I live in Vermont, where fall bursts on us with an unbelievable amount of color. Leaf-peeping is a state pastime here, but don't let the gorgeous colors steer you away from the equally terrific fall foods. These foods will not only please your taste buds, they'll make your waistline happy as well because they're low in calories. Add in the numerous health benefits these foods provide, and I almost can't wait for summer to end!
Apples. Whether you pick your own, travel to your local farmer's market to seek out traditional varieties or shop at your local grocery store, apples are a mainstay of fall. Research shows grandma was right '- because of their high antioxidant content, apples really do help keep the doctor away. I never pass up the chance to munch on a shiny, raw apple, but broaden your horizons! Add chopped apples to your morning bowl of oatmeal, top a peanut butter sandwich with sliced apples for a wonderful crunch, or serve baked apples topped with Craisins, a touch of brown sugar and frozen vanilla yogurt for dessert.
Cranberries. I've never really liked cranberry sauce, but I absolutely love cooking with these tart, brilliant-red berries. Cranberries really do help prevent urinary tract infections, and they're packed with antioxidants and vitamins A and C. One-half cup of fresh cranberries has only 25 calories, so go ahead and enjoy an entire cup! Sprinkle chopped fresh cranberries into salads (both vegetable and fruit salads), or add dried cranberries (sometimes sold as Craisins) to muffins and slaw. One-third cup Craisins has 120 calories, but they're also a good source of fiber.
Winter squash. Acorn, Hubbard, spaghetti, butternut, delicata, even pumpkin '- there are almost more varieties of squash than I can count! Winter squash is a great source of vitamin A and fiber, and even though it's a "starchy" vegetable, it's lower in calories than you might think. One cup baked squash has only 80 calories, less than a slice of most types of bread! Pack in six grams of fiber, and you can't go wrong. Of course we folks here in Vermont top our baked squash with maple syrup, but a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg is also delicious. Add chunks of squash to your favorite soups or stews instead of potatoes or rice for a satisfying meal.
Cabbage family veggies. Cauliflower, broccoli and all types of cabbage are at their peak in the fall. Salads don't need to stop with summer! Toss together a quick fall salad with these crispy veggies and dress with your favorite vinaigrette. These cabbage family veggies have well-known cancer-fighting properties, plus they're superlow in calories. Raw broccoli with low-fat dressing for a "dip," steamed broccoli tossed with roasted walnuts and olive oil or thinly sliced Napa cabbage as the base for a colorful stir-fry are delicious ways to include these veggies in your weekly meal plans.
Grapes. Don't limit your grape intake to wine! With only 60 calories per cup, grapes are absolutely packed with health-promoting phytochemicals that protect against some types of cancer and heart disease. Make a fruit salad that includes grapes, chopped apples and cranberries, to include three of my favorite fall foods. Add red grapes to the pan when you sauté chicken or pork, stir chopped grapes into your favorite salsa for a subtle sweet taste, or add chopped grapes to rice pilaf. My favorite way to enjoy grapes is as a frozen snack. Simply wash a bunch of grapes, put in a bowl and stash in the freezer for a few hours. It's a healthy and delicious way to humor your sweet tooth!