Fall is a great time of year to expand your palate with a variety of new tastes and flavors that fresh produce has to offer. Take advantage of all the various colors from the reds of radicchio, the yellows and oranges of peppers, the greens of broccoli and Brussels sprouts, to the whites of cauliflower and mushrooms. Aim for fresh produce with lots of color as the deeper the color, the greater the amounts of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols, known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Here is a list of seasonal veggies, tips for preparing them and what makes them nutritional superstars!
Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale come from the cruciferous or cabbage family. They’ve received a lot of buzz for their cancer-preventive properties. Naturally low in calories and sodium not only are they a good source of fiber, but they are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Take broccoli for example. For certain groups 1 cup of raw broccoli contains almost the full daily requirement for Vitamin C and Vitamin K in addition to providing many other nutrients, such as potassium, Vitamin A, and lutein, which is great for eye health.
1. Broccoli: This versatile veggie is great in salads, coupled with dip or a nice addition to stir-fries. Just try not to overcook or over boil as this will diminish some of its nutritional value and turn up noses with the smell. To help with the aroma, avoid over-cooking by adding broccoli to boiling water and simmering for 4-5 minutes until it turns bright green. Drain and serve with spices or sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake until melted. You’ll quickly make this a family favorite. Roasting is also a great way to increase your intake. Mix with a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, throw in the oven at 400 for 15 minutes and voila! Have pre-cut broccoli ready in the fridge when you get home to munch on, add low-fat dip or salad dressing, and you know you’ve had something nutritious before dinner.
2. Brussel Sprouts: Even I’ve been known to groan at the smell of Brussel sprouts, but often times it’s over-cooking and over-boiling that leads to the awful aroma and our dislike. These mini cabbages are packed with nutrition so get creative. Go for fresh over frozen, which can get mushy and unappealing. Try to avoid over cooking and go with a quicker method like stir-frying. Slice them in half, sauté them in a little olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper, or add some nuts or turkey bacon to spice it up a bit.
3. Cauliflower: This one might just top the list of worst smelling foods for kids and adults too, but if you like mashed potatoes I have a solution for you, mashed cauliflower. Simply boil a head of cauliflower just until it’s done (this minimizes the smell), mash by hand or in a food processor, add a pat of butter and a splash of milk along with your favorite seasonings and you have a sneaky way of getting your family to eat cauliflower without the groans! Also great for adults looking to minimize starchy carbs from their diets too.
4. Kale: If you like a little crunch to your veggies how about kale chips. Simply clean the greens and take off the stems so that you are left with just the leaves. Tear into bite size pieces and put on top of a sheet pan lined with parchment. Drizzle with olive oil and seasoned salt and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
5. Leafy Greens: Talk about a 1-2-3 punch! Not only are leafy greens a great way to add volume to your meals without the calories, they are loaded with nutrients (Vitamins A, C, K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, and Fiber) and easy to incorporate into your day. Replace iceberg lettuce for spinach, radicchio or endive in salads, add mustard greens or collards to soups, or sauté kale (fits in both leafy green and cruciferous group) in some olive oil, garlic, and vinegar. Oh, and did we mention they may reduce your risk for heart disease and certain types of cancers too?
6. Bell Peppers: Naturally low in calories and sodium, 1 cup chopped can provide almost 2 times your daily intake of vitamin C. Often sold individually or tri-colored in the freezer section, fresh or frozen these make a great addition to stir-fries, salads, served with dip, or stuffed with your favorites, such as lean meats, Zone orzo, and topped with cheese. To get the most nutrition, switch up your consumption of the reds, greens, yellows and oranges.
7. Mushrooms: Rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals and known to be chemo-preventive, mushrooms are cholesterol-free, high in riboflavin, and a good source of copper, niacin, panthothenate and selenium. They are also gaining attention for being a precursor to Vitamin D. People and companies are exposing them to sunlight in hopes of increasing the absorbable form of vitamin D. Great sautéed, stir-fried, or grilled.