Speaking Point: Fall is my favorite season with the emergence of all the new colors. To me, this warm autumn glow signals it's a time of change — a time to evolve — just like the deciduous trees that are letting go of the old to prepare for the new. From a health perspective, it's a great time to step out of your comfort zone, shed your old ways of eating, and try some new foods, techniques and recipes!
Speaking Point: Fab Fall Foods: Take a walk through your market's produce aisle. You'll know fall is here when you're greeted by the arrival of colorful pumpkins, squashes, apples and pears. Think about incorporating the following fall all-stars into your diet:
Butternut Squash: This versatile deep orange vegetable can be substituted for any recipe calling for pumpkin. Butternut squash can be roasted, grilled and puréed or mashed for soups, casseroles and breads. It's an excellent source of vitamins A and C, a good source of vitamin E, fiber, potassium and magnesium and contains no cholesterol or fat. Compared to pumpkin, it has twice the amount of A and C.
Speaking Point: Japanese Persimmons (or "kaki"): These golden jewels come in several varieties, shapes, colors and sizes. The rounded, crunchier Fuyu persimmon is squat like a tomato and makes a great snack (eat it like an apple). Fuyus add bright orange color and sweetness to an all-green salad. Another popular variety, the heart-shaped Hachiya persimmon, is larger in size with a more pointed bottom and is meant to be eaten soft almost 'gushy'. You can use the thick, pulpy jelly to make persimmon bread and cookies as they're a great source of vitamin A, C and fiber.
Speaking Point: Traditional to Japan, Hachiyas are hand-peeled, individually hung and delicately hand-massaged for a dried fruit delicacy. For a frozen treat, freeze a whole well-ripened Hachiya in a cup (pointed bottom side up). Thaw slightly when ready to eat and dive in with a spoon for an all-natural 'sorbet'. A third type, the Chocolate persimmon, is highly sought after, smaller in size, and has a dark brown flesh. They can be found at specialty or farmers markets. Be patient when waiting for persimmons to ripen. If eaten before they're fully ripe, they can be very bitter and they're well worth the wait. (We have a Hachiya and Chocolate persimmon tree in our backyard and every season we compete with the squirrels for these long-awaited fruits. They know a good thing when they see it!)
Speaking Point: Asian Pears: Asian Pears are large in size and are also known as 'apple pears' due to their shape and crisp texture. They're a prized fruit in Japan where they're actually wrapped and sold individually in a decorative box. Ripe Asian pears are very juicy, fragrant and crunchy - unlike soft traditional pears. They're a great source of fiber and vitamin C and free of fat, cholesterol and sodium.
Speaking Point: Sweet Potatoes: Rich in beta carotene which impart their golden orange color, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and C and a good source of fiber and potassium. Steamed or microwaved, they make a satisfying side. Sweet potato pie is a Southern favorite but is made traditionally with lots of butterfat. But made alternatively, Sweet Potato Pie has become a hands-down favorite with my kids for breakfast and in lieu of pumpkin pie and buttery candied sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving!
Speaking Point: Beets: Beetroot, especially when roasted, is an excellent base for salads as well as a sweet, colorful and delicious addition. They're a good source of folate, vitamin C and potassium. Recent research has shown that drinking beetroot juice can reduce blood pressure due to its high nitrate content. Also, scientists have found that the nitrates in beets can improve blood flow to the brain and thus, improve mental performance.
Speaking Point: Facing Food Fears: Fall brings visions of overeating in many heads from week-long sugar fests (a.k.a. Halloween), turkey and football feasts, and Harvest Festivals, but all is not lost for the healthy adventurer. By planning ahead and preparing some healthier alternatives, you can still share in the food, occasion and fun. Denying yourself from partaking in what's on the table or bowing out of the event altogether can set yourself up for frustration, loneliness and binge eating later.
Prime-time snacking season has also arrived with the long-awaited return of football. But being healthy doesn't mean you can't take part in the social feeding frenzy. Just consider some other ways to bypass the greasy processed chips, chicken wings, sodas, and pizza.
Speaking Point: Here are a few fashionable fall foods to try:
Bruschetta with Garden Tomatoes and Basil (brush some fresh pesto on the roasted bread for another layer of flavor)Fresh Veggies with California Spinach Dip (my new-fashioned version of an old high-fat classic)Cowboy Caviar (a tangy spin on Texas black bean dip) - Great for dunking chips or as a 'salsa' for tacos!Belgian Endive (in season) makes an ideal 'scoop' for dipsZesty Home-Baked Tortilla Chips with Mango-Avocado SalsaChipotle Chicken Tacos (made with chicken breast)Catfish Tacos with Citrus SalsaBBQ Grilled Shrimp ToastTofu EnchirritosFresh Iced Lemonade TeaCranberry-Orange Spritzers
Speaking Point: Fall is an excellent time to make changes in your life as fall is all about preparing for new growth. In life, you're either in a state of growth or decay. Think about taking one small adventurous step toward getting healthier each day. By doing so, in a year, you will have made a significant change in your life. Don't dwell on that morsel of a brownie you couldn't resist. Beating yourself up because you "went off your diet" will bring on feelings of failure and can cause you to give up completely. When you lay your head down at night, ask yourself, "What did I do today that took me one step closer to my goal?" Those are the kinds of thoughts that will propel you forward.