Fall Foods to Be Thankful for

The 'Recipe Doctor' lightens up cool-weather favorites

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

I know it's fall when there are more leaves OFF the trees than on them. I know it's fall when I need socks or slippers on my feet when I work late at night on the computer at the far end of my 50-year-old house. I know it's fall when it's dark out long before I've been able to rustle up dinner for my family. We all know it's fall when pumpkin pies become standard fare at supermarket bakeries, and when sparkling cider, sweetened condensed milk, and cranberry sauce suddenly get their own displays at the end of the aisles.

There's something about favorite fall foods that speaks to our hearts as well as our stomachs. It's tradition and celebration and comfort food all rolled into one spectacular season. (Can you tell this is my favorite time of year?)

Many fall foods are favorites simply because they are harvested during the fairly dismal months of cold-weather produce (things like apples, cranberries, and winter squash). Others are beloved because we generally only have them around this time of year (though we could eat them year round). It's like we have to be reminded about them by magazines, the holidays, or special store displays. I ask you, what's wrong with eating pumpkin pie in July? Why can't we make fudge in February?

It just feels natural to start craving comfort foods and holiday dishes about the time the pumpkins start growing their own heads of hair while drooping on our front porches in early November. It's as if we're programmed to desire certain fall foods, just as the leaves are programmed to turn colors and fall off their branches.

Fall Foods Members Are Thankful For

In honor of the season of Thanksgiving, we polled Weight Loss Clinic members about what fall foods they're are most grateful for. They mentioned the usual suspects: roast turkey and the rest of Thanksgiving dinner, apple cider, pecans, Christmas cookies, fudge, and casseroles.

But some notable fall fruits and vegetables got the nod, too, like apples, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. And what do you know -- these are all super nutritious, fiber-packed foods! Of course, we do tend to embellish these naturally healthy items with questionable ingredients such as marshmallows, butter, brown sugar, etc. (but that's half the fun).

These are among the autumnal goodies that our members said they're thankful for:

  • Apples, cider, and applesauce
  • Biscuits
  • Butternut squash
  • Casseroles
  • Chili
  • Cranberries
  • Potato pancakes
  • Pot roast
  • Root vegetables
  • Stews
  • Sweet potatoes and sweet potato dishes
  • Roast turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Pumpkin pie
  • The whole Thanksgiving day dinner

No matter what fall foods you hold close to your heart, you can enjoy them as part of a healthy eating plan. Many recipes can be lightened up A LOT in terms of fat, sugar, and calories. And, of course, all should be eaten only when you are truly hungry, and in sensible serving sizes.

To show you how easy it is to lighten up your cold-weather favorites, here are a few fun fall recipes.

Apple tart:
6 cups thinly sliced tart apples
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
3/4 cup fat-free half-and-half or whole milk
1/2 cup Reduced-Fat Bisquick
1 large egg
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons canola oil

Crumb topping:
1 cup Reduced-Fat Bisquick
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons less-fat margarine (with 8 grams of fat per tablespoon)

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat a foil-lined springform pan with canola cooking spray, or coat a 9-inch, deep-dish pie pan with canola cooking spray.
  • Add apple slices, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a large bowl and toss to blend. Pour apple mixture into prepared baking dish, arranging apple slices so they lay as flat as possible over each other.
  • In mixing bowl, beat sugar blend, milk, 1/2 cup biscuit mix, egg, egg substitute, and canola oil together on medium speed until smooth. Pour batter over apples.
  • Add remaining ingredients (1 cup biscuit mix, walnuts, brown sugar, and less-fat margarine) to a 4-cup measure and mix with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle crumb mixture over the top of tart. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve hot or cold.

Yield: 10 servings

Per serving: 255 calories, 6 g protein, 38 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat, 0.9 g saturated fat, 22 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 55 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 32%.