The Best and Worst Foods for Fall

With the fall season upon us, it’s time for fall harvests, soups, stews, and comfort foods. Some favorite fall choices might not be as healthy as you thought. Here are 22 of the best and worst foods for the fall.

The Best

  1. Sweet Potatoes: A medium-sized sweet potato (about the length of your phone) has more than 4 times the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, which is important for maintaining eye health and supporting your immune system. It also has 4 grams of fiber, which keeps you feeling full for longer, lowers your cholesterol, and helps regulate your blood sugar.
  2. Roasted Acorn Squash: Acorn squash is packed full of fiber – 9 grams in one cup – as well as a ton of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and B6, thiamin, potassium, and manganese.
  3. Roasted Beets: Beets contain betalains, which is what gives them their deep purple color and also helps reduce cellular inflammation and oxidation. One cup of beets provides 34% of daily folates needed to help support a healthy immune system.
  4. Toasted Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, healthy fats, magnesium, and zinc, making them a great low-carb, healthy snack. Studies have shown that people who eat nuts and seeds are better able to manage and maintain their weight.
  5. Oven Roasted Chicken: While not necessarily a food strictly for fall, roasted chicken is a great source of lean protein, which aids in muscle growth and recovery. It’s also a good source of vitamin B6, which helps keep the brain functioning properly, and iron, which supplies oxygen to your muscles.
  6. Turkey: A three-ounce serving of turkey provides 25 grams of lean protein; turkey is also a good source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, and helps produce serotonin, the chemical found in the brain that promotes happiness and relaxation.
  7. Three-Bean Chili: Beans are a great prebiotic food that provides beneficial bacteria to your gut as well as a great source of fiber. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene – all of which promote heart health and protect cells from oxidation. The spices commonly used in chili have numerous health benefits as well: cumin is an excellent source of iron and chili powder helps reduce inflammation.
  8. Roasted Brussel Sprouts: Brussel sprouts are a great source of vitamin C, which serves as both an antioxidant and support for your immune system, vitamin K, and prebiotic fiber.
  9. Chicken Noodle Soup: While canned soup tends to have a ton of sodium in it, homemade chicken noodle soup is a great source of gelatin, which is great for your gut health, skin, and joints.
  10. Cornbread: Yes, there’s a carb on the list! Corn is a good source of carotenoid antioxidants that protect immune, eye, and skin cells from oxidation. The combination of starch and fiber provides a sustained energy release that helps to regulate blood sugar and contains beneficial bacteria for your gut. Corn meal is also gluten-free which makes this a great addition for a gluten-free diet.
  11. Butternut Squash Soup: While this comfort food favorite does have some cream in it – which usually put an 8-ounce serving at around 210 calories with 10 grams of fat – it’s still a great source of vitamins A and C. If you’re getting a vegan version, you might find that it’s lower in fat and calories.

The Worst

  1. Sweet Potato Casserole: Even if you add in the marshmallows and the butter, this dish is still mostly comprised of vegetables. Sweet potatoes provide nearly 400% of your daily dose of vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy skin and good night vision. While they do contain more sugar than white potatoes, sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium and contain a key mineral necessary for maintaining healthy blood pressure.
  2. Mashed Potatoes: While potatoes are packed with vitamin A and potassium, mashed potatoes typically have 3 teaspoons of butter per serving and whole milk. You’d be better off with a baked potato, but mashed potatoes aren’t the worst comfort food you can choose – they’re usually around 250 calories per cup.
  3. Pumpkin Bread: A 1-inch slice of pumpkin bread will set you back 260 calories and 10 grams of fat (mostly from unsaturated sources), 40 grams of carbohydrates, and 26 grams of sugar with only 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein. While it’s not the worst dessert you can choose, it’s certainly not a great source of nutrients either – although it is packed full of vitamin A.
  4. Hot Chocolate: This fall and winter favorite does provide some nutritional benefits: all forms of chocolate stimulate the release of “happiness” neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins – and are rich in plant flavanols, antioxidants, and magnesium. Milk provides essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, all of which are essential for bone growth and development.
  5. Sausage Stuffing: Stuffing with sausage, whether boxed or homemade, has little to no nutritional value as it contains refined carbs from the white bread and heavy fats from the sausage. If you’re going to indulge, try to limit yourself to a small scoop or two.
  6. French Onion Soup: While the broth base is allium-rich because of the onions, the sodium content knocks out most of the nutritional value this soup could provide.
  7. Canned Cranberry Sauce: Although cranberries are full of antioxidants, canned cranberry sauce is full of sugar and salt. If you’re going to have this fall favorite, try making your own from scratch to help preserve the berries’ nutrients.
  8. Chicken Pot Pie: While some might think this dish isn’t too bad for you, think again. If we break down this comfort food favorite, you can see how it’s not such a great option: puff pastry (fat, sugar, and butter), grilled chicken (while the chicken is usually filled with hormones, it is at least grilled so it has lean protein, B12, and some iron), a small amount of peas and/or carrots (which contain vitamin A, fiber, and antioxidants), and a whole lot of cream.
  9. Potato Skins with Bacon: Potato skins actually do have some fiber and magnesium, but the bacon fat and butter they’re usually cooked in ruin all of their possible nutritional value.
  10. Green Bean Casserole: The amount of cheese that usually goes into this dish almost completely cancels out the nutrients provided by the green beans. While healthy fats are an important part of your diet, there’s too much unhealthy fat in this dish from the cheese, the soup mix, and the fried onions.
  11. Pumpkin Spice Latte: Even a small cup of this fall favorite will set you back nearly 400 calories and 50 grams of sugar (more than 12 teaspoons!), courtesy of the sugar added to the pumpkin spice sauce.
Sources
  1. The Fifty Best and Worst Foods for Fall - Ranked. http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/50-best-and-worst-fall-foods-ranked/slideshow.
  2. Worst Fall Foods for Weight Loss. http://www.weightlossforall.com/worst-fall-foods-for-weight-loss.htm.
  3. The Best and Worst Fall Foods. http://www.metro.us/lifestyle/the-best-and-worst-fall-foods/zsJpjk---fsmjoYKTKbJ9A.

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