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There's a reason apples are number one on the list! Probably one of the most versatile fall foods around, nutrient- and fiber-rich apples can be used in everything from beverages to main courses to desserts. Apples are the perfect addition to your weight-loss plan, says Karen Langston, a certified nutritionist and board member of The National Association of Nutritional Professionals. Low-cal, full of vitamins and minerals, and full of fiber, apples help maintain your blood-sugar level, staving off cravings for high calorie no-no foods. Plus, the low-sodium content in apples can help prevent excess water weight and retention, Langston says. Try one of our five favorite apple recipes this fall.
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They’re not just for Halloween! Pumpkin is not only a super healthy treat, but its also one of the greatest weight-loss foods around, Langston says. Low in calories, but full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, pumpkin is also an excellent source of the important antioxidant beta-carotene. Enjoy it fresh or canned—you’ll still get the same nutritional benefits. You can even have it for breakfast! Langston recommends mixing 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and a few raw almonds. Need more ideas? Try one of these amazing ways to cook with pumpkin.
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Don’t toss the seeds from your Halloween pumpkin this year. Roast and eat them instead! “These delicious little super seeds are packed with protein, fiber, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous, as well as potassium, zinc, selenium, folate, niacin, and amino acids arginine and glutamic acid,” Langston says. They will help keep you fit, healthy, and lean with their poly- and mono-unsaturated fat content, which raises metabolism and helps burn fat. “They're also great stress relievers (chew away stored frustration through crunching). Less stress means reduced cortisol levels, which keeps you thin!” Toast them to perfection with this easy recipe.
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Cinnamon was considered an affluent and elite spice in the middle ages, Langston says, and it’s no wonder! “Cinnamon is loaded with manganese, fiber, calcium, and iron, making it the perfect spice to add to your meals. It’s also a natural appetite suppressant that decreases blood sugar, manages insulin, and revs up your metabolism.” Experiment with different varieties of cinnamon: try Chinese cinnamon in meat rubs, Ceylon cinnamon with fruits, yogurt, or ice cream. (We love it in this dessert recipe for apple cinnamon crepes)
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Nutmeg is low in sodium and cholesterol and high in fiber and manganese, which is a catalyst for breaking down fats and cholesterol—an important process for weight loss, Langston says. Just be sure to use it in small doses, as larger amounts (full cloves) could be toxic. Sprinkle some in this slimmed-down comfort food recipe for nutmeg Mac n’ cheese.
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Vanilla can help you reduce your sugar intake naturally, says Alysa Bajenaru, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. “Try adding a splash of vanilla to hot coffee or a cold smoothie for a sweet taste without the sugar.” (Another weight loss bonus? One study found that just taking a whiff of vanilla could help reduce your cravings for chocolate and sweets).
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“Allspice tastes like a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When used in sweet and savory dishes, this spice is helpful in relieving indigestion and gas, which can sometimes be a side effect of adding healthier, more fiber-filled foods to your diet,” Bajenaru says.
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Reducing your daily sodium intake is an essential step towards healthy eating and weight loss, Bajenaru says. “Using herbs like bay leaves are a great way to add flavor to soups, sauces, and meat dishes without adding extra salt. Try adding a leaf or two to your next pot of soup or spaghetti sauce (just make sure to remove the leaves before eating).”
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Researchers from Penn State University found that spices (including cloves) can help improve your body’s response to high-fat meals. And, cloves have been shown to improve insulin function in people with Type 2 diabetes, Bajenaru says. “Try adding whole cloves to vegetable dishes, or embedding them into meat or poultry before roasting.”
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Daily consumption of ginger may reduce muscle pain caused by exercise by as much as 25 percent, according to a September 2010 study published in the Journal of Pain. Less muscle pain = more workouts! Try adding fresh ginger into stir-fry dishes, soups, or smoothies. Bajenaru recommends storing peeled ginger in the freezer to keep it fresh.
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“Garlic contains the compound allicin, which has anti-bacterial effects and helps reduce unhealthy fats and cholesterol,” says Lisa DeFazio, a registered dietitian and celebrity nutrition expert. Garlic acts as a natural appetite suppressant in several ways, DeFazio says. The strong odor of garlic stimulates the satiety center in the brain, reducing feelings of hunger, and it increases the brain's sensitivity to leptin (a hormone that helps regulate appetite). We just love the way it enhances the flavor of almost any dish, including this soothing garlic soup.
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“Sage aids digestion, which makes it popular as a weight-loss aid,” DeFazio says. Add it to your favorite recipes (we love this one for mushroom barley burgers) or drink it in between meals as sage tea to take the edge off of hunger.
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These filling and protein-rich beans are low in fat and high in fiber, DeFazio says. “One of the main pitfalls with low-calorie diets is that you're constantly hungry. By eating foods like beans, which also contain protein, you'll feel fuller eating smaller portions.” (One note of caution: Runner beans should not be eaten raw, as they contain a chemical called lectin phytohemagglutinin, a toxin that creates a clumping effect on the red cells in your blood. Be sure to cook them thoroughly before eating).
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One cup of cooked bok choy is only 20 calories, and it's loaded with fiber and rich in calcium, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamin A, DeFazio says. “It has a particularly large water content, which can help you feel full and lose even more weight.” Cook some up for dinner tonight with this salmon stir-fry recipe.
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Gourds, including pumpkins and squash, come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. Depending on the type, they can be sautéed or pureed and used in numerous fall recipes. (Just be sure to know what type of gourd you have. Many are not edible and best used as decorations). “Gourds are high in vitamin C and potassium, and they have a high water content, making them low in both calories and carbohydrates,” says Meme Inge, a registered dietitian and owner of Living Well Nutrition LLC. We love this yummy recipe for chunky squash and potato puree.
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If the candy bowl is tempting you, try eating a few dates instead. You’ll still enjoy a sweet, chewy snack, but you’ll also load up on fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium—all of which can increase energy and balance sodium levels, Inge says. “Just be sure to stick to only a couple of dates, as dried fruit is a more concentrated source of calories.”
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Pears are high in fiber, which can help regulate your digestive system, and their pectin promotes fullness, Inge says. At only about 100 calories per pear, this juicy, sweet fruit is great as a stand-alone snack, with a meal, or pureed into dessert. Try them in this delicious dinner recipe for ginger chicken.
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Fighting off a winter cold along with a few extra winter pounds? Enjoy some tangerines! “Not only can this antioxidant-packed fruit help you lose weight, it can also boost your immune system," Inge says." With less than 50 calories per fruit, tangerines can satisfy a sweet craving and suppress your appetite.”
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Pomegranates are extremely nutritious and their high fiber content can help control blood-sugar levels, Inge says. One 150-calorie cup of pomegranate arils is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium. But don’t just drink the juice or in a POM-tini, eat them for their biggest weight-loss benefits. You can even enjoy them in pancakes with this healthy recipe.
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“At only 10 calories, 1/2 gram of fiber, and 1/2 gram of protein per sprout, these nutrition cannonballs will help keep you satisfied longer while eating fewer calories,” says Alexandra Oppenheimer, a registered dietitian in New York. “Don’t sabotage this nutritious vegetable by cooking them with pancetta or bacon—try roasting with olive oil, garlic, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or try making Brussels sprout chips—peel off each leaf, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast until crispy.”
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“Cauliflower is an antioxidant powerhouse that is stuffed with vitamin C and packs in two grams of protein and two grams of fiber (per half cup)—both important nutrients for weight loss,” Oppenheimer says. “Try making mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes for a new fall favorite that is approximately ¼ of the calories.” (It also makes this mac n’ cheese recipe guilt free!)
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Just 1/2-cup serving of this highly-nutritious vegetable contains 15 percent of your daily vitamin C needs, and it’s natural sweetness is a great way to eliminate your need for a sugary after-dinner treat, Oppenheimer says. Impress your guests with this recipe for stuffed acorn squash at your next holiday gathering (or treat yourself to it for dinner tonight).
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“Diets that leave you hungry and unsatisfied don’t work,” Oppenheimer says. Cooked parsnips have approximately 3 grams of fiber per half cup to help you stay full and satisfied. Parsnips are starchy vegetables, so she recommends they be eaten in place of bread, rice, or other starchy foods.
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“If you're going nuts trying to lose weight, think about adding pecans to your diet,” says Rania Batayneh, a nutritionist, eating strategist, and owner of Essential Nutrition for You. “Just one handful contains vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and fiber, as well as antioxidants, and because pecans are so rich in heart-healthy fat, it doesn't take too many to feel full. According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, when nuts (including pecans) were included in diet, people were able to lose weight and keep the weight off for a longer period of time than people who followed the more typically recommended low-fat diet.” Eat them alone as a healthy snack or in this guiltless apple pie recipe.
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Chestnuts contain four grams of fiber per serving with only a fraction of the fat that other nuts contain, Batayneh says. “Chestnuts have a higher starch content, which is what contributes to keeping you feeling full. They help promote weight loss, lower cholesterol, combat cancer, and control blood pressure--just a few great reasons to enjoy them year round!” What’s the best way to eat them? Check out one of these great ideas for eating this holiday nut.
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“This green, leafy superfood is loaded with good stuff and belongs to the same family as beets and spinach,” Batayneh says. “High in vitamins A, K, and folate, one cup cooked contains 35 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. Eating swiss chard could help boost your immune system, prevent iron deficiency, and keep your blood pressure under control.” Batayneh recommends tossing some into pasta or adding it to your breakfast omelet. (Or, try this satisfying, but light, recipe for sautéed Swiss chard).
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Leeks have a similar nutrition profile to onions and garlic, but they're easier to digest, Batayneh says. Tasty, affordable, and versatile, leeks add a lot of flavor and texture to dishes without adding a lot of calories. And because they're high in fiber, they aid in digestion, and their iron and manganese content helps regulate metabolism and blood-glucose levels, Batayneh says.
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Related to apples and pears, quinces (pronounced ‘kwins’) are a golden yellow, broad pome fruit loaded with vitamin C, dietary fiber, copper, antioxidants, and pectin, which aids in controlling digestion and improving your blood sugar level, Batayneh says. Because of their sour flavor, you won’t want to eat these right off the tree. Try them in jams and jellies, or dice half of one into a homemade apple pie to enhance it’s flavor. (Waistline bonus: adding bitter flavors to desserts can help bring out their sweetness, which could help you eat less).
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One half-cup serving of fresh, vibrant, whole cranberries is a good source of satiating, dietary fiber with only 25 calories, says Jackie Newgent, a registered dietitian, culinary nutritionist, and author of Big Green Cookbook. “Plus, cranberries are packed with polyphenols and flavonoids to help promote a healthy heart and immune system.” To add lots of flavor without excess calories or fat, toss them into muffins, salads, or in wild rice.
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These purplish-black berries are loaded with potassium, which can help reduce blood pressure and keep you going strong during your workouts. They may even help you reduce belly fat: “animal studies have shown that a compound found in elderberries may be beneficial for reducing body weight, particularly abdominal fat,” Newgent says. “Look for elderberry jam and spread it on toast instead of butter.”
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“One entire ear of corn has fewer than 100 calories—and is bursting with sweet, buttery flavor,” Newgent says. “In addition to being a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin (both beneficial for eye health), corn provides both dietary fiber and protein which, when coupled together, can help boost the feeling of fullness.” Don’t drown it in butter; instead keep it light and full of flavor with one of these healthy eating ideas.
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Believe it or not, pork is a great source of lean protein, says Barbara Mendez, a nutritional consultant and registered pharmacist in New York. Lean protein helps you stay fuller longer and helps preserve lean muscle mass. Since muscle helps burn fat, holding onto muscle can help promote a healthier long-term body weight, Mendez says. Just keep it lean by preparing your pork without frying or heavy breading.
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“Venison is an excellent lower calorie, low fat protein source that can help you feel full faster and for longer, while preserving lean muscle tissue,” Mendez says. “And, since deer meat is wild and feeds on grass and plants in nature, it has a great ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.”
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A persimmon is an orange-red, sweet fruit that resembles a large tomato when ripe. Surprisingly, persimmons are a good source of iodine, which is necessary for healthy thyroid function and can help improve your metabolism, Mendez says. Persimmons are also a good source of stay-full fiber. Try tossing some into this delicious fall salad recipe.
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Including nutritionally-dense yams in your diet can trigger the satiety center in the brain quickly, making you feel full faster, Mendez says. “They are also loaded in antioxidants (like carotenoids), vitamins and minerals, and are quite low on the glycemic scale, meaning you’ll digest them slower and stay satisfied longer.” Roast them with this quick and easy recipe for a filling, fall side dish.
Soups and Stews
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As the weather outside turns crisp, soups and stews make hearty fall appetizers or main dishes. Soups are a great go-to food when trying to lose weight, Mendez says. “Including complex carbohydrates such as beans or rice, vegetables in soups, combined with the broth, allows the carbohydrates to absorb more fluid in the gut and expand, further contributing to satiety,” Mendez says. And several studies have shown eating broth-based or vegetable soup before a main course can help you consume fewer calories overall. Just be sure to keep them low calorie by avoiding cream bases or too many noodle ingredients. (We love this recipe for a lean, but hearty, beef stew).
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Casseroles may conjure up images of hearty, high-fat comfort food, but they can be a great, economic way to make healthy meals to feed a crowd. This easy, one-dish meal helps ‘hide’ extra veggies and make dinner simple (you can even make them ahead and then pop them in the oven when you're ready). Go easy on the cheese and cream to keep yours light (like this slimmed-down vegetable and chicken casserole recipe).
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“Though not as bushy and dense as broccoli (it's ruffled leaves hold tiny little florets), it is just as nutritionally sound,” says Lauren O’Connor, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutri Savvy in Los Angeles. “A great source of antioxidant vitamins A and C, it also provides folate, calcium, potassium, and fiber for only 22 calories per cup, making it a great low calorie way to bulk up your meals.” Try it in an omelet or in this delicious farfalle pasta dish.
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A good source of dietary fiber, cholesterol-lowering oat bran will help keep you satiated, O’Connor says. Sprinkle one to two tablespoons on your cereals , salads, soups, or even protein dishes to keep things running smoothly.
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This lean fish packs in 21 grams of protein per 3-oz serving for only 99 calories and 1 gram of fat, says Vandana Sheth, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and registered dietitian in Los Angeles. “Flounder is a good source of nine different vitamins including: thiamine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate, and B12.” Not sure the best way to prepare it? Try one of these easy to fix fish recipes.
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“Celeriac is a good source of dietary fiber, B6, magnesium, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and phosphorus, and once washed and peeled, they are fairly easy to cook and enjoy,” Sheth says. “They can be used in soups, salads, and as a wonderful substitute for potatoes (one cup of celery root has only 42 calories versus the 118 in a potato).” Toss some in this delicious pea and pancetta soup.
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This German turnip is a member of the cabbage family that can be eaten raw or cooked. It's low in calories and carbs and moderately rich in protein—primarily from amino acids arginine and isoleucine, both of which have been shown to help play a role in reducing body fat, Sheth says. Peel, slice, and add them to a salad or cook them in place of some of your favorite cabbage recipes.
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This curly, ‘frizzy’ looking leafed veggie is a variety of endive and provides vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, all within a low-calorie budget, Sheth says. Its taste can be slightly bitter, but its texture lends itself to creamier dressings (just keep them weight-loss friendly by making your own at home).
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This lean game meat may not be sitting in the butcher’s case at your local grocery store, but it is probably just as nutritious (if not more) than most of what comes through the checkout line--wild game like moose is typically lean and hormone free. “Moose meat is naturally low in saturated fat, high in iron, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium, B6, B12, and zinc,” Sheth says. If you happen to try it, it goes well cut up in stew, or marinated and baked.
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“Consumed around the world for centuries, duck is a flavorful, nutritious source of protein,” says Stella Metsovas, a certified nutritionist and owner of W8Less Nutrition in Los Angeles. “Varying your foods is very important, and a selenium-rich skinless duck breast has only 140 calories, 3 grams fat, 28 grams protein, and four times the amount of iron (4.5 grams per 100 grams) than chicken and turkey.” Selenium and iron both help boost energy levels—something you need if you are reducing calories and may be exercising more for weight loss.
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“Super rich in amino acids, goose meat is a good source of zinc, a mineral important for almost every enzyme reaction in the body,” Metsovas says. “While it's only marginally higher in fat than chicken, I recommended goose during the fall and winter months because it generally tastes best with spices and orange/lemon rind, making the recipe super nutritious and healthy. It's also delicious served with roasted fall vegetables like parsnips, beets, and yam.”
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While it may not be on the top of your grocery list, goat meat is a great, lean source of protein, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and zinc, Metsovas says. “With all the talk about Paleolithic diets of modern-day, adding goat meat to your diet is a great way to vary your lean protein sources.”
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Stone crab season officially begins on October 15, making this shellfish a delicious fall diet food. “Crabs are a very rich source of lean protein, low in calories and fat (a 4 oz. serving has only 98 calories and less than 2 grams of fat), and they can make a filling main course dish,” says Rania Batayneh, a nutritionist, eating strategist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You. “Crabs are also a good source of chromium, which helps in the metabolism of sugar, helping the body to maintain normal blood glucose (sugar) levels.”