11 Light and Healthy Ingredients to Cook with This Fall

It might not be bikini season any longer, but that's not a reason to forget about healthy recipes. Luckily, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables in the fall to tantalize our taste buds without sacrificing our waistlines. Here are 10 delicious recipes to keep your meals virtuous and welcome in the changing leaves of fall.  Squash, pumpkin, chestnuts, root vegetables and more, they’re all back on the menu starting this month!

1. Butternut and Acorn squash


Early fall into winter is the ideal time to enjoy the flavors of some of our favorite gourds. Butternut squash is without a doubt the most popular and most versatile squash. From making soups to layering it in lasagna, there’s nothing you can’t do with butternut squash. The sweet and nutty acorn squash also plays perfectly into the menus of fall. Try stuffing acorn squash with wild rice or roasting them with olive oil and warm spices. For a delicious and flavorful side dish, try this recipe for baked acorn squash with garlic and fenugreek seeds. Get the recipe here.

2. Pumpkin


It’s the official vegetable of fall.  From Halloween jack-o’-lanterns to pumpkin pie, the fall season wouldn’t be the same without pumpkin. But there’s more to the mighty pumpkin than a few cameo appearances on the fall menu. Try making creamy pumpkin soup, pumpkin and wild rice salad, pumpkin scones, and more. For the ultimate pumpkin recipe try my Sweet & Skinny pumpkin ricotta cheesecake recipe.

3. Chestnuts


When chestnuts start popping up in the supermarket you know that fall has arrived. This meaty nut was once a staple eaten by armies during battle, thanks to their numerous nutritional benefits. If they can sustain an army through battles, I’m sure they can help get us ready to take on the snowy months of winter that lie ahead. For a fun holiday recipe try making this chestnut-apple stuffing for Thanksgiving. Get the recipe here.

4. Rutabaga and Parsnips


Rutabaga and parsnips are the less glamorous of the root vegetable. They sadly don’t get the attention that’s doled out to beets and potatoes. Luckily, some savvy chefs have started putting these lesser known, and more flavorful, root vegetables back on the menu. Try mashing rutabagas to create an earthy “mashed potato” dish with a peppery finish. Roast parsnips with onions, rosemary and sweet carrots. Or next time your kids ask for french fries, try this recipe for rosemary baked parsnip fries. Get the recipe here.

5. Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage


Although cabbage is available all year round, it’s time to truly shine is fall. This is the perfect time of year to rotate Brussels sprouts and cabbage into the dinner mix. In the months ahead, you can enjoy everything from roasted pork with cabbage to stuffed cabbage leaves. Brussel sprouts make a perfect salad when thinly sliced, or chop the little heads in half and saute them with olive oil and capers. For a truly festive fall salad, try this recipe for Brussels sprout, almond and kale salad. If you’re feeling adventurous you can even toss in a few dried cranberries. Get the recipe here.

6. Cranberries


Cranberries are not simply a centerpiece on the Thanksgiving and Christmas table. The tart red fruit is delicious dried and added to granola bars and salads, giving them a warm fall flavor. Try livening up spritzers and lemonade with cranberry juice. But if you really want to keep with tradition and use it on your holiday menu, try this recipe for a molded cranberry and nut salad. Get the recipe here.

7. Apples


Here’s a fun apple fact. You could eat a different variety of apple a day for 19 years and never eat the same variety of apple twice! There are more varieties of apple than any other fruit. With fun names like Arkansas Black and Pink Pearl, how could you not want to try them all? So this fall start putting apples on the daily menu! If you get sick of eating plain apples, try baking them with pork or even add them to a curry. You can even make this delicious and healthy chicken and apple curry. That’s one recipe down, only 6,934 more apple recipes to go! Get the recipe here.

8. Persimmons


In the summer I eagerly await the arrival of figs. In the fall, I just as eagerly await the arrival of persimmons! Persimmons, also known as diospyros, get their name from this Greek word which means “divine fruit.” Anyone who has ever eaten a soft ripe persimmon would agree that the fruit is indeed divine. If you have been unlucky enough to ever try an unripe persimmon, let’s just say that the fuzzy feeling it leaves behind in your mouth is less than divine. So when eating Hachiya (astringent persimmons) make sure you eat them once they are very soft and supple. For the Fuyu (nonastringent persimmons) you can enjoy them while they are still firm. For this reason, I suggest you use the Fuyu for cooking and the Hachiya for plain eating. Here’s the perfect chocolate recipe to try this fall with some Fuyu persimmons.  Get the recipe here.

9. Pomegranate

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Pomegranates are often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. They start popping up in the fall and last into winter. In the US, we tend to use pomegranate juice more than the seeds, but the seeds are the perfect way to add color and flavor to your fall menu. Try tossing pomegranate seeds into spinach a goat cheese salad, sprinkle them on top of hearty soups, you can even add them to roasted chicken. For a fantastic dish with pomegranates try this recipe for orzo chicken with pomegranate. Get our Poached Chicken and Pomegranate Orzo recipe.

10. Cauliflower


Cauliflower had been called “one of the world’s healthiest foods.” It also happens to be one of the most versatile vegetables. This fall is the perfect time to find out just how healthy and versatile it can be. Thanks to its thick and meaty texture, you can cook it up in large slices and serve it as an entrée. Raw cauliflower also transforms beautifully into a gluten-free pizza crust. You can even transform cauliflower into stir-fried rice with this delicious recipe! Get our Cauliflower Rice recipe.

11. Spaghetti Squash


Spaghetti squash is a favorite for carb-replacement recipes, but it also tastes delicious on its own. This squash takes a bit longer to cook—typically about an hour—but it's worth it. One squash will give about four servings of delicious vegetable spaghetti to pair well with anything from cheese to meat to more vegetables. Get our spaghetti squash recipe.

Marisa Churchill is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy, as well as a certified nutritionist. She has worked in many notable San Francisco restaurants. She is the host of My Sweet & Skinny Life, and author of the Sweet & Skinny cookbooks. She was a competitor on season 2 of Top Chef. Her work has also been featured on the Food Network, The Talk on CBS, Oprah.com, Food & Wine, and more!

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