as a crumbled topping on an apple crisp. Setton Farms’ Dark Chocolate-Covered Pistachios are at the top of my list for a satisfying, healthy treat.
So what does your shopping cart look like?
Here’s my latest 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, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, onion, parsnip, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips.
Fruit: apples, pears, raspberries, watermelon.
Spices: cayenne pepper, himalayan pink salt, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika.
Grains: quinoa, brown rice, farro, polenta.
Oils: grapeseed oil, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil.
Nuts: pistachios, almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts.
Sara Siskind, a certified nutritional health counselor, is founder of Hands On Healthy — cooking classes for adults, families and teens based in New York. She has dedicated her career to educating clients on how food and lifestyle choices affect health. This article appeared earlier in LifeZette and has been updated.