(CNN) — Your mom probably never gave you better advice than when she said, “Eat your fruits and veggies.”
But eating healthy may seem harder come fall, when favorite produce options dwindle and less familiar ones appear.
Never fear. Now that warm months are gone — and with them the berries, corn and other produce we find easier to incorporate into our diets — a new menu of foods is available to keep you healthy and happy.
Foods in season during fall may appear less appealing — especially if you aren’t sure how to prepare them, or are feeding a family of less adventurous eaters. But in addition to the nutritional benefits of foods such as Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, you’ll find another positive: the exponential number of tasty ways in which they can be prepared.
Take advantage of the opportunity and think outside the box in your fall food preparation.
Here are five foods that you should eat this season:
1. Pumpkin — Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie are traditionally associated with this fruit, but there are other ways to incorporate pumpkin into your daily life.
The meat of the pumpkin is worth having more than one day a year thanks to its high percentage of vitamin A, carotenoids and fiber. But pumpkin seeds shouldn’t be overlooked either. The seeds, a great snack, are concentrated sources of vitamins, fiber, minerals and antioxidants. They also contain an amino acid proven to boost your mood.
Simply roast up some pumpkin seeds and keep them on hand as your go-to fall snack.
2. Brussels sprouts — Brussels sprouts have seen a recent rise in popularity, and that’s a good thing as their buds are exceptionally rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Sprouts offer protection from vitamin A deficiency, bone loss and iron-deficiency anemia. They are also believed to help protect against cardiovascular diseases as well as colon and prostate cancer.
If the taste isn’t for you, try roasting instead of steaming: Roasting Brussels sprouts with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper caramelizes their natural sugars and brings out a sweetness that you won’t be able to resist.
3. Pears — When you’re looking for a healthy snack to munch on, turn to a pear.
One of the highest fiber fruits, pears offer about six grams that’ll help you meet your daily requirement of 25 to 30 grams. A high-fiber diet helps to keep your blood sugar level stable, cholesterol levels down, and is linked to heart benefits as well as a reduced risk of certain cancers.
Pears also contain vitamins C, K, B2, B3 and B6 in addition to calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
Pears are easy to incorporate into your fall menu as they’ll add a sweet kick to any dish. Try them on their own, baked or poached, chopped in a salad or in a soup.
4. Cauliflower — Bored with side salads but want to up the nutritional value of your side dish? Look no further than cauliflower.
Cauliflower is low in calories with only 26 per 100 grams, and the health benefits are top-notch. A flower head contains several anti-cancer phytochemicals and is an excellent source of vitamin C; 100 grams provides about 80% of the daily recommended value.
It also has a proven antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals while boosting immunity and preventing infections.
Fans of mashed potatoes can mash cauliflower instead for an easy alternative with about a quarter of the calories and an equal amount of deliciousness.
5. Sweet potatoes — Another Thanksgiving classic, sweet potatoes don’t need to be candied to be enjoyed. Full of natural sweetness, nothing tastes better than simply baking them. Top ’em with a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of nutmeg for added enjoyment.
Sweet potatoes are packed with calcium, potassium and vitamins. A medium-size sweet potato contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, nearly a third the vitamin C you need, almost 15% of your daily dietary fiber intake and 10% of the necessary potassium.
The plentiful antioxidants found in sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties, beneficial to those suffering from asthma or arthritis. You’ll never even miss the candied ones.
By Keri Gans, Special to CNN