Along with cooler temperatures, crisp air and a rainbow of fallen leaves, autumn brings with it a bounty of beautiful fall vegetables. Unfortunately, few of my clients naturally reach for the recommended daily two to three cups of veggies any time of year. That’s why I talk with them about seasonal foods and ways to prepare them. Remember to check with your health care team before making changes to your diabetes meal plan.
In general, you will maximize the nutrient content of vegetables by cooking them in as little water as possible. Consuming them with a little healthful fat may boost nutrient absorption too. Here are six delicious, nutritious fall veggies to seek out and more tips to harness their nutritional powers. (The nutritional data was calculated using the searchable USDA National Nutrient Database.)
Just say no to butter and added sugars to keep this side dish light and diabetes-friendly. A half cup serving has only fifteen grams of carbohydrates and less than sixty calories. Acorn squash stays fresh for two to three months, so buy several. Store them in a cool, dry place.
- Toss cubed squash with canola oil and coriander or cinnamon. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400F.
- Fill the cavities of halved acorn squash with diced apples and bake.
- Go international. Fill the cavities with kale and Asian seasoning such as ginger and reduced sodium soy sauce.
It seems that most people are either lovers or haters of Brussels sprouts. If you’re not yet a lover, try these nutrient powerhouses in any of the following creative ways. Buy Brussels sprouts that are firm, compact, and bright green. You can enjoy ten sprouts (about one and a half cups) for a mere fifteen grams carbohydrate and eighty calories.
- Slice Brussels sprouts in half and toss lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400F until almost tender. Add a diced apple to the pan and roast a bit longer. When done, drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
- Stir -fry thinly sliced Brussels sprouts with garlic and red onions. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
- Toss Brussels sprouts with Dijon mustard, olive oil, and breadcrumbs. Bake for thirty or more minutes.
Like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family and packs a load of health-boosting nutrients. My friend and colleague Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research, is an expert on maximizing the nutrient content of foods. She recommends dipping cruciferous vegetables in boiling water briefly (a process called blanching) and serving cold; or steaming them for three to four minutes. Even if you choose to eat them more fully cooked, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables are plenty nutritious. And diet friendly too with only thirty calories and five grams carbs per cooked cup. Choose cauliflower that is compact and free of brown spots.
- Bulk up lasagna or mac and cheese with diced steamed cauliflower.
- Experiment with seasonings such as dill, nutmeg and cumin.
- Lighten up traditional mashed potatoes with mashed steamed cauliflower mixed in.
It would be hard (and a bit stinky) to eat enough garlic that you’d need to count carbs or calories. One clove provides just one gram carbohydrate and four calories. According to Karen, we can get more of garlic’s health boosters by allowing chopped or crushed garlic to sit at room temperature before cooking. This gives an important enzyme time to act before heat destroys it. You will love this garlicky trick that I learned from registered dietitian and Food Network host Ellie Krieger.
- Sauté thinly sliced garlic in olive oil over low heat. When the garlic slivers turn just golden, remove the pan from the heat. They will become crispy. Toss with any steamed vegetable.
These are calorie- and carb-counters best friends with just twenty-two calories and four grams carbohydrates per half cup cooked chopped mushrooms. Look for button mushrooms, baby bellas, shitake, portabello and more. (Read more about mushrooms here.) Pick mushrooms that are firm and dry. Because they have a strong meaty flavor, you can trim calories and unhealthy fats by trading half of your meat for mushrooms.
- When making spaghetti sauce or tacos, mix finely chopped mushrooms with ground beef.
- Enjoy mushrooms raw in a chopped salad.
These beautiful leaves contain only seven grams carbohydrate and thirty-five calories per cooked cup, but boast whopping amounts of vitamins A and C, and the mineral magnesium, which is important in blood sugar metabolism. Steam, sauté or stir-fry chard to preserve nutrients.
- Drop Swiss chard into simmering soups and stews.
- Steam or roast the hard stalks just like you would asparagus.
Look for pumpkin, sweet potatoes and turnips too. There’s more to fall good eats than Halloween candy!
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, and the upcoming The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition, as well as contributing editor at Environmental Nutrition. She has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience