Fall is here and the days of outdoor bar-b-ques and chilled dishes are over. Now is the season for warm, hearty meals. If you’re looking to eat healthier and increase the nutritional quality of your food without skimping on taste, here are 5 amazing and delicious whole food-based dinners to swap in today for your less healthy dishes.
#1 – Chili
Who doesn’t love chili? It’s a fall and winter staple with enough variations to suit the palettes of vegans to carnivores. But did you know that this hearty meal can come packed with tons of health benefits when you start with a bean base and add onto that?
Beans are one of the best, most nutritionally dense foods out there. They’re a wonderful whole food – loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. They feed our beneficial gut bacteria that do so much for our health, be it our mental and neurological health to our digestive and immune health. Beneficial bacteria love love love beans. Beans are also one of the few foods tied to health and longevity regardless of age, sex, or race. Unfortunately, we in the West, and especially in America, aren’t eating enough beans. We need about 2 cups a week but eat barely 2 pounds a year.
For a really healthy chili, base it around beans. Make them the super stars before adding anything else. Then add in ingredients like fresh tomatoes, bell peppers and corn. Carnivores, if you’re wanting meaty versions, go for fresh meat from the butcher’s section over processed and preseasoned cuts.
In fact, make your own chili instead of just grabbing sugar and preservative-heavy cans or heat and serve meals. Your body will thank you. After all, sugar and salt, along with other preservatives, will hurt your beneficial gut bacteria which we are wanting to feed, not destroy. You don’t have to used dried beans. You can used canned beans in a pinch but remember to go low sodium, drain and rinse them.
Chili is easy to make and amazingly delicious. No matter where you look, you’ll find a recipe to tickle your taste buds.
#2 – Hearty Stew
Similarly, when the autumn night temperatures drop, stew is a warming and comforting meal to please all palettes. Stew is an easy staple to make for anyone as the nights lengthen. Base it around vegetables like potatoes, carrots, green beans, and veggie favorites before adding in options like meat. You’ll be loading up on vitamins and minerals this way and create a rich and tasty broth.
Something to steer clear of is pasta or noodles. These are made from refined flours and gluten that won’t do your body any favors. Instead, substitute whole grains like brown rice or barley (though barley contains gluten).
To make a quick stew, feel free to use frozen vegetables or canned beans but avoid the processed soup cans with more chemicals, sugar and salt than real ingredients. You want real ingredients. That’s the point and the true path to health. Processed foods aren’t our friend.
#3 – Butternut Squash
Fall is the season of squashes like butternut, acorn and pumpkin. Take advantage to try out wonderfully satisfying meals with them as the superstars. You can create amazing dishes using them as the main ingredient. Better yet, they are packed with more nutrition in one cup than you can get by combining many common foods.
Butternut squash offers a good supply of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. It’s also a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, and manganese. A cup of cubed butternut squash also provides 582 mg of potassium, more than the amount available in a banana. The nutritional content of squash makes it beneficial for digestion, blood pressure, and for healthy skin and hair, among others.
Steamed, roasted, baked or sauteed – these meals are heart-warming, especially when paired with cinnamon, garlic and tossed with nuts and raisins. Go with pre-cut or frozen squash for easy cooking. Don’t forget to toss in a handful of your favorite raw nuts for added nutrition as nuts are high in many essential vitamins and minerals.
Try out this honey garlic butternut squash dish for a real crowd-pleaser this fall.
#4 – Chickpea & Spinach Curry
We eat a lot of refined carbs in the West. A recent study reported that refined carbs make up 42% of the American diet. Pasta is one of our dinner staples but it’s actually a refined carb made from heavily process and nutritionally void flour. Many people don’t realize this. It digests fast and hits our blood streams hard. For those with any gluten sensitivities, the wheat can cause inflammation, digestive issues and autoimmune problems – just to name a few. See my article The #1 Reason Everyone Should Go Gluten-Free.
Instead of eating pasta with sugary sauce poured over it, why not swap in a delicious curry based around health-giving chickpeas and full of veggies high in vitamins and minerals? You’ll give your body a break from sugary, salt-laced sauces and processed flour without skimping on hearty taste or a satisfyingly filling meal.
Check out this 10 minute chickpea and spinach curry recipe made from real, whole ingredients.
#5 – Baked Fish & Quinoa
If you’re needing to cut down on your red meat consumption or looking to go pescatarian, why not pick up a hearty fish recipe or two to substitute out less healthy meals?
Fish usually carry pretty impressive amounts of protein compared to their calorie content. They are impressive in their amounts of vitamins and minerals. Most are rich in niacin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, selenium and potassium in addition to their omega-3 count.
Serve fish with quinoa (a whole grain) cooked with diced apples for a hearty and delicious meal sure to please your palette. Why quinoa? Quinoa is one of the world’s most popular health foods. It is gluten-free, high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.
Real Food for the Health & Taste Win
Ditch the processed, heat and serve health hazards in your menu line up for simple but filling real food based dinners. These 5 easy, delicious and healthy dishes for the autumn are sure to please without you slaving away in the kitchen or spending your entire paycheck. In addition, you’ll be getting quality nutrition from whole food ingredients that will provide your body and mind the nutrients they need to maintain and repair themselves in optimum health, which means added vitality and energy in your every day life. Make the switch today and enjoy every bite!
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