Fall's Finest Farm Stand Picks for Diabetics

If you're diabetic, autumn is a fabulous time to enjoy the fresh treats from the field and the orchard.

Picture tawny pumpkins piled high at farm stands, bushels of crisp, juicy apples, hearty greens, crunchy cabbage, and all kinds of colorful hard-shelled squash. Not only is fall produce delicious, but it's loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

"Choosing colorful fruits and vegetables in the fall gives you fresh, ripe options," says Adee Rasabi, RD, CDN, CDE, senior dietitian of the Ambulatory Care Network at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Keep in mind that the less you cook vegetables, the more nutrients they retain, she says.

Many fall fruits and vegetables, like squash, apples and pumpkins, contain carbohydrates and must be factored into your meal plan. Some, like leafy greens, onions and garlic, are "free" foods and can be eaten in unlimited quantities, says Susan Kasik-Miller, RD, a nutritionist at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

"Be sure to include the produce that contains carbs as part of your meal and include it in your carbohydrate allotment for that particular meal," Kasik-Miller says.

Here, a dozen of fall's finest farm stand picks:

  1. Cranberries: Eat all you like raw, but they're so incredibly tart you probably won't feel like eating many. Still, cranberries can be chopped, sweetened with a non-nutritive sweetener, and served as a sauce with meats.
  2. Brussels sprouts: Try these oven-roasted or steamed. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  3. Kale and other winter greens: Make them into a vegetable soup. Use tomato, chicken or vegetable broth as a base and add kale, leeks, carrots, and fresh with herbs and spices. Cook until the vegetables are fork-tender.
  4. Apples: Core an apple and place it in a baking pan. Sprinkle the hole with cinnamon and nutmeg, bake till soft and serve with a dollop of yogurt. Apples also make great salads. Try making a version of Waldorf salad with apples, celery, and nuts. Use a non-fat, sugar-free vanilla yogurt as a dressing. Or slice apples, toss with greens and blue cheese, and top with a fat-free vinaigrette dressing.
  5. Garlic: Use this "free food" in your savory dishes. Toss it in stir-fries or chopped fine in a salad. Roast and squeeze out the puree to serve as a spread on bread or crackers.
  6. Squash: Roast butternut or acorn squash until very tender, then mash and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  7. Pumpkin: Buy the small sugar pumpkins, cut into chunks, and roast until tender. Puree and use in custard made with a non-nutritive sweetener and evaporated fat-free milk, or make into a soup with a sprinkle of curry powder.
  8. Cauliflower: Look for big, snowy heads. Cut up into florets and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little garlic powder and salt, and roast until soft.
  9. Carrots: Try steaming these and then pureeing in a blender with chicken broth to create a delicious soup. They're always wonderful in salads.
  10. Turnips: A homely vegetable, to be sure, but deliciously sweet and flavorful when roasted. You can also add these to soups and stews.
  11. Cabbage: Chop or shred and toss with grated carrot and low-fat coleslaw dressing, or slice into shreds and stir-fry with a little olive oil and seasonings.
  12. Onions: Peel, cut into thick slices, and roast until soft, then use in salads and in sandwiches. Onions also lend their inimitable flavor to soups and stews.