Fresh fruits and vegetables are generally associated with spring and summer, so when the season turns cold and dreary, we sometimes forget there is a bountiful harvest still available.
Eating healthy does not have to break your budget. Generally, fresh fruits and vegetables are inexpensive when they are in season. Add fiber-rich whole grains and beans to seasonal veggies, and you have the arsenal to fight and conquer chronic diseases.
Here are some of the colorful fruits and vegetables that are in season for fall and winter. They are chock-full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that build immunity.
▪ Apples: Eat the whole fruit for soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol. Use fruits such as apples and pears to sweeten dishes instead of sugar. Applesauce can also be used in baking to cut down on fat.
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▪ Butternut squash: Roast it, make a soup or use it as a filling for casseroles or lasagna.
▪ Cranberries: Choose recipes without too much added sugar.
▪ Greens: Kale and collard greens can pack a nutritional punch; opt for smoked turkey to flavor it rather than a ham hock to reduce the fat. Steam or stir-fry greens for a flavorful side dish or add them to soups and stews.
▪ Pomegranates: Snack on the seeds, sprinkle them on a salad or mix with plain yogurt to make an Indian raita.
▪ Pumpkin: Roast it, make soup or try new recipes. If you just want pie, eat the filling and skip the crust. If you can bake your own pie, choose low-fat recipes. You can also make a pumpkin spice latte with pumpkin puree.
▪ Sweet potatoes: Prepare them baked or grilled without too much butter or brown sugar. Choose herbs and spices to flavor .
To find out what’s in season, keep this chart from the N.C. Department of Agriculture handy: ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm.
Parul Kharod is a clinical dietitian at WakeMed Cary Hospital. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lentils with Butternut Squash
From Parul Kharod. You can substitute 2 cups peeled, diced sweet potato for the butternut squash.
1 cup dry green, brown or black lentils
2 cups diced butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed
3 to 4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger paste or 1 teaspoon dry ginger
1 teaspoon cumin powder, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Salt, to taste
2 to 3 sprigs cilantro or parsley, chopped
Combine lentils and butternut squash in a slow cooker. Add water and set on high. Let cook for 2 to 3 hours.
In a small pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and saute until the onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the tomato and onion mixture to the lentils. Add salt and cilantro or parsley. Let it cook for 1 more hour till lentils are tender. Add more water if you want a slightly thinner consistency.
Serve with brown rice, cornbread, a grilled cheese sandwich or any cooked whole grain.
Yield: 8-10 servings