Seasonal Meals for Better Health

seasonal meals

Fall and early winter are times of abundant harvest in many parts of the country when the weather gets colder and people turn to food for both fuel and warmth. Just as the ever-changing colors of Fall trees attract tourists, the bright colors of seasonal foods are signals that they will make your body happy & healthy. Phytochemicals give food their vibrant color and may prevent or fight off disease, as well as provide nutritional value. Pick the right food and it will boost your body and your soul.

Popular Fall recipes often include apples, squash (acorn and butternut), pumpkin, cinnamon, and turkey - all of which contain nutrients that can lift your spirits

Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, which is found in all cells and is important in maintaining a healthy immune system. Pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan, which boosts your mood and creates a feeling of contentedness.Zinc has also been shown to decrease symptoms of depression.

The dark meat of turkey contains iron, which transports oxygen and aids in muscle strength. People low in iron feel can feel tired and depressed.

Apples are considered superfoods because they have high levels of antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy flavonoids (for this benefit, be sure to eat the skin). Apples, like other fresh fruits and vegetables, also boost serotonin levels. Low levels of serotonin can cause low energy and depression.

Squash has high level of antioxidants and is nutrient dense. Butternut squash is high in fiber and potassium and helps with healthy skin.

Cinnamon not only adds an aromatic flavor to tea, soup and many baked goods, but it may help regulate blood sugar, which in turn affects your mood.

Seasonal recipes also provide an opportunity to eat local, which gives people a connection to the food grown in their community. Local food is often more nutritious, as its trip from farm to table is much shorter than other foods purchased at the grocery store.

Below are a selection of seasonal recipes.

A healthy snack: Pumpkin Apple Smoothie Bowl

This nutrient rich smoothie comes from registered dietician Traci Komorek of Fresh Roots Nutrition and is made with banana, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, oats and turmeric. Topped with chia seeds, coconut flakes and apples, it provides a filling, sweet snack without the addition of added sugars. Chia seeds may be very small, but they are nutritionally dense, providing omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, iron calcium and antioxidants. Her recipe uses almond milk, but some people may prefer cow’s milk.

Savory, sweet and nutritious: Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash is a seasonal vegetable often used in soups and stews because of its sweet flavor and the full, warm feeling it provides. Butternut squash contains numerous nutrients and is a good source of fiber and potassium. Given the popularity of butternut squash soup and the many ingredients that can be added to it, there is no one recipe that is best. Apple, sage, pumpkin, honey, curry, cinnamon and nutmeg can all be part of the mix, depending on your preference.

A healthy alternative: Overnight Kale Caesar

This Caesar salad uses kale instead of romaine lettuce and whole wheat croutons instead of the all-white flour variety, turning a favorite but not particularly healthy salad into a nutritionally dense meal. Kale is planted in late summer is harvested in the fall. Kale is one of the healthiest foods you can eat—it is even healthier than spinach. It is high in fiber and contains potassium, antioxidants and vitamin K. Before writing off kale, give this salad a try.

An easy dinner: Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner

Let’s Face it. Dinnertime, for most families, is crunched between sports, afterschool activities and homework on one end and showers, baths and bedtime on the other. Cooking a meal that creates a lot of dishes just adds to the complication. The Salmon Sheet Pan meal solves this problem. Made on one pan and easy to prepare, it is also very healthy. Salmon, like Kale, is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Salmon is filled with omega-3 fatty acids (which has been shown to lower blood pressure), is rich in protein and loaded with selenium (which protects bone health). This meal also contains cherry tomatoes, basil and green beans.

A crowd pleaser: Thanksgiving Muffins

These muffins are made with pumpkin, cranberry, cinnamon and both all-purpose and whole flour. While they may not include turkey or stuffing, they will make your mouth water and immediately think about the thanksgiving meal. If you want the muffins to rise more, use only all-purpose flour. If you want a denser, healthier version, use only whole wheat flour. Whole grains, like wheat flour, are high in fiber, which is part of an overall healthy diet.

An Apple Pie for one: Big Apple Dumplings

Apple pie is always a fan favorite due the combination of apples and cinnamon. This recipe lets bakers create apple pie to-go in the form of single-serve apple dumplings. Some people will choose to include raisins and walnuts, while others will leave them out. Industrious bakers can make their own crust, but premade crusts make this a quick and delicious recipe. Either way, warm apples and cinnamon are certain to boost your mood.

Most families have favorite holiday recipes that transcend generations, bringing back thoughts of loved ones and memorable moments. Perhaps one of these healthy recipes will inspire a new tradition for you to share.