You can add color and festive excitement to your plate this October without gorging on orange and black candies. Chocolate and gummies are in high demand, but there are many autumnal treats that are much more nutritious.
We've rounded up five superfoods to keep you healthy and warm this month and asked Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Vandana Sheth, RD, CDE, for some tips on the best ways to prepare them.
Why We Love Them: Hardly any fall menu is complete without an apple pies, applesauce, apple crisp or apple cider. Luckily, apples are great sources of fiber, with 4 grams per fruit, making them a handy weight loss tool. That fiber may also lower the risk of stroke and "bad" cholesterol -- LDL. Apples also have the second highest level of antioxidant activity compared to other common U.S. fruits, according to the New York State Horticultural Society.
How To Enjoy: Of course the easiest way to pack in all those nutrients is to wash your apple and take a bite. However, Sheth also suggests chopping up apples and cooking them with a little cinnamon, then making a crumble of whole-grain, steel cut oats and a little brown sugar for something warm and yummy without lots of extra calories.
Why We Love Them: No matter how elegantly or frighteningly you carve them, the pumpkin is a nutrition powerhouse. With the antioxidant beta-carotene, the squash may have cancer-fighting properties and protect the skin. Even the seeds have unexpected benefits: They're rich in amino acids and filled with potassium, which make them a great post-workout snack.
How To Enjoy: You can bake them and use them in stews or soups. Pumpkins even make milkshake-like smoothies with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Sheth likes to purée pumpkins to add to her pancake batter for a nutritious boost to a festive breakfast. Don't forget about the seeds, which can be roasted for a snack or tossed into salads.
Why We Love Them: Peppers are perfect for adding more color to your plate. They're loaded with vital vitamins and antioxidants. No matter the color, all peppers have an impressive amount of vitamins A and C, which can help boost the immune system, protect against cancer and improve eyesight. The beta-carotene found in peppers can also protect against certain cancers and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, WebMD reported.
How To Enjoy: Peppers are perfect vehicles for hummus and other dips. They can also be grilled or puréed into pasta sauce as an alternative to tomatoes. Sheth likes to sauté them in olive oil and garlic for a side dish or healthy fajita topping.
Why We Love It: This squash gets its name from its stringy-like interior. It's a great low-carb and low-calorie replacement for actual pasta. Spaghetti squash is also hydrating, with 143 grams of water and contains 9 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C.
How To Enjoy: Looking to cut back on the carbs? Swap spaghetti squash into your favorite Italian dishes. Or chop one and add to your next salad.
Why We Love Them: Another great fruit source of soluble fiber, packing 5.5 grams in one pear. They are also a good source of potassium and vitamin C. Like apples, the antioxidant quercertin is found in the skin of pears, which may help prevent cancer and heart disease. The high fiber content also keeps you full, which makes it a great snack so you don't overdo it on your meals, says Sheth. "The main difference between a pear and an apple is the texture," she says. "You either love it or you don't."
How To Enjoy: Sheth suggest eating pears with the peel on to get the maximum nutritional benefits. They can be chopped and tossed into salads to add a sweet flavor, or stewed with spices for a fancy dessert.