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The Best and Worst Fall Comfort Foods

The Best and Worst Fall Comfort Foods

As the leaves turn and the weather gets cooler, it’s tempting to turn to those not-so-healthy comfort foods. The good news is there are plenty of delicious comfort foods that you can fill your fall plate with and still celebrate the beauty of the season ... healthfully!

Here are your best and worst fall options for four traditional meal courses:

1. Soups

The worst: French onion. Yep, there is no doubt it's delicious.  But unfortunately, French onion soup is usually loaded with calories and saturated fat from the beef broth, buttery bread and the rich melted cheese on top.  It is also chock full of blood-pressure-raising sodium.

The best: homemade lentil or vegetable soups! These options are usually low in calories, high in nutrients and packed with fiber-rich vegetables and legumes to keep you healthy and full.  If you make the soups at home, you can use a reduced sodium broth base which will also cut the salt down to a reasonable level.  Dip a chunk of freshly baked whole grain bread into a steaming bowl of lentil soup and you get both comfort and nutrition!

2. Side dishes

The worst: heavy stuffing.  This fall classic can add up in calories and fat fast. Stuffing made with butter and sausage topped with gravy can clock in at over 500 calories per serving.  Instead, make a healthier version of stuffing by skipping the meat, using a fat-free, low-sodium broth for a base and loading it up with fruit and veggies like celery, carrots, apples and squash.

The best: baked sweet potatoes and butternut squash! Better yet, why not simply replace the stuffing with a side of baked sweet potatoes? Top with a touch of brown sugar and you have a sweet treat on the side for any fall meal. You can also try another superfood of the season -- butternut or acorn squash. Reduce the calorie content in high carbohydrate dishes by replacing the hearty potato with lighter winter squash such as acorn squash and butternut squash. Winter squash are a rich source of dietary fiber to help lower cholesterol levels, normalize bowel health, and control blood sugar.  They also provide a good dose of Vitamin A to build and maintain healthy eyes, skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, and mucus membranes. Our Nutrition Together program has a wonderful recipe for Sweet Mashed Acorn Squash.
 
3. Main dishes

The worst: beef stroganoff.  Heavy cream and butter added to the meat provides a high saturated fat content -- 15 grams of artery-clogging fat.  And one serving, with noodles, can tip the scale at over 600 calories and contains more sodium than you should eat in an entire day.

The best: roast turkey breast.  At a mere 130 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and a whopping 21 grams of protein for a four-ounce serving of skinless turkey breast, this is one fall food that should take center stage. Always add a side salad or half a plate of vegetables when enjoying this seasonal favorite to round out your fall plate.

4. Pie

The worst: apple and pecan.  When apples are baked into a buttery crust and covered with sugar and butter, they go from a healthy fruit to a fattening, artery-clogging dish. Try baking an apple with cinnamon, a little brown sugar or honey with graham cracker sprinkles for a tasty alternative. Pecan pie can go from healthy to a sugary mess laden with saturated fat and calories. Try baking these pies at home using lightened-up versions of popular recipes.

The best: pumpkin. Hooray! A slice of this autumn staple -- the pumpkin is a symbol of harvest time -- only has about 300 calories. Plus, pumpkin pie is lower in saturated fat and sodium than other pies, and also contains nutritious fiber and tons of disease-fighting beta-carotene. Bake the lighter version at home and you will still enjoy this fall favorite while maintaining your health and fitness.

Is there anything better than fall foods? Pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes ... yum! As the weather turns cooler and the days get shorter and darker, it's tempting to turn to fattening comfort foods. A Fitness Together trainer can help you to make healthier fall food choices, enjoy the foods of the season and still attain your health and fitness goals. He or she will also develop an exercise program designed to meet your specific needs. You’ll receive nutritional counseling through the Nutrition Together program, which will complement your workouts.