There’s a reason apples are number one on the list! Probably one of the most versatile fall foods around, nutrient- and fiber-rich apples can be used in everything from beverages to main courses to desserts. Apples are the perfect addition to your weight-loss plan, says Karen Langston, a certified nutritionist and board member of The National Association of Nutritional Professionals. Low-cal, full of vitamins and minerals, and full of fiber, apples help maintain your blood-sugar level, staving off cravings for high calorie no-no foods. Plus, the low-sodium content in apples can help prevent excess water weight and retention, Langston says. Try one of our favorite apple recipes this fall.
They’re not just for Halloween! Pumpkin is not only a super healthy treat, but its also one of the greatest weight-loss foods around, Langston says. Low in calories, but full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, pumpkin is also an excellent source of the important antioxidant beta-carotene. Enjoy it fresh or canned—you’ll still get the same nutritional benefits. You can even have it for breakfast! Langston recommends mixing 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and a few raw almonds. Need more ideas? Try one of these amazing ways to cook with pumpkin.
Don’t toss the seeds from your Halloween pumpkin this year. Roast and eat them instead! “These delicious little super seeds are packed with protein, fiber, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous, as well as potassium, zinc, selenium, folate, niacin, and amino acids arginine and glutamic acid,” Langston says. They will help keep you fit, healthy, and lean with their poly- and mono-unsaturated fat content, which raises metabolism and helps burn fat. “They’re also great stress relievers (chew away stored frustration through crunching). Less stress means reduced cortisol levels, which keeps you thin!” Toast them to perfection with this easy recipe.
Cinnamon was considered an affluent and elite spice in the middle ages, Langston says, and it’s no wonder! “Cinnamon is loaded with manganese, fiber, calcium, and iron, making it the perfect spice to add to your meals. It’s also a natural appetite suppressant that decreases blood sugar, manages insulin, and revs up your metabolism.” Experiment with different varieties of cinnamon: try Chinese cinnamon in meat rubs, Ceylon cinnamon with fruits, yogurt, or ice cream.
Nutmeg is low in sodium and cholesterol and high in fiber and manganese, which is a catalyst for breaking down fats and cholesterol—an important process for weight loss, Langston says. Just be sure to use it in small doses, as larger amounts (full cloves) could be toxic.
Vanilla can help you reduce your sugar intake naturally, says Alysa Bajenaru, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. “Try adding a splash of vanilla to hot coffee or a cold smoothie for a sweet taste without the sugar.” (Another weight loss bonus? One study found that just taking a whiff of vanilla could help reduce your cravings for chocolate and sweets).
“Allspice tastes like a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When used in sweet and savory dishes, this spice is helpful in relieving indigestion and gas, which can sometimes be a side effect of adding healthier, more fiber-filled foods to your diet,” Bajenaru says.
Reducing your daily sodium intake is an essential step towards healthy eating and weight loss, Bajenaru says. “Using herbs like bay leaves are a great way to add flavor to soups, sauces, and meat dishes without adding extra salt. Try adding a leaf or two to your next pot of soup or spaghetti sauce (just make sure to remove the leaves before eating).”
Researchers from Penn State University found that spices (including cloves) can help improve your body’s response to high-fat meals. And, cloves have been shown to improve insulin function in people with Type 2 diabetes, Bajenaru says. “Try adding whole cloves to vegetable dishes, or embedding them into meat or poultry before roasting.”
Daily consumption of ginger may reduce muscle pain caused by exercise by as much as 25 percent, according to a September 2010 study published in the Journal of Pain. Less muscle pain = more workouts! Try adding fresh ginger into stir-fry dishes, soups, or smoothies. Bajenaru recommends storing peeled ginger in the freezer to keep it fresh.
“Garlic contains the compound allicin, which has anti-bacterial effects and helps reduce unhealthy fats and cholesterol,” says Lisa DeFazio, a registered dietitian and celebrity nutrition expert. Garlic acts as a natural appetite suppressant in several ways, DeFazio says. The strong odor of garlic stimulates the satiety center in the brain, reducing feelings of hunger, and it increases the brain’s sensitivity to leptin (a hormone that helps regulate appetite). We just love the way it enhances the flavor of almost any dish.
This herb is a natural diuretic (which helps reduce water retention) that improves digestion and helps the body get rid of waste products, which is essential for weight loss, DeFazio says. It’s great in spice rubs for meat, or in side dishes.
“Sage aids digestion, which makes it popular as a weight-loss aid,” DeFazio says. Add it to your favorite recipes or drink it in between meals as sage tea to take the edge off of hunger.
These filling and protein-rich beans are low in fat and high in fiber, DeFazio says. “One of the main pitfalls with low-calorie diets is that you’re constantly hungry. By eating foods like beans, which also contain protein, you’ll feel fuller eating smaller portions.” (One note of caution: Runner beans should not be eaten raw, as they contain a chemical called lectin phytohemagglutinin, a toxin that creates a clumping effect on the red cells in your blood. Be sure to cook them thoroughly before eating).
One cup of cooked bok choy is only 20 calories, and it’s loaded with fiber and rich in calcium, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamin A, DeFazio says. “It has a particularly large water content, which can help you feel full and lose even more weight.”
Gourds, including pumpkins and squash, come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. Depending on the type, they can be sautéed or pureed and used in numerous fall recipes. (Just be sure to know what type of gourd you have. Many are not edible and best used as decorations). “Gourds are high in vitamin C and potassium, and they have a high water content, making them low in both calories and carbohydrates,” says Meme Inge, a registered dietitian and owner of Living Well Nutrition LLC.
If the candy bowl is tempting you, try eating a few dates instead. You’ll still enjoy a sweet, chewy snack, but you’ll also load up on fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium—all of which can increase energy and balance sodium levels, Inge says. “Just be sure to stick to only a couple of dates, as dried fruit is a more concentrated source of calories.”
Pears are high in fiber, which can help regulate your digestive system, and their pectin promotes fullness, Inge says. At only about 100 calories per pear, this juicy, sweet fruit is great as a stand-alone snack, with a meal, or pureed into dessert.
Fighting off a winter cold along with a few extra winter pounds? Enjoy some tangerines! “Not only can this antioxidant-packed fruit help you lose weight, it can also boost your immune system,” Inge says.” With less than 50 calories per fruit, tangerines can satisfy a sweet craving and suppress your appetite.”
Pomegranates are extremely nutritious and their high fiber content can help control blood-sugar levels, Inge says. One 150-calorie cup of pomegranate arils is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium. But don’t just drink the juice or in a POM-tini, eat them for their biggest weight-loss benefits.
“At only 10 calories, 1/2 gram of fiber, and 1/2 gram of protein per sprout, these nutrition cannonballs will help keep you satisfied longer while eating fewer calories,” says Alexandra Oppenheimer, a registered dietitian in New York. “Don’t sabotage this nutritious vegetable by cooking them with pancetta or bacon—try roasting with olive oil, garlic, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or try making Brussels sprout chips—peel off each leaf, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast until crispy.”
“Cauliflower is an antioxidant powerhouse that is stuffed with vitamin C and packs in two grams of protein and two grams of fiber (per half cup)—both important nutrients for weight loss,” Oppenheimer says. “Try making mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes for a new fall favorite that is approximately ¼ of the calories.”
Just 1/2-cup serving of this highly-nutritious vegetable contains 15 percent of your daily vitamin C needs, and it’s natural sweetness is a great way to eliminate your need for a sugary after-dinner treat, Oppenheimer says.
“Diets that leave you hungry and unsatisfied don’t work,” Oppenheimer says. Cooked parsnips have approximately 3 grams of fiber per half cup to help you stay full and satisfied. Parsnips are starchy vegetables, so she recommends they be eaten in place of bread, rice, or other starchy foods.
“This root vegetable is truly a flavor of fall,” Oppenheimer says. “At only 25 calories per half cup of rutabaga, its 2 grams of fiber will help you feel full so you can eat less. Try them roasted alone or with an assortment of root vegetables for a tasty dish that will keep you on track.