Nothing says comfort better than welcoming warm fall dishes redolent of the rich flavors and aromas associated with autumn. As the days get colder, it is natural to want to spend more time indoors, so autumn is also the perfect time to seriously get into cooking.
And with summer activities being less distracting, gathering the family together to share a hot meal suddenly becomes a priority. All sorts of seasonal foods and aromas beckon. Guess it’s time for some home cooking!
Fall Season Foods
Think of fall fare, and two vegetables immediately come to mind: pumpkin and squash. Butternut squash is specially popular, but spaghetti squash, yellow squash, and zucchini make a nice change.
Not only do they make great decorations, but both have a creamy texture perfect for purees. Cube and roast for side dishes, or add to salads or pasta. Better yet, use a spiralizer and create your own healthy pasta versions.
Other popular autumn veggies include green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, celery, mushrooms, beets, artichokes, kale, arugula and okra.
Apples are by far the most popular fruit at that time of year. Both red and green apples are sweeter during the fall and can be enjoyed in your morning juice or smoothie. They make a great topping for salads or can be combined with almond or peanut butter for the perfect snack. For a quick, healthy dessert, drizzle some caramel on top of apple slices and sprinkle dark chocolate chips on top!
Sweet with a slightly tangy flavor, pears are also very popular eaten on their own, added to a salad or accompanied by cheese.
Colorful cranberries automatically remind us of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy them either in juice or as a topping for ice cream or frozen yogurt, or mash into a sauce for a side dish or sprinkle some on top of toasted herbal or brown bread topped with camembert…
Figs add sweetness and texture to all sorts of fall dishes. Combine with pear and feta cheese for a wonderfully sinful topping to a spinach salad.
Fall Breakfast Ideas
If you’re looking for fall breakfast ideas to start the day on the right foot, look no further than the ubiquitous autumn pumpkin. Any baked dish related to breakfast can be made using pumpkin: it has the perfect texture for breads and other baked goods, plus it is low fat. How about pumpkin muffins or bread, or delicious pumpkin spice scones?
You could also make a bowl of healthy pumpkin spice oatmeal, and let’s not forget pumpkin pancakes or waffles which could also be great brunch menu ideas for fall! Or simply make amazing French toast using leftover pumpkin pie filling.
The traditional ingredients to make French toast (milk, eggs and cinnamon) are already included in your filling, so all you really need is sliced bread and …maple syrup! Simply preheat your skillet to medium heat, then dip your bread in the mixture or spread with a knife if it’s too thick. Cook preferably in a non-stick skillet. Top with syrup and serve.
Butternut squash also lends itself well to a healthy fall breakfast. How about making Butternut Squash Banana Bread instead of the regular, plain banana bread. Lower in fat and just as tasty, use the squash instead of the normal eggs and butter, just as you would with pumpkin recipes. Then combine the rest of the bread ingredients, add some spices and bake.
And there you have it, a healthier bread perfect for breakfast, or use as a side dish for lunch or dinner. Here are some autumn breakfast recipes to get you started.
But just because summer is over doesn’t mean that we forget all about eating healthy. If you’re looking for something lighter and healthier, fall is rich in fruit and vegetables to inspire you. The trick is to remember to balance fruit and vegetables in order to avoid blood sugar spikes and achieve better nutritional balance.
Autumn fruit like apples or pears lend themselves beautifully to juicing, you might want to pair them with leafy green vegetables such as kale and maybe a touch of citrus to balance the bitterness.
Ginger also combines well with pumpkin, apples or pears and provides a nice punch of flavor together with powerful antibacterial properties.
Straddling the bridge between light, healthy juice and the more substantial smoothie is the pumpkin. It may surprise you to learn that pumpkin lends itself beautifully to juicing and can be mixed with apples and pears to provide an excellent source of essential trace minerals.
Or how about a Pumpkin protein shake? A cup of almond milk, half a cup of pumpkin puree, a banana and ice should yield about 2 cups. Add your organic whey protein powder, raw honey, freshly ground cinnamon, vanilla extract and pumpkin spice and blend. For a frosty treat, simply add ice cubes. For a more festive look, top with a swirl of whipped cream and a bit of crushed almonds.
Or maybe try a pumpkin smoothie which also includes both pulp and ground seeds for the absolute best nutritional load. Other autumn fruit and flavors you might want to try:
. Apple Spice Smoothie: simply blend an apple, a cup of almond milk, about 14 spinach leaves, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and a cup of ice. You get the anti-inflammatory benefits of spinach, plus the apple provides fiber beneficial to your digestive health;
. Cranberry Kale Smoothie: blend a kale leaf, ½ cup of cranberries, 1 cup of coconut water, one frozen banana and a tablespoon of honey. Berries provide antioxidants, and kale provides essential minerals that help the body repair itself, as well as high fiber to help digestion;
. Berry Blast Smoothie: for a power packed punch of antioxidants, blend a ½ cup of frozen blueberries, a ½ cup of frozen cranberries, and a ½ cup of frozen blackberries with a ½ cup of almond milk and blend until soft and smooth. Add some chia seeds to the mix to boost the protein content if you wish;
. Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie: blend a cup of water and a ½ cup of your favorite milk dairy or nondairy, add a frozen sliced banana, ¼ cup of rolled oats, a tablespoon of raisins, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla, and ⅛ teaspoon of cinnamon. Oatmeal is considered heart friendly, as it has a high fiber content that helps the body eliminate cholesterol from the blood.
Healthy Fall Soups
Nothing is more comforting than a big bowl of hot soup on a cold day, and autumn offers all kinds of options for warm, yummy healthy soups that fill you up without contributing too many calories, carbs or fat. Here are some ideas to add a twist to some favorites.
Elevate the highly popular tomato soup with a topping that won’t soon be forgotten – you may never serve plain tomato soup again. For two or three servings, simply make a grilled cheese sandwich and cut it up into bite-size pieces.
Broccoli and cheese has to be one of the best combinations ever invented. Add some quinoa or other whole grain as a substitute for some of the cream needed in order to make it healthier.
Make a mushroom quinoa soup using a base of white mushrooms with other types of mushrooms added in for deeper flavor. A low sodium vegetable broth can help cut down on the salt, and plenty of onions, celery, and carrots. Season with garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. A great gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan option.
Last but certainly not least, add bacon to chunks of butternut squash and other vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, celery, and a generous amount of herbs. Add flavor with chicken stock.
Here’s where you can find more recipes for soul-warming, healthy fall soups.
Healthy Fall Salads
With the abundance of flavorful fruit and vegetables available during the fall season, there should be no shortage of ideas for creating healthy, tasty salads.
One of our favorite lunches (or even a light dinner) consists of a green veggie salad topped with something warm: a soft-boiled egg topped with cracked pepper, or perhaps a combination of previously roasted fall veggies quickly warmed up in the microwave. Sprinkle with lightly toasted pumpkin or sesame seeds, pine nuts, or fall favorites such as pecans or walnuts. If you want to get fancy, caramelize them quickly with a little butter and maple syrup.
You can also choose to roast Brussels sprouts ahead of time and let them cool before adding them to your favorite greens. Top with cranberries and chopped hazelnuts and toss with a raspberry or strawberry vinaigrette, or a light oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.
You will need to think BIG for a Fall Cornucopia salad, as you will be incorporating as many autumn fruit, veggies and nuts as you dare: roasted squash and pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, apples, pears, cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts – another truly nutritious harvest dish!
Or how about a Spinach, Fruit and Pecans Salad? Start with a bed of greens. Low in fat, extremely nutritious and plentiful in the fall, spinach combines perfectly well with fruit. Top with your favorite fall fruit such as pomegranate, pear, fig, or some cranberry. Finish with a handful of pecans and a sprinkling of feta cheese.
A Cinnamon Apple and Walnut Fruit Salad would make a healthy dessert option, or perhaps a snack or even a side dish. Sprinkle cinnamon over some chopped apples and walnuts (feel free to add pears, grapes or cranberries) and combine.
Check out our super tasty salad recipes for more healthy fall lunch ideas.
Fall Vegetable Dishes
Come fall season, there is such an abundance of fall produce that it’s hard to know where to start. While it’s true that root vegetables abound (turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, yams, carrots, onions, garlic, etc.), pumpkins and squashes are the first to come to mind.
Pumpkin decorations abound, and it features in multiple popular seasonal holiday dishes. But there are so many ways to use these veggies for healthy autumn meals. While vegetable-based meals such as Apple and Sausage-Stuffed Butternut Squash (see our Healthy Fall Dinners section) never fail to please, side dishes really allow the wide range of colors and flavors to shine.
Don’t know where to start? Take a look at our delicious vegetable recipes, and prepare to cook up a storm!
If you’re looking for appetizer dishes as a prelude to a hearty fall dinner, mushroom appetizers are always welcome. Packed with flavor and elegant, sausage stuffed mushroom caps are a great way to start the meal, or perhaps you could start with a savory brie appetizer such as Brie and Pear Puff Pastries.
Veggie platters with easy appetizer dips are a good place to start for healthy fall snacks. Fresh autumn vegetables are plentiful at this time of year, so why not feature them on a colorful vegetable platter, rather than the usual peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, cucumber or radishes.
Turnip, kohlrabi, baby corn, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, snow or snap peas offer distinctive fall flavors and can certainly hold their own, paired with our creamy parmesan dip. Why not go all out and complement with a tempting combination of cheeses, olives, pickles and even cold cuts.
Plenty of summer fruit are still available, so you could also make a great fruit platter, or simply offer our Salted-Caramel Apple Dip with cream cheese and pecans for a perfect combination of flavors.
Don’t forget that you can use exotic fruit for more unusual flavors and dazzling presentation, like papaya, guava, pineapple, mango, dragon fruit or star fruit.
If you have a little more time on your hands, here’s an idea for easy party snacks you could make yourself from seasonal vegetables like butternut squash. Just slice into thin slices, season and bake. Imagine a platter of colorful fall veggie chips served with a White Bean Dip… or make canapes with store-bought bread using our Garlic spread recipe.
Prosciutto-wrapped melon makes tasty toothpick appetizers which require no cooking whatsoever. Just peel the skin off a cantaloupe or honey dew melon and cut into 1″ cubes. Then cut your prosciutto into thin strips, wrap around your melon and secure with a toothpick.
For more finger-licking good appetizers for your fall entertaining, make sure to have a look at our fall appetizer dishes.
Healthy Fall Dinners
Easy one pot meals are fast becoming the ideal go-to solution to increasingly hectic schedules, and for good reasons. With little prep, an all-in-one cooking pot such as the Instant Pot combination pressure/slow cooker can be trusted to cook full meals to perfection (even whole chickens and roasts) and automatically stop when done.
Add minimized cleanup, and it’s easy to see why they’re the perfect tool for healthy fall dinners! Another advantage is that perfect fall fare like chili, stews and sauces can be made in bulk ahead of time and frozen for later consumption…
And let’s not forget pasta, one of the best comfort food dishes in existence! And guess what? A breeze to make in a slow cooker! Easy to prepare, it can also be paired with any combination of fruit and vegetables you care to choose. Keep in mind that pasta- and rice-based one dish meals also help save on cleanup.
One option is Pumpkin or Squash Spaghetti: simply toss your cooked spaghetti with a little olive oil, add some spinach and chopped cooked pumpkin or butternut squash, then flavor with pine nuts or walnuts. Or make a tomato meat sauce and add cooked Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower to make it more nutritious.
A spiralizer also comes in handy if you want to avoid the calories and enjoy a lighter meal. Spiralized butternut squash is a perfect substitution for starchy pasta. Complement it with a low-fat Alfredo sauce made with pureed butternut squash and seasonings.
Oven-baked Vegetable Lasagna layered with butternut squash and other vegetables such as spinach and tomato with a little cheese added in makes for a healthier and lighter dinner option.
Of course if you don’t mind keeping an eye on things throughout the cooking process, easy one-pan dinners are another option. For example, you could quickly sautee a medley of seasonal vegetables, create a few small hollows into which you can break some eggs for delicious, filling weekday dinners.
Chicken is another staple to keep in mind as as a starting point for hearty dinner ideas. Easily accessible and inexpensive, chicken lends itself to all sorts of flavor combinations, plus it’s a healthy lean protein.
The trick is to keep it simple. After cooking your chicken, add some olive oil to the pan and then whatever chopped veggies you choose, maybe sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus, or perhaps cubed sweet potatoes and green beans with Rosemary Chicken.
Hectic times call for extreme measures: start with a store-bought rotisserie chicken and add chopped up pieces to some cooked butternut squash or broccoli. Our One-Skillet Chicken Orzo is another example of healthy one-skillet meals you might want to try.
Another great comfort food to help refuel on energy is stuffed vegetables. Peppers come to mind automatically, but why not take advantage of the healthy, nutritious vegetables available throughout the autumn season and try our Apple and Sausage-Stuffed Butternut Squash?
Did you know that you can use pumpkin to make bread? Lower in fat and calories than regular bread, pumpkin dinner rolls are also more tasty and would be the perfect complement to many of the above dishes. You can add a little spice, serve with cream cheese, and even shape them like pumpkins for a fun addition to the table.
Don’t be afraid to improvise. Here are some healthy fall dinner recipes to get you started.
Comforting Fall Desserts
Though pumpkin features in multiple popular savory dishes, it also makes amazing desserts: pudding, muffins, cookies, ice cream, frozen yogurt, etc. Hunkering after pumpkin cookies or pumpkin spice muffins with cream cheese frosting? No need to feel guilty: because pumpkins are low in fat, their creamy texture allows you to use less fattening ingredients such as butter, oil and eggs.
And because fall is the start of entertaining season, we thought you might enjoy a few easy fall recipes for comfort food desserts that will help reduce the stress so you can enjoy your company.
But not to worry, you’ll also find some fall apple recipes your guests are sure to enjoy, including some puddings that can be made a day or two ahead of time, and macaroons too!