By Lauren Hogan. Lauren is currently (2021-2022) a dietetic intern with Illinois State University and is ecstatic to be one step closer to becoming a registered dietitian! She completed her B.S. in Applied Nutrition through Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (June 2021). Lauren holds true to her heart the beauty of empathy and compassion when working with people and clients. Her favorite kind of dog is a beagle; and with her free time she enjoys skiing, crafting, pickleball-ing, and biking (on her tandem bike).
Ah yes, it is that time of year again. The time of year where the air gets crisper and the leaves get crunchier. Whether or not Fall is your favorite time of year (it’s mine!!) I think that we can all agree that Fall’s seasonal food favorites are impeccable. From pumpkin spice lattes (PSLs if you wish) to spaghetti squash to cinnamon apple butter, there is a little something for everyone.
However, maybe for you, Fall is just another dread. Along with the days getting shorter, the idea of being surrounded by Fall’s favorite foods does not fill you with joy. Not necessarily because you do not like the taste of pumpkin, but rather because you are in a state of restriction or fear of food that you do not consider to be “healthy”.
Myself and everyone at Not Your Average Nutritionist are here to give you permission to eat the tasty Fall favorites. You have permission to enjoy!
Now, how do we do this? How do we switch our mindsets from fearing seasonal foods to being comfortable in enjoying foods that taste yummy, that remind you of apple picking as a kid, or fill you with just as much warmth as apple cider does. We can practice intuitive eating! Intuitive eating means that you make peace with all kinds of food, including seasonal favorites. Unlike traditional diets that are restrictive, intuitive eating promotes not looking at food as “bad” or “good” and instead listening to your body for what is best to eat at that moment.
Here is what practicing intuitive eating can look like for eating fall foods, breaking it down by some of the principles of intuitive eating (there are 10 total principles, here are just a few).
- Reject the Diet Mentality: A diet through Fall is tempting, feeling as though you need to prepare yourself for the upcoming holiday season in November and December. It is important to remember to refrain from following a diet in hopes of weight loss because it will restrict you from allowing yourself to enjoy Fall seasonal foods.
- Make Peace With Food: Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a PSL, then you will have guilt when eating rather than pleasure. Allow yourself to have peace with food to demolish conflict that can arise with eating.
- Challenge the Food Police: Do you ever feel as though you have a small policeman in the back of your head saying “no” every time you reach for a piece of pumpkin bread, pecan pie, or salted pumpkin seeds? If so, it is time to tell that policeman “no”! The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that diet culture has created. Chasing the food police away allows you to have permission to eat the foods you enjoy. Keeping mindful of when the food police shows up is important in finding tactics for how to stop it!
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor: In our attempt to comply with diet culture, we can push aside one of the important parts of eating: the pleasure and satisfaction factor. Through eating what we desire, we allow ourselves to feel satisfied and content. Find satisfaction through the environment and people we surround ourselves in, too. Enjoy the crisp air and sun shining through the fog while eating your favorite fall food. Share food with family and friends who make you feel safe.
- Cope With Your Emotions With Kindness: It is important to recognize that food restriction is a way of controlling a part of our lives. Finding kind ways to comfort and resolve our issues that are not fixed through coping with food is key. Restricting seasonal favorites will not benefit you in the long run. Finding kind ways to cope with anxiety, loneliness, anger, and boredom will help you deal with the source of emotion, while still granting you permission to consume the foods you want to during this time of year.
Need more reasons to enjoy your favorite fall foods? Let’s look at the nutritional benefits of a few:
Squash & Pumpkins
Squash is one of our fall harvest foods, and is an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6, and C. It is also rich in folate, magnesium, fiber, riboflavin, phosphorus, manganese, and potassium. Additionally, the antioxidants within can play an important role in preventing oxidative stress in the body. That is one powerhouse food! Squash can be found in different fall foods like butternut squash soup and spaghetti squash with meat sauce.
Pumpkins are a staple for fall! I mean, think about how many different pumpkin items Trader Joe’s have stocked their shelves with! Whether you’re roasting the seeds leftover from carving, whipping up a pumpkin pie to share, or baking some pumpkin risotto, pumpkins are filled with various key nutrients! Pumpkins have Vitamins A, B2, C, and E, iron, copper, manganese, and potassium.
Bobbing for apples and apple picking have to be some of the most fall-esque activities there are. Apples can be found in various fall recipes like caramel apples, warm apple cider, sugared apple donuts, and apple pie! In addition to the sweet taste that apples offer to many dishes, they also are filled with various key nutrients that are embedded into all these recipes. Apples are a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, potassium, and Vitamin K. Additionally, apples are about 84% water, which can help with hydration.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Ah the PSL, the sole item that defines the change of summer to fall. In addition to it being a tasty drink, the pumpkin spice latte also has nutritional benefits!
Milk is an important part of the PSL, as it provides a good amount of phosphorus and calcium. Additionally, other nutrients in milk are riboflavin, Vitamins A and B12, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and protein!
Pumpkin Puree has since been added to the famous Starbucks PSL as of 2015. Along with the added authenticity, more nutrients are added, too. As stated above, pumpkin has many nutritional benefits with all the included vitamins and minerals. Additionally, it adds a great taste!
Coffee is not just a necessity for people to make it through the gloomy mornings, it also is loaded with key nutrients that are sometimes forgotten about. Coffee contains riboflavin, pantothenic acid, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and niacin. These are some of the essential nutrients we need for optimal health!
Between August and October, grapes are at their peak season. Consuming fruits that are in season provide more nutrients and better flavor. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are processed less and are consumed quicker from the time they are harvested. Fun fact, it is prime grape harvest season for wine! Grapes contain Vitamin K, manganese, potassium, and Vitamin C. Additionally, they are loaded with antioxidants.
Casseroles (or “hot dish”)
Warm Crockpot dishes, casseroles, and hot dishes are all a must during this time of year. Nothing says fall like coming home to a warm meal that is loaded with different macronutrients and micronutrients. Casseroles give you the opportunity to throw in a bunch of different yummy foods together, that also are nutrient-dense. One specific hot dish that comes to mind is chili! Chili is loaded with beans, meat, tomatoes, and different spices that are not only tasty, but also provide optimal nutrients. Beans are a great source of fiber and protein. Meat also includes protein and additionally iron. Tomatoes offer Vitamin C, folate, potassium, Vitamin K, and antioxidants. Finally, spices like chili powder offer Vitamin A, Vitamin C, magnesium, copper, and thiamin. Other fall hot dishes that are nutrients dense include carrot and ginger soup, creamy mushroom chicken, and butternut baked ziti.
Root vegetables are at their peak season from fall through spring. Although root plants are usually consistent in taste and texture year round, they have a deeper, juicier, and sweeter flavor during this time of year. Root vegetables include garlic, radishes, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, and garlic. Root vegetables provide a variety of flavors and textures that can be both the heart of a dish or the addition that makes it worthwhile! Root vegetables are packed with nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, Vitamin C and A, manganese, folate, complex carbohydrates, and phytochemicals like polyphenols (chemicals that give plants and vegetables their unique colors and health benefits).
Cranberry sauce is mashed potatoe’s blush. Nothing says fall like sugared cranberries, cranberry sauce, and cranberry pie. Cranberries not only offer a great addition to a meal, but they are also packed with nutrients like fiber, Vitamins E and K, copper, manganese, and complex carbohydrates!