The varieties of fall squash are as plentiful as they are delicious—and they’re loaded with vitamins. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

I must admit, fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I’m a sucker for sweater weather and the smell that cool, fall air brings. You can’t beat the breathtaking colors popping out of every corner.

But one of the things I love most is fall food. The warming effect of a piping-hot bowl of comfort is a gift to the soul.

However, not all fall favorites are created equal.

I try to strike a balance between purpose and pleasure. It’s possible to enjoy all the abundant flavors of the season and still keep an eye on good health.

And fall holds so much nutrition for us to enjoy.

You can find just about every color of the rainbow offering an abundance of powerful antioxidants, folate and and vitamin C, among many other immune-supporting nutrients.

Best of all, these foods can even help you give the cold and flu season a run for its money.

Fall fresh

What in-season foods should you look for at your local farmer’s market?

Aim for fruits such as apples, berries, cantaloupe, grapes and pears.

Vegetables include beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, greens, eggplant, lettuce, onions, peppers, potatoes (white and sweet), pumpkins, spinach, squash (all varieties) and turnips.

There are plenty of fun ways to enjoy fall foods without getting tripped up on nutrition mistakes.

Whole and fresh apples, for example, don’t need much preparation at all and they’re packed with fiber and vitamin C. You can also dip them in nut butters for added fullness and healthy fats.

Some other ideas:

Sweet potatoes

These have a nutritional profile that’s hard to beat. They’re rich with beta carotene, manganese, potassium, vitamins C, E and B6. They’re easy meal additions, too.

Try oven-roasting sweet potatoes in spears and topped with cinnamon, or serve as a baked potato. You can also chop them up and add them to soups and stews. They’re a perfect addition to a yummy vegetarian chili.

Pears

Pears are the perfect sautéed complement to your protein. They’re also a great addition to fresh fall salad, as they boast fiber, potassium and vitamins C and K.

Squash

There’s an impressive, endless variety of squash out there—and it’s highly nutritious. Many varieties have high amounts of vitamin C, flavonoids, antioxidants and beta carotene.

I have a secret here to share: It’s my goal in life to make sure everyone loves squash as much as I do.

I truly cannot get enough.

Here are two of my favorite ways to eat squash:

  • Roasted spaghetti squash topped with olive oil, a splash of fresh lemon, fresh garlic and freshly grated parmesan. Add in some salt and pepper if needed.
  • Roasted acorn squash topped with coconut oil, pure maple syrup and sliced almonds.

Remember the old slogan: More matters.

Our goal should be five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. How often are you meeting this goal? Dig in and enjoy it all.

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