Pick-Your-Own Farmer’s Market Challenge (Fall Edition)

Lauren Krouse
by Lauren Krouse
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Pick-Your-Own Farmer’s Market Challenge (Fall Edition)

Taking a trip to your local farmer’s market is not only a great way to log some extra steps, but it’s also ideal for stocking up on the freshest, most nutritious and colorful produce. As the weather cools, fall produce is perfect for comforting soups and stews, apple pancakes, beet salads and more.

Here, we share 15 iconic fall foods to try this season, their health benefits and creative ways to cook with them. We challenge you to see how many you can try and to share your journey in the comments below.

These dark green-orange squashes make for a sweet and slightly nutty treat rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants including vitamins A and C, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and manganese.

Health benefits 

  • Rich in vitamin C
  • High in fiber
  • Packed with antioxidants

Cooking tips: For a healthy side, serve acorn squash steamed or roasted with minimal cooking oil, or use it as a featured ingredient in a savory meal. Try making a date night-worthy portobello mushroom and squash barley risotto or keep it simple with an acorn squash egg-in-the-hole.

The classic fall snack, apples are nutrient-packed and low in calories, with just 80 calories per medium-sized fruit. A trip to the orchard to pick your own is also a great family-friendly activity that can up your step count.

Health benefits: 

  • Good source of fiber
  • Rich in antioxidants, including heart-healthy flavonoids
  • High in pectin, a prebiotic that can help lower cholesterol

Cooking tips: Apples are ever-versatile — enjoy them as a raw, hand-held snack or toss them into saladspancakesovernight oats and desserts.

Brilliantly vibrant in color and sweet and earthy in taste, beets (also known as beetroot) are a highly flavorful, nutritious and low-calorie root veggie.

Health benefits: 

  • Good source of fiber
  • High in nitrates, which can lower blood pressure and improve exercise performance/recovery
  • Great source of folate, a B vitamin key for cell function and tissue growth

Cooking tips: Delicious sautéed, roasted or even blended into a radiant pink berry smoothie, beets can also serve as a healthy dessert base, like in these beet brownies with vegan chocolate ganache frosting.

When prepared properly even the pickiest of eaters will love this powerhouse veggie, which can help boost your immune system during the fall cold and flu season .

Health benefits: 

  • Rich in vitamin K, which supports healthy bones
  • High in vitamin C
  • Contains kaempferol, an antioxidant which may support heart health and lower inflammation

Cooking tips: These mini-cabbages may start out tough and bitter, but when cooked they become soft, nutty and sweet. Let Brussels sprouts shine as a standalone side or mix them into a simple dish, like chicken and wild rice bowls.

Another fall staple, butternut squash is easy to slice and roast into a beautiful, golden-orange side. Sweet and slightly nutty in taste, it’s low in calories and packed with nutrients.

Health benefits: 

  • Rich in vitamins A and C
  • High in magnesium, potassium and manganese
  • Packed with fiber

Cooking tips: Roast butternut squash in a medley of autumnal veggies, bake it into a creamy lasagna or add it to hearty chili.

Perhaps one of the most underrated veggies, cabbage makes a great base for traditional sides around the world like coleslaw, sauerkraut and kimchi. Grab a head (or two) of this crunchy, low-cost veggie — it’s got lots to offer in the nutrition department.

Health benefits: 

  • Low in calories (just 22 per cup or 89g)
  • Rich in vitamins C and K
  • Contains gut-friendly insoluble fiber

Cooking tips: Make a speedy 10-minute coleslaw, use it in a crispy Vietnamese lemongrass chicken salad, or try it in Indian-inspired oats uttapam pancakes.

A bundle of carrots presents so many culinary possibilities, from simple, crunchy snacks to sweet sides and desserts. They’re low in calories, have a high water content to help keep you hydrated and a budget-friendly pick.

Health benefits: 

  • Rich in beta carotene, which protects eye health
  • Good source of B vitamins, vitamin K and potassium
  • Contain antioxidants linked to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer

Cooking tips: In addition to salads or snacking on them raw, get creative with carrots by trying these carrot cake protein bars or this creamy cauliflower and carrot soup.

The low-carb alternative to rice, pizza crust, potatoes, and more, cauliflower offers loads of nutrients for very few calories (just 25 per cup or 128 grams).

Health benefits: 

  • Rich in vitamin C (nearly half of the recommended daily allowance in1/2 cup or 62 grams)
  • Good source of folate, vitamin K, vitamin B6 and manganese
  • High in antioxidants

Cooking tips: Transform cauliflower into healthier versions of cheesy breadsticks, bagels, and more. You can also make cauliflower mac n’ cheese, use it in this paella with shrimp or feature the veggie in a loaded cauliflower bake.

They might not be the first fruit on your grocery list, but figs are delicious on their own and as natural sweeteners. Pro tip: Before you buy figs, make sure they’re firm but not hard (figs don’t ripen well after they’ve been picked).

Health benefits: 

  • Low-calorie treat (only 47 calories in 1 fruit)
  • Good source of fiber
  • Greatest plant source of calcium

Cooking tips: Enjoy figs raw, dried, grilled, or roasted. For a tasty pairing, add them to a healthy cheese plate or use them as an alternative to refined sugar in raw energy bars.

One of the most popular superfoods, kale might just live up to the craze. The dark, leafy green is nutrient-dense and offers a unique flavor and texture, whether raw, cooked, or baked.

Health benefits: 

  • Great source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese
  • Good source of fiber, folate and iron
  • High in anti-cancer, heart-protective antioxidants

Cooking tips: Use kale as a salad base, or toss a handful of leaves with olive oil and spices, then bake them in the oven for crispy kale chips. Or try it in this broccoli cheddar quiche or this lentil miso soup.

The sometimes overlooked cousin to carrots, this cream-colored root vegetable adds a spicy bite to meals along with beneficial fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Health benefits: 

  • Good source of fiber
  • Contains vitamin C, folate and manganese
  • Rich in polyacetylenes, an antioxidant that may help prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease

Cooking tips: Add parsnips to soups, stews, roasts, gratins, and sautés with other root veggies like carrots, potatoes and turnips. Steam and mash parsnips for a healthy side, or spice things up with baked garlic parmesan parsnip fries (a low-cal alternative to your go-to spuds).

These delectably juicy 100-calorie fruits provide a healthy dose of fiber and nutrients. Better yet, 2 pears a day may even support weight loss and improve heart health, according to a small study in Food & Function.

Health benefits: 

  • Good source of vitamin C and copper
  • Rich in fiber (6 grams in 1 medium-sized pear)
  • Rich in flavonoids, antioxidants which may lower your risk of disease

Cooking tips: Eat pears whole, sliced or in chip-form and add them to sweet and savory dishes — they make for a nutritious addition to pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies, salads and roasted chicken and pork.

French fries give potatoes a bad rap, but when prepared healthfully, spuds are highly nutritious and filling, making them a potentially weight-loss friendly pick, per the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Better yet, potatoes tend to be one of the most affordable options available at the farmer’s market, so go ahead and buy them in bulk.

Health benefits: 

  • Rich in antioxidants including flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids which may lower your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease
  • Rich in vitamins C, B6, potassium and magnesium
  • Good source of resistant starch, which feeds beneficial gut bacteria

Cooking tips: As cool weather rolls in, you can’t go wrong with healthy comfort foods: whip up some loaded potato soup or parmesan smashed potatoes, and impress dinner guests with the perfect pairing of rosemary roasted chicken and potatoes. When you can, leave the skin on — it’s where much of potatoes’ nutrients (and fiber) are stored.

Now’s the time for pumpkin everything. Since pumpkins are a highly nutritionally-dense food (with less than 50 calories per cup or 245 grams), grab a couple for your porch and your plate.

Health benefits: 

  • High in antioxidants
  • Rich in vitamins A and C
  • Good source of filling fiber

Cooking tips: Bake pumpkin into muffinstea cakes and pancakes. Stir it into soups and stews; sauté it in a stir fry; and even blend it into your morning latteoatmeal or smoothies.

Sweet potatoes aren’t just candy in root vegetable-form — they’re also packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Health benefits: 

  • Rich in antioxidants, including beta-carotene for eye health
  • 6 grams of fiber per cup
  • High in vitamin A for a strong immune system

Cooking tips: There are endless ways to serve sweet potatoes: Roast them on a sheet pan with a medley of fall veggies and protein, slice them into crispy fries, bake them into muffins, toss them into the slow cooker for curry, or make them the star of a dessert-worthy sweet potato casserole.

About the Author

Lauren Krouse
Lauren Krouse

Lauren Krouse is a freelance writer and researcher based in North Carolina. A graduate of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program at UNC-Wilmington, she loves writing about all things health, fitness, politics, and activism. When she’s not typing away, you can find her meditating, weightlifting, playing soccer, or walking in the woods with her partner and two rescue dogs.

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