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Our Favorite Fall Foods for You and your Family

Step into the fall season with a positive attitude toward eating healthy and taking care of your diabetes!  It’s true, the season for barbeques and fresh summer produce has come to a close, but the fall season won’t disappoint you.

To give you some direction on where to start with eating healthy this month, we’ve put together a list of our favorite fall foods for you and your family. Our list is complete with both fresh foods and popular dishes that taste great this time of year. You'll also find examples of different ways to incorporate these foods into your meal plan.

Apples 

This fabulous fall fruit makes a great side dish at lunch and is an easy grab-and-go snack. Toss a thinly sliced apple into your salad or add apple chunks to your morning oatmeal. Look for fresh apples at your local grocery store or during your next trip to the farmer’s market. If you are looking for a fun family activity one weekend this month, you may want to visit an apple orchard or a farm near you for an apple-picking outing.

Remember if you have diabetes, apples and all other fruit provide carbohydrates because of the natural sugars they contain. However, fruit is considered a healthy source of carbohydrates since it also provides other important nutrients like fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Choose to include fruit in your meal plan over other unhealthy carbohydrate foods like processed snacks and sweets.

For meal planning purposes, remember that one small apple has about 15 grams of carbohydrate. Large apples you often find in the store are actually two servings of fruit.  The apples in bags tend to be smaller and about one serving.

To see how you can use apples creatively in the kitchen, check out our recipe for Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops from The Complete Quick and Hearty Cookbook, 2nd Edition.

Baked Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is a type of winter squash. You can find it in the stores all year long, but peak season starts in October for many places across the country.

Butternut squash is easy to prepare – simply cut off the stem and bottom end, slice it in half lengthwise, take out the seeds, and bake it in the oven until tender. You can also use other healthy cooking methods like steaming or simmering. The slightly sweet, nutty flavor makes this food a great addition to rice or pasta dishes. You can also serve it as a starchy side dish, or puree it with some broth to make a soup.

Butternut squash is a starchy vegetable, so it is higher in carbohydrates and calories than non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, or carrots. One cup of cooked butternut squash has about 15 grams of carbohydrate, which is a generous portion size. Like fruit, starchy vegetables provide important nutrients that unhealthy carbohydrate choices don’t.

Check out a recipe for Baked Squash on diabetes.org to see how easy it is to prepare and add to your meals.

Looking for a lower-carb option? Spaghetti squash is another type of winter squash that only has about 10 grams of carbohydrate in one cup. You can bake it just like butternut squash and then use a fork to remove the stringy squash that resembles spaghetti. Lightly season it with olive oil, herbs, and a bit of salt and pepper and enjoy!  

Homemade Soup

A steamy cup of soup makes a great entrée, side dish, or even an appetizer now that it’s getting cooler outside. In fact, research has shown that when people eat low-calorie soups (broth-based, not cream-based) as an appetizer, they tend to eat less of their main course. So, this may be helpful strategy for weight control.

When we hear the word soup, a lot of us think of the canned goods aisle at the grocery store. The convenience may be appealing, but there are many advantages to making soup from scratch in your own kitchen. And it is easier than you might think!

Most canned soup is highly processed and packed with unnatural preservatives, sodium, and more carbohydrates than you think. When you make soup at home, you have control over what you put in it. Start with a liquid base like low-sodium broth or a homemade stock. Then, throw in the ingredients of your choice:

  • Need to get rid of the vegetables in your fridge that are about to go bad? Go ahead and throw them into your soup to add more nutrients and flavor!
  • Pack in your non-starchy vegetables. Add tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers, broccoli, bok choy, greens, leeks, mushrooms, okra, garlic, summer squash, etc.   
  • Add starchy vegetables or choose from the many types of beans, peas, or lentils. 
  • If you want to add meat, choose lean options like 93% lean ground turkey, chicken or turkey breast. You could even try a meat substitute like “beef” crumbles. 
  • Look to add fresh herbs and spices instead of salt and fat for flavor.  

If you’re a recipe person, we have those too! Check out this month’s soup recipe or search our recipe database for more soup recipes. You can also look for recipes from other sources without ingredients that are high in saturated fat like cream, butter, or fatty meats.

Nuts

Nuts, like fruits and vegetables, also have seasons. You’re in luck – September starts the harvest season for several varieties. So, look for almonds, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, and walnuts this October. Buy them raw and fresh if you can. And to make your stash last longer, store your nuts in the freezer.

Nuts are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, which have been shown to help lower cholesterol when they replace unhealthy saturated fats in the diet. Since nuts are dense in calories and fat, always pay attention to portion size. You may be surprised at how filling a small portion of nuts can actually be!

A bit of good news if you have diabetes – nuts are very low in carbohydrate and have minimal impact on blood glucose. Enjoy a handful of nuts for a snack, add them to a snack mix, a salad, pasta, stir-fry, or a  yogurt parfait.

Broccoli

Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli are the best bang for your buck when it comes to nutrition. Broccoli is rich in folate and is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber while also being low in carbohydrates and calories. On top of that, broccoli and other non-starchy vegetables are fat-free foods!

Broccoli is easy to prepare and can be added many different types of dishes. The healthiest way to cook broccoli is to simply steam or microwave it. You can cook broccoli with other vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, peapods, bell peppers, or onions. Season broccoli with lemon juice, pepper, garlic, parmesan cheese, or a small amount of salt for a flavorful, healthy side dish. Broccoli also makes an excellent addition to soups, stews, stir-fry, egg casseroles, pasta, or pizza. You can also dip raw broccoli in hummus or light ranch dressing for a light and healthy snack. 

Want to experiment with broccoli in your cooking? You may want to check out the following recipe on diabetes.org: Broccoli Feta Omelet

Pumpkins

Believe it or not – pumpkins are good for more than just carving! They belong to the starchy vegetable group and are a good source of both vitamin C and vitamin A. Pumpkins are in season in the fall and partially through the winter, but we tend to see them most around Halloween. Smaller baking pumpkins are best if you want to use fresh pumpkin in your cooking. You can find more information about picking, storing, and preparing fresh pumpkins on diabetes.org.

You can use pumpkin similar to how you might use butternut squash in your meals. Add it to pasta or rice dishes, make a pumpkin soup, add it to your whole grain pancakes or muffins for a different flavor, or use it to make a pumpkin hummus or dip.

When you carve pumpkins this October, save the seeds. Wash them, bake them, and lightly salt them if you want. You may see pumpkin seeds in the store called pepitas. A pepita is a pumpkin seed with the outer white shell removed. They are usually dark green in color.

Pumpkin seeds make a great high-fiber snack, but you can also add them to salads, salads, and stews. One of our featured recipes this month calls for pumpkin seeds. Check out our recipe for a Pumpkin Seed Cluster Snack Mix

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