How to eat for the season: fall

The ideal autumn diet helps transition your body from summer's lighter intake to heartier winter fare.

Why do we crave light, fresh salads in Springtime, refreshing fruits and high-energy carbs in Summer, and heartier, fattier fare in the Fall and Winter? There are greater things at work than the whims of appetite. In this series, we’ll look at the benefits of eating for each season.

If you’ve been following our seasonal series, by now you’re probably reaping the rewards of syncing the foods you eat to nature’s well-timed offerings. Improved digestion and increased energy may be two benefits you’ve experienced. Now we gear up for the subtle, easy shift into fall.

“This part of the year is a time of transition. As we get back into a more regimented routine, we look to foods for renewal, recharging, and rebalancing. In many ways, fall can be the most fun—it offers a grab-bag of whatever the end of summer brings us and then we naturally start craving heartier, more warming foods,” says chef Marissa Lippert, MS, RD, founder of Nourish Kitchen + Table.

The harvest now: A last-minute, summery mix of vibrant heirloom tomatoes and juicy peaches, as well as fruits like apples, pears, persimmon and quince; root veggies and squash, and dark leafy greens like rainbow chard and kale. “Fall is a time of cooling the body off before winter and getting ready for the dry, cold air. The fiber in fall fruits like apples and pears helps to clean out the accumulated heat of the summer months before moving into a heavier diet that typically would have seen our ancestors through winter,” says functional medicine specialist Susan Blum, MD, MPH, founder of the Blum Center for Health and author of The Immune System Recovery Plan.

The recommend: Pay attention to your body and the temperature outside, as you should transition to a winter diet with the weather, suggests Blum. When it gets brisk, move from grilling outdoors to roasting and baking in the oven and add in those starchier fruits and veggies as well as hearty grains like bulgur and oats. “Slow-release complex carbs allow for lengthier, stronger workouts, less inflammation and quicker recovery, which is great for marathon season,” notes Lippert.

These easy tips from Lippert will help you fall in line with the season:

1. Boost your overnight oatswith a fall fruit compote by cooking up some quince with cinnamon, vanilla, and fresh ginger.

2. Roast squash, root veggies, and tubers. Chop up a palate-pleasing mix of kabocha, sweet potato, turnips, parsnip, and rutabaga then toss with some wilted spinach or chard.

3. Turn your dishes into intriguing flavor bombs without adding calories by cooking with earthy fall spices and herbs. Try Aleppo pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, sage, and rosemary.