Autumn is the perfect time of year to indulge in nutritious meals full of hearty and comforting seasonal foods. Think: warm butternut squash, crisp and juicy pears, orchard-fresh apples, robust leafy greens, vibrant rainbow carrots, earthy sweet potatoes, tart cranberries, roasted Brussels sprouts, and crunchy pumpkin seeds.
Filling your plate with seasonal ingredients not only guarantees a flavorful product, but it allows the envionment to cycle through its natural resources and seasons like it would without human intervention, according to WebMD. This makes seasonal eating a healthy, sustainable choice for both you and the planet at large.
Consuming a wide array of seasonal foods also helps you absorb more vitamins, minerals and proteins than you otherwise would from the chemically treated, out-of-season produce varieties. When fruits and vegetables are grown during their natural timeframe, they will grow and thrive without any harmful additives, WebMD continues.
It's advisable to consume a minimum of 6080g of protein and approximately 23 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the nutrition experts at BariMeals point out. A diet rich in seasonal, wholesome foods can help you meet those intake recommendations. Below are some tips to maximize seasonal ingredients in your own meal plan this fall.
Shop for Local Produce Whenever Possible.
If you live in an area with nearby access to a farmer's market, community supported argriculture (CSA) program, or local fruit and vegetable stand, shop from these vendors before you head to the supermarket. Since locally-grown produce comes directly from farmers in the same city or state, it has a lower carbon footprint than produce that's been transported across the country or even imported fom overseas. Not to mention, local fruits and vegetables also taste much fresher because they're sold to consumers at the peak of harvest ripeness. At local vendors, you can also find unique types of seasonal produce that often aren't as readily available in larger stores, such as persimmons, kabocha squash, celeriac, or rutabaga, for instance.
Choose Many Different Colors and Textures.
One of the most enjoyable parts of seasonal eating is the chance to experiment with various colors and textures on your plate. The firm, chewy bite of lacinato kale, combined with the tenderness of winter squash, the carmelized snap of Brussels sprouts, and the buttery softness of pears makes for an interesting depth of textural contrasts. And because a meal should look as appealing as it tastes, the blend of greens, browns, reds, yellows, oranges and other autumn colors is also fun to play around with in the kitchen. You can infuse seasonal produce with even more colors, textures and flavors using other classic fall ingredients too, such as cooked farro or quinoa, fried sage leaves, pomegranate arils, and raisins or cranberries.
Get Creative with Recipes and Applications.
When the time comes to actually turn on the oven and create a meal with seasonal ingredients, the applications are virtually endless. Roast a sheetpan of vegetables and toss them in a salad with raw leafy greens, finished off by lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil. Puree squash, carrots or sweet potatoes in a blender, then simmer the liquid until it thickens into a cozy soup. Mix apples, cranberries and pears into muffins, pancakes, waffles, breads or oatmeal for a warm breakfast on chilly mornings. You can even use firm vegetables, such as beets, cauliflower, turnips or broccoli as a base for meatless burger patties. Seasonal ingredients are versatile, so think outside just the basic recipes and unleash your creative culinary instincts.
Fortify the Meal with an Extra Protein Source.
To ensure that a meal provides maximum nourishment and satisfies your hunger, be sure to throw in an extra source of high-protein. Remember that you need at least 60g of this essential macronutrient on a daily basis. Protein not only gives substantial bulk to a meal, but it also helps to build strong muscles, repair tissues, and increase bone density. Not to mention, there are numerous protein sources to choose from that will deliciously complement all your favorite seasonal ingredients. For instance, your can top a salad or grain bowl with a hard boiled egg and roasted chickpeas. Swirl a dollop of cottage cheese into a creamy soup. Or bake pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds into a batch of muffins.
Seasonal Ingredients Are Delicious and Nutritious.
Fall is known for its abundance of flavors, so maximize this time of year with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The health and environmental benefits, combined with the sheer explosion of different flavors, colors, textures and applications will make you want to load your plate with all the delicious, bountiful produce that fall has to offer.