Don't let a drop in temperature cool your desire to make healthy choices. While it may be tempting to spend TV night or NFL Sunday with your arm elbow-deep in a bag of chips, you can find plenty of healthy foods available this fall to help you stay in shape. Some seasonal edibles even tout belly-flattening benefits, from fats that fight blubber to fiber-rich vegetables that help curb your appetite, and many of these foods can also serve as healthy alternatives to otherwise high-sugar and high-fat foods that would stall weight loss, says Adam Friedman, CSCS, CNC, a member of the Gold's Gym Fitness Institute. So save the Halloween candy for the neighbors' kids and stock up on these fresh and healthy munchies for a slimmer body this fall.
The belly benefit: Magnesium
Save the seeds from this year’s jack-o’-lantern. Pumpkin seeds are packed with antioxidants and fiber, making this a nutritious snack choice. In addition, they are an excellent source of magnesium, which boosts your metabolism and can help provide energy. Mix them with a little olive oil and salt and bake in the oven for a crunchy, savory snack.
The belly benefit: Lean protein
This Thanksgiving staple is a great source of protein and is low in fat. It's a high-quality protein source that helps to maintain muscle mass and boost metabolism, said Friedman. Just skip the skin and dark meat, which is higher in fat and calories.
Search: Best protein sources
The belly benefit: Fiber
A sweet potato is a low-glycemic complex carbohydrate, which takes longer for the body to convert to glucose compared with a food that has a higher glycemic index, such as a white potato or rice, therefore giving you more sustained energy. It's also a good source of fiber, which can help you feel more satisfied.
The belly benefit: Low calorie, vitamin K
One cup of this oft-overlooked veggie contains just 36 calories and 20% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of dietary fiber and 10 times your daily allotment of bone-strengthening vitamin K, which also helps regulate insulin levels to keep blood sugar steady and hunger at bay. Spritz with cooking spray and bake in the oven until crispy for a nutritious substitute for potato chips.
The belly benefit: Fiber, protein
No longer just a punishment from Mom. One cup of this fall crop packs 3 g of equal parts soluble and insoluble fiber, which help stabilize blood sugar because they take longer to digest. Fiber is pretty typical in vegetables, but these little cabbages are full of another nutrient you might not expect: protein. One cup of sprouts carries 3 g of protein, which can help make you feel fuller longer and curb overeating. Roast with a little olive oil to achieve an almost sweet, addictive flavor.
The belly benefit: Low-carb starch
Cauliflower can be a good alternative to a belly-busting side dish: carb-heavy mashed potatoes. Just mix in a blender to create a healthier version of this comfort food. If concerned about the gas factor, take a digestive enzyme (like Beano) right after each meal, says Friedman.
The belly benefit: Low calorie
This winter squash is harvested in late summer and early fall. As the name implies, it can be a healthy and low-calorie substitute for spaghetti noodles. One cup of spaghetti squash contains only 31 calories and 7 g of carbohydrates (compared with more than 220 calories and 43 g of carbs in an equal-sized serving of pasta) and tastes great with spaghetti sauce, salt, and pepper on top.
The belly benefit: Healthy fats
An avocado is very low in sugar and high in monounsaturated fat, which is more easily converted into energy than polyunsaturated fat (the kind found in nuts and seeds), making it a healthy choice, says Friedman. Also, an avocado contains a whopping 10 g of fiber per cup, making it a truly satisfying snack.
The belly benefit: Fiber
This ubiquitous fall fruit contains 4 g of fiber, which can help manage hunger and also aid digestion. "When eaten 30 minutes to an hour before a meal containing protein and fat, apples can lead to better digestion and curb overeating," says Friedman. Apples are also rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and amino acids, which can help boost muscle growth.
The belly benefit: Calcium
The fig crop first appears in late July and stays in season through the early fall. The fig is rich in potassium and magnesium, and is a unique source of calcium--six fresh figs contain almost as much as half a cup of fat-free milk. According to a 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, boosting calcium consumption in those who are deficient can increase weight loss.
The belly benefit: Antioxidants
The pomegranate season is typically September through February, making fall the perfect time to load up on this superfruit. A single pomegranate contains about 234 calories, 11 g of fiber, and loads of potassium and antioxidants. Because of its high nutrition index, the pomegranate has inspired companies to develop a pill meant to help with weight loss. Friedman suggests you're better off eating the fruit, which may also help you stay healthy through flu season.
The belly benefit: Protein, calcium, fiber
This veggie is unique for its mix of minerals and nutrients. One cup contains 3 g of protein, 2 g of fiber, more vitamin C than an orange, and about 15% of your RDA for calcium, which some studies say can aid in weight loss for those who aren't getting enough calcium in their diets.
Next up: Food Swaps That Fight Belly Fat