With Thanksgiving around the corner, seasonal side dishes are on everyone’s mind.
Thankfully, fall has a lot to offer by way of tasty, farm-fresh produce.
Here are some healthy options to consider the next time you’re at the grocery store this season — plus, some easy ways to cook them.
This hearty vegetable is a fall favourite for registered dietitian Shahzadi Devje — especially spaghetti squash.
“It’s a great pick if you’re after a low carb, flavour-packed alternative to pasta,” she said.
“When cooked, this squash separates into translucent, spaghetti-like strands with a distinctive texture … (and they’re) full of nutritional goodness.”
Devje is a fan because it’s a rich source of “beta carotene and fibre,” and it contains fewer calories than regular spaghetti. “Plus, it’s low in fat and naturally gluten-free.”
Devje recommends adding bolognese sauce or using the squash in a pad Thai recipe.
In a similar vein, registered dietitian Robert Thomas often reaches for butternut squash because it’s a “great source of vitamins such as A, B, C and E, which can help support many of your body’s functions — like a healthy immune system.”
“I enjoy squash … by slicing and roasting the pieces in the oven,” he said. “Once softened, I’ll scoop out the flesh and use it in a soup. I like to add split red lentils to the soup for extra fibre and protein.”
When you’re low on time, Thomas recommends “simply roasting them with other vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes or onions.”
It’s cranberry harvest season, which means you should be able to find fresh cranberries at your local grocery store.
Devje likes to stock up during the high season and freeze them. They last “for up to a year,” she said.
“Fresh cranberries are mostly water, the rest being carbohydrates and fibre,” said Devje. “They contain no saturated fat and are cholesterol-free, as well as very low in sodium.”
They’re also loaded with vitamin C, B6, C, E, K and potassium.
Beets and beetroot
Beets are packed with fibre, which is why they’re a constant on Thomas’s fall shopping list.
“In general, Canadians aren’t eating enough fibre, so incorporating more fibre-rich foods will certainly help,” he said.
“Beets contain nutrients such as folate (one of the B vitamins) and fibre … (which) is helpful in promoting healthy digestion, as well as filling you up during a meal.”
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Devje also loves beets and beetroot this time of year.
“They can be spiralized into noodles, blended into smoothies, pureed into hummus or simply roasted as a side vegetable,” she said.
“Beetroot can be pickled, cooked into soup and used to make juices. You can even grate raw beet to throw onto salad greens.”
Pumpkins aren’t just for carving this time of year — they’re also an amazing source of vitamin A, which is good for skin and eye health.
“Pumpkin works well in pies, soups, casseroles, cakes and muffins, and even homemade lattes,” Devje said. “I love to use leftover pumpkin to make a plant-powered burger.”
According to Thomas, pumpkin is also high in magnesium and vitamin K, both of which can help promote healthy bones.
Pumpkin seeds make for a great snack, too. “They’re high in protein and provide plenty of iron,” said Thomas.
Devje likes to rinse, dry and roast them with a dash of olive oil and seasoning “to enjoy as a tasty snack.”
Turnips are low in calories and nutrient-rich, and both the root and leaves are edible.
“Think of turnips as you would potatoes: boil or bake them, and enjoy in soups, stews, curries and stir-fry,” said Devje.
“You can even add young turnips raw in a salad, or simply roast them as an easy side to your meal.”
Turnips fit into a low FODMAP diet, which means they’re “low in certain fermentable carbohydrates that may cause digestive distress for some people,” she said.
However, Devje warns that for some, turnips can cause adverse symptoms “like bloating and gas.”
For Thomas, broccoli is a great way to increase your iron intake. “It can be a helpful addition to iron-rich vegetables, nuts and seeds,” he said.
“It also contains folate, which can help support a health pregnancy.”
The great thing about broccoli, said Thomas, is that it can be eaten in just about anything — soups, salads or as a side.
“I like to fill a baking sheet with seasoned broccoli florets and roast it in the oven,” Thomas said.
“I’m able to store them in the fridge and pull them out as an addition to whatever I’m taking to work for lunch.”