1. Spaghetti Squash
This squash gets its name due to its thin spaghetti-like strands. Not only is the taste superb, but nutritionally it is a home run. Spaghetti squash is only 40 calories per cup and being that it is gluten-free, makes a great alternative for pasta. Prepare the squash by baking in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Once cool, slice in half and fork up strands. For an easier way to prepare, make holes on the outside of the squash by carefully piercing with a fork or knife. Cook whole in the microwave for about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool and slice in half to fork out insides. There are many ways to serve spaghetti squash. Try topping with tomato sauce as a substitute for a pasta dish. For a sweeter take on this vegetable, sprinkle with brown sugar, pecans and serve.
2. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are commonly used for holiday dinners, but this rustic vegetable should get more regular attention than just for special occasions. Sweet potatoes provide a good source of fiber, beta carotene and Vitamin C. Sauté cubed sweet potato pieces with coconut oil, cinnamon and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Sauté on high heat until nicely caramelized and slightly softened, approximately eight to ten minutes. This makes a great side dish to complement any fall meal.
Pears are a juicy and portable snack for around 100 calories each. To prepare, slice pears in half. Brush pears with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the cut side down on the grill set on high heat for about three to five minutes. Top with goat cheese and a balsamic glaze made from reduced balsamic vinegar. By grilling the pears, it brings out their natural sweetness.
4. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a favorite during the fall season. Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane which is shown to reduce inflammation and exhibits anticancer properties. Steamed Brussels sprouts are always a crowd pleaser, but this vegetable takes on a whole other flavor profile when roasted. Toss the sprouts lightly with salt, pepper and olive oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until crisp. Roasting brings out a sweetness in the sprouts, turning any Brussels sprouts skeptics into converts.
This purple-hued vegetable may look intimidating, but there are many simple ways in which you can prepare it. Try a lighter version of eggplant parmesan by first sautéing eggplant slices in olive oil, salt and pepper. Layer in a baking dish with ricotta, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven to cool. Top with torn basil leaves before serving. By sautéing the eggplant instead of deep frying, you cut unwanted calories and fat.
You can't forget one of fall's most popular fruits: the apple. As the saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. That quote is true for good reason. Apples provide a great source of soluble fiber, which helps aid in digestion and improves LDL cholesterol levels. Toss cubed apples and cinnamon in your morning bowl of oatmeal. If you prefer something more simple, an apple with peanut butter makes the ideal snack.
Kristen Bourque, RD, LD has been writing health-related articles since 2000. Her nutrition articles and recipes have been featured in "Today's Dietitian" as well as the Canadian magazine "Glow". Kristen combines her love of nutrition with cooking on her personal blog, Swanky Dietitian.