Some people love spring’s blossoms, but autumn is my cup of tea! Harvest season offers spiced beverages, cozy sweaters, and an abundance of nutrient-dense, late-year crops such as squash, apples, and cruciferous veggies. Does the phrase “autumn recipes” summon visions of a loaded Thanksgiving table? Let’s substitute those labor-intensive dishes for easy, steaming soups and crispy roasted vegetables!
Autumn is not just my favorite season, but my favorite for cooking: I love the excitement of getting back to warm dishes and preparing hearty meals after summer’s heat. Chilly days get me looking forward to using my oven again! Soups and roasted veggies are two simple ways to prepare a nutritious meal, and there’s something extra-appealing about them in fall - plus the autumn harvest means that fresh superfoods like kale, tomatoes, pumpkins, and brussels sprouts are in season and may even be sourced locally.
It can be a challenge to figure out exciting ways to add new ingredients to your dishes. I like to get creative using highly nutritious superfoods, which offer a slew of beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and more to strengthen your body as the seasons change.
Easily incorporate superfoods into your recipes:
1. Pick superfoods that are in season and substitute
Whether on the shelves at your grocery store or tempting you from a farmer’s market stall, in-season produce has higher nutritional density, vibrant flavor, can be sourced from local growers or harvested from your own garden, and costs less. What’s not to like?
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts, root veggies like the all-star potato as well as yams, carrots, parsnips, and turnips, are all harvested in the fall and are amazingly flavorful and work perfectly in warm, comforting dishes. Don’t forget about squashes - butternut squash is loaded with beta-carotene and vitamins A and C while being low in calories, and baked spaghetti squash can be used as a superb low-carb substitute for pasta. Including these highly versatile fall foods can boost the appeal, freshness, and tastiness of your dishes.
The easiest way by far to give your dishes a superfood kick is just to top them with something nutritious and delicious! Top your oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon or your nut butter toast with hemp hearts and raspberries!
Savory dishes can also benefit from added flavor and crunch overtop. I love toasted pumpkin seeds over vegetable dishes, chia seeds on top of casseroles, and vitamin B-rich nutritional yeast on just about everything! Which promising ingredient is already in your cupboard that you can shake over your next dish?
3. Switch up your sides
Some ideas for incorporating dark greens into your fall offerings:
- Switch up some - or all! - of your salad greens with baby kale, spinach, and chard.
- Toss spinach leaves in with your next pasta sauce, curry, or stir-fry.
- Instead of rice or bread on the side, have the protein portion of your dinner over a fresh salad with cabbage, kale, and spinach.
There are many options for making greens a little more appealing; explore different dressings, such as blending a thick avocado dressing for a luxurious, rich salad dressing rather than simply including avocado pieces mixed into your salad. If salad isn’t usually your thing but you want to give it a chance, add some shredded cheese or nutritional yeast or nuts to your salads for more umami appeal.
4. Stock season
Instead of picking up a tetra carton of broth from the store, make your own stock at home with fresh foods! Homemade veggie stock or bone broth, poultry, and meat stock can be prepared with your low-waste, saved vegetable scraps and then frozen in portions and used to make soups and stews, or for sautéing as a healthy substitute for oil.
Homemade stock is made with fresh vegetables, herbs, and roots, many of which are in season AND deserve superfood status. Follow a recipe, or play around according to your preferences; common nutrient-dense additions to your pot of stock can be garlic, ginger, thyme, celery, turmeric, carrots, onions, and rosemary. It’s amazing to have frozen homemade stock on hand when facing the downside of autumn - the dreaded cold and flu season. Staring down a sniffle is a lot easier with a nutritious, homemade soup base already prepared!
5. Will it blend?
Believe it or not, a blender can be your best ally for easy superfood prep. You can puree roasted veggies and seasoning together with (homemade!) broth for an amazing soup, or blend nutritional yeast, steamed veg, and spices together for a delicious sauce to accompany a protein like tofu, nut loaf, chicken, or fish.
Although they’re most popular in summer, I firmly believe every season is smoothie season. Prep health-conscious smoothies by reducing any sugary additions and including sources of protein and healthy fats to stabilize your blood sugar, such as almonds or almond butter, hazelnuts, ground flaxseed, and chia seeds. You can even try adding a small amount of lightly steamed, neutrally-flavored vegetables without seasoning if you want to up your vegetable consumption. Don’t knock a chai spice-parsnip-almond milk smoothie until you’ve tried it!
If you’re trying to stick with a nutritious diet by prioritizing components like fruits and veggies, that is an admirable and rewarding goal. However, don’t get stuck in the all-or-nothing mentality! Instead, make sure your dishes’ preparation and flavor profile work for you and don’t be afraid to adjust when needed.
If adding some cheddar and apple chunks is what keeps you excited about salad, you do you! If you need to order a pizza every so often while still regularly roasting veggies, go easy on any self-judgment, and enjoy self-care that helps you stay on track to encourage healthy habit-forming behaviors. Building good routines, as well as knowing when to relax them in moderation, is important for shifting your lifestyle to a healthy and comfortable place that you can maintain.