Here are my favorite fall foods to help protect you against the flu, curb unhealthy holiday cravings, boost energy levels and get that winter skin glowing (dry skin this time of year is the worst). Not to mention a way to make your favorite comfort foods a bit healthier. Food is the best medicine around so why not eat your way to radiance…
Acorn Squash. This sassy squash is packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and magnesium. Need some energy? Hello magnesium! This mineral is responsible for energy production within the body. Vitamin C and vitamin A protect your skin from dry, flaky, rough patches and is key in strengthening your immune system (two of the best vitamins for fighting the flu around.) Squash is a healthy carbohydrate high in dietary fiber, which will keep you more full for a longer amount of time. This will help prevent you from reaching for those holiday office treats. It really is an energy evoking, skin clearing, craving controlling super food. The rich warm flavor of squash is a fall favorite of mine. It will warm you up but not fill you out. Healthy Holiday Stuffing Alternative: Dice up acorn and butternut squash, add in some celery for a crunch factor and bake in the oven with a dash of your favorite spices (cinnamon and nutmeg are my top picks).
Spaghetti Squash. Craving pasta? No problem, have some spaghetti squash. It is a great easy alternative to pasta and so much better for your body. All you have to do is slice in half and bake for twenty minutes (no excuses about not having time). It comes out in spaghetti form. For an extra crunch I add almond slivers that contain anxiety reducing heart healthy omega-3 fats. Add in a lean protein (ground turkey or tofu are good choices) and enjoy. Already feeling the holiday bloat coming on? Spaghetti squash will help due to its high potassium content. For those out there who have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease this is a great gluten-free option.
The Perfect Pumpkin Patch Munch: Pumpkin Seeds. These guys are a great flu fighter! Why? They contain zinc which many people lack in their diet. 1/8-1/4 of a cup is the perfect snack size. Pumpkin seeds are also a great combination of healthy fat and protein. The healthy fats will keep your energy levels stable and the protein will tide you over until your next meal. These seeds are a superstar snack (just be mindful of portions, it is easy to go seed crazy). Another bonus – they last a while so you can always keep an emergency stash in your car or purse for hectic days.
Excellent Eggplant. All you hear about in fall is squash or pumpkins but do not forget about this flavorful fall fruit (yes, technically it is a fruit). The iron in eggplant is great for energy levels, and contains essential phytonutrients to boost brain productivity as well as improve blood circulation. Further, it is SO versatile.
Simple Lasagna Swap: a healthy spin on lasagna is using thinly sliced eggplant instead of the noodles. Bake normally without excessive fats, oils and butters (use cooking spray or a moderate amount of heart healthy olive oil). Add freshly diced tomatoes instead of canned tomato sauce or paste. Canned tomato sauce is usually filled with hidden sugars and preservatives that will spike your blood sugar, drain your energy and make you crave more unhealthy foods.
Baked Eggplant Chips: One of my true loves and favorite snacks. Simply slice up eggplant, toss into the oven and bake for twenty minutes until the top is a golden brown (I enjoy mine almost burnt). Add spices for extra flavor and added health benefits.
Everyone is busy during the week. Plan in advance and make a batch healthy stuffing, eggplant chips, pumpkin seeds or spaghetti squash on Sunday. All of these simple swaps above only take twenty minutes to prepare. Planning is just like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Soon, simple planning will be like brushing your teeth. Talking about teeth…stay tuned for my next tip on a healthy Halloween candy that actually helps fight cavities!