How to Use the Foods of Fall

As much as the Texas heat wave may have had us thinking otherwise, fall is actually here and it seems that the fall weather may finally be arriving (fingers crossed).  As we dive into this new season we see less of the summer strawberries, mangos, peppers and tomatoes and more of the fall & winter favorites like greens, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash, apples and pears.

At times it can seem like a lot fewer options.  And many of you may be thinking, "What do I have to work with now?  Parsnips?  What the heck am I supposed to do with a parsnip?"  Well, let me tell you - you can do a lot of things with a parsnip, as well as the other array of fall and winter fruits and vegetables.  I discovered this in grad school when we had to choose a new fruit or vegetable every week and use it in a recipe.  I distinctly remember getting the parsnip.  But I digress...

I have put together a list of ideas below that I incorporate into weekly meals and snacks or that I'm excited to work on incorporating this year (so many new foods and combinations to try!).  From these I hope you can find at least a few fun and fueling fall meal and snack ideas for you and your active family to enjoy.

Happy Fueling!


  • Butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash

  • Sweet potatoes and white potatoes

  • Parsnips

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Apples

  • Pears

  • Grapes

  • Oranges

  • Greens (mustard, collard, turnip, etc.)

  • Pumpkin

  • Cranberries

  • Cauliflower

  • Mushrooms


  • Make a cinnamon apple oatmeal (let the apples and oatmeal simmer over the stove together until the apples are sweet and soft and the flavors blend into the warm oats.)

  • Top plain or vanilla yogurt with diced pears and a dash of cinnamon.

  • Add sautéed greens to your omelets.

  • Stir pureed pumpkin into warm oatmeal and top with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

  • Add cranberries to breads, sauces and trail mixes.

  • Add pureed pumpkin to breads to get that fall flavor and, if trying to make your item a bit healthier, to keep a moist crumb while decreasing the butter

  • Make peanut butter apple rings by coring & slicing an apple so that you have apple rings. Taking 2 rings, spread about 1 teaspoon of peanut butter on one side, sprinkle cinnamon onto peanut butter, and top with the 2nd ring for a fast and easy apple & peanut butter on the go.


  • Add thin slices of your favorite apple variety to your turkey & cheese sandwich.

  • Try a lunchbox sweet potato bar (Include the small baked sweet potato wrapped in foil accompanied by small containers each filled with a variety of toppings to choose from!).

  • Make a hearty salad by filling your bowl with mixed greens, roasted cauliflower, roasted pumpkin seeds, quartered baby bella mushrooms, diced apples, & your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

  • Make a Fall Vegetable Soup but filling your regular vegetable soup recipe with hearty fall and winter vegetables (carrots, butternut squash, greens, parsnips, mushrooms, cauliflower).


  • Balsamic Glazed Chicken with roasted carrots and broccoli.

  • Grilled Dijon salmon with roasted parsnips and brussels sprouts.

  • Make your own Fall Garden Pizza by including roasted cauliflower, mushrooms & greens on your homemade pizzas (one of my favorite restaurants in Memphis, Trolley Stop Market, will do this and even add sweet potatoes. They have a pizza that constantly rotates and they throw on whatever is fresh out of their garden. It's the BEST!)

  • Put a spin on the traditional summer salad & instead make a hearty fall dinner salad with roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mushrooms & sweet potatoes. Top with beans, chicken or other protein of choice, a sprinkle of dried cranberries & a drizzle of dressing.

  • Pull out your favorite pumpkin soup recipe and top with roasted pepitas and a side of rustic whole grain bread.

  • Keep dinner simple and stuff a whole - wheat pita with grilled or rotisserie chicken, mixed greens already drizzled with some balsamic vinegar, sliced pears, and crumbled cheese like feta.

  • Try serving mini cheeseburger sliders with oven - roasted parsnip fries and diced sauteed cinnamon pears for dessert.

Food to Fuel the After-School Practice

School has officially begun or is about to begin.  While mom and dad work hard to get a balanced breakfast in their young athlete in the morning, the athlete is now on his or her own for about 7 hours a day in regards to food and nutrition.  This seven hours is a time that can include fueling for an afternoon practice or recovering from a morning workout.  However, often times it is not.  No one is close to guide the athlete's food choices, remind him or her to drink water, to see what he or she had for lunch or to see if lunch was even eaten.  

The challenge for the child or teen athlete is to not get so caught up in projects, friends and activities during the day that they miss snacks, skip lunch or forget to drink fluids.  Many times we see athletes skip lunch to finish last-minute schoolwork, hang out with their friends or simply because nothing appeals to them at lunch.  They either arrive to practice way under-fueled or they may grab fast - food on the way to practice or a game.  Either situation usually leads to a sluggish athlete and sub-optimal practice.

There is only so much we, as the parent, the coach, the dietitian, the trainer, the (fill in the blank) can do, but we can at least help explain to our athletes what an impact their food & drink choices throughout the day have on their practices and performances.  After talking we should then show them how to take this information and make it tangible.  We can work with them to find fueling healthy snack and lunch options that they can take with them to school, keeping in mind that this is going to have to be a compromise.  The meal or snack can be super healthy, but if they won't eat it, the health factor does not matter.  When working with your athletes you should:

  1. Go through the kind of foods they need to fuel (carbs, protein, a little healthy fat).

  2. Have them pick out food that they WILL EAT out of the list you created together.

  3. Help the athletes assemble their meal and snack bag for the day.

Get started assembling fueling meals & snacks with the below general guidelines and examples...


  • favorite low sugar whole grain cereal

  • whole grain bread, pasta, wrap

  • Whole grain crackers


  • favorite fresh fruit

  • favorite dried fruit


  • raw veggies

  • cooked veggies


  • poultry / fish (salmon or tuna for a bonus of healthy fats) / lean beef

  • beans / tofu / eggs


  • low-fat plain milk or chocolate milk

  • low-fat yogurt

  • low-fat cottage cheese

  • cheese slices / sticks


  • avocado

  • nuts & seeds

  • nut butter or seed butter (like sun butter for those with a nut allergy)

  • olive oil / olive oil - based salad dressings

  • if you choose salmon or tuna as your protein, you will also be getting some healthy fat



  • low-fat milk

  • smoothies

  • Gatorade (for during or after intense practices in the high heat)

  • 100% fruit juice (for added calories)

  • remember that foods like fruits & vegetables, yogurts, applesauce & soups also contribute fluid


  • dried fruit

  • fresh fruit

  • pretzels

  • graham crackers

  • juice box

  • toast (white bread) with jam

  • low fiber, low protein granola bar


  • Turkey & cheese wrap with lettuce, tomato, hummus + an apple

  • Tuna salad (made with a mix of light mayo & mustard) + crackers + grapes

  • Peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich

  • Salad with fresh veggies, grilled chicken + vinaigrette dressing

  • Bean and veggie soup

  • Cooked oatmeal made with low-fat milk, cinnamon, about 1 tsp of honey and fresh fruit on top

  • Bowl of cereal with low-fat milk topped with fresh fruit

  • Toaster waffle sandwich (with peanut butter and jelly)

  • Cottage cheese with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, turkey slices and a dash of salt & pepper

  • Chicken salad (see my Confetti Chicken Salad Recipe to be posted next week!) with whole grain crackers and fruit

  • Cooked whole - wheat pasta spirals with roasted tomatoes, oregano, thyme and ground turkey + fresh fruit

  • Mexican Salad Bowl: 1/2 cup cooked quinoa + 1 cup cooked veggies + 1/2 cup black beans (rinsed & drained) + 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro + 1/4 cup salsa mixed in + 1/4 cup low-fat feta

  • Trail mix made with unsalted dry roasted almonds, dried cherries and whole grain cereal

  • Graham crackers topped with nut butter & dried cherries or raisins

  • Hardboiled eggs + carrot slices & hummus + an apple

  • Whole grain granola bar (I like Kashi, some KIND bars, Larabar, & some varieties of NuGo Slim) + low fat Greek yogurt.

I hope this gives you a little guidance as to how to help you and your athlete eat for afternoon and evening practices and games.  Follow it strictly or use it as a base to create your own delicious and energizing meals and snacks.

Happy Fueling!  

Fuel Your Workday AND Your Workouts

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It's a busy day with so much to do.  Whatever you have on your plate, whether it's keeping the kids on schedule, getting to work on time, finishing a project or presenting a huge work presentation, the end of the day can find you weary and drained.  That's when it's hardest to get in your workout.  While you know the workout will make you feel better, the actual process of getting there and getting started can feel like too much work in itself.  There has to be a better way to get through the day, right?  RIGHT.

Sometimes a better nutrition strategy is all we need to give us a boost and help us through our day (Sleep is also huge but that's a post for another day).  Here I'm going to share with you six simple strategies to take with you during the work or school day that will keep you sharp, keep you healthy, and keep you energized.  Please keep in mind that this does not necessarily apply to those in intense training for sport as those individuals may need larger portions, more carbohydrate, and more snacks.  These strategies are more for the individual fitting exercise into their workday to feel better and stay healthy or those just beginning an exercise / training program.  If this is you, I hope you can incorporate a few of these strategies to whatever degree you are able and that it gives you a boost in your energy, your productivity and your workouts.

1.  Eat a good breakfast.

  • This does not mean donuts, or only coffee, or hash browns from the drive-through.  However, it doesn't necessarily mean a big sit-down hot breakfast either.

  • Aim to get around 10 grams or more of protein in your breakfast, at least 3 grams of fiber and some complex carbohydrate (from whole grains, fruit, or low-fat dairy).

  • Examples?  

    • Low-fat Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup low-fat granola (I currently am loving the KIND Cinnamon Flax Seed granola) + 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

    • 1 whole grain granola bar + 1 nonfat latte (regular or soy) + 1 orange

    • 1 or 2 hard boiled eggs + 1/2 cup red seedless grapes + 1/2 whole grain English muffin

    • 1/2 - 1 whole peanut butter & banana sandwich + 8 oz nonfat milk

    • 1/2 - 1 whole turkey & cheese sandwich (on whole - wheat bread)

    • Homemade trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, whole grain low sugar cereal) + 8 oz. nonfat milk or nonfat latte

2.  Don't skip meals.  Period.

  • Don't have time for lunch?  Make sure you pack hearty snacks to get you through the day.

  • What do I mean by hearty?  Choose at least 2 -3 out of the 5 food groups per snack

  • Examples?  

    • Whole - wheat tortilla with nut butter and sliced bananas

    • Trail mix with whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and almonds 

    • Whole grain crackers + cheese + apple slices

    • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with veggies or fruit 

    • Greek yogurt with low-fat granola

3.  Keep things lighter at lunch.

  • Try to go for leaner lunches that energize you instead of tire you out.

  • Examples?  

    • Salads with grilled chicken, tuna or salmon

    • Roasted vegetable, chicken and quinoa bowl

    • Homemade chicken salad (made with nonfat yogurt, diced veggies and fresh or dried fruit)

    • Turkey wraps

    • Vegetable or other broth - based soup with whole-grain crackers & fruit

4.  Drink water throughout the day.  It's amazing how not getting enough can zap our energy.

  • Remember that you can also stay hydrated by eating foods with a high water content like fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurts, soups and smoothies.

5.  Choose foods and meals with lean protein and complex carbohydrates.

  • The combination of protein and complex carbohydrate promotes a steady rise and fall in blood sugars.

  • The spiking and crashing of blood sugars (in diets mostly comprised of simple carbohydrates like refined breads, pastas, cakes, and candies and minimal protein) leaves us very lethargic and can put more stress on the body.

6.  Make sure to pack fueling snacks.

  • If your workout is 4 to 5 hours after your last meal, make sure you pack a snack.

  • Starting a workout under-fueled is only going to inhibit your workout.  If you're working to build lean muscle, training for a marathon or triathlon, or just trying to increase running time or distance, don't expect your body to take you further if you aren't giving it the resources it needs to get you there.

  • You have to start your workouts fueled so that you can give it your all.  Only when you are able to give it your all will you be able to improve.  So start fueled.  If you notice you feel tired or faint early into your workout, that probably means you didn't start fueled.  Grab an apple, a small nonfat yogurt, some dried or fresh fruit, whole grain crackers or a low-fiber, low-fat granola bar about 30 minutes to an hour before your workout.  You should soon start to see an improvement in your practice and workouts and therefore greater progress towards your goals.


(A) If your workout consists of cardio - that's when you want to keep your snack low-fat and low fiber with minimal protein to avoid cramping and an upset stomach during your workout.  During cardio your body typically either focuses on the workout or digestion - so make digestion as easy as possible.

(B) If your workout is going to be resistance training or very low-intensity cardio, you may be able to include a little more protein and fiber in your pre-workout snack or meal.  The workout and digestion should not conflict here.

Happy Fueling!

Be Supplement Savvy

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If you feel you must supplement, make sure you are choosing supplements that are safe.  Did you know that the FDA does not regulate supplements?  The FDA only intervenes and can pull a supplement off the shelf if it has been found to be unsafe.  This basically means that someone has to have an adverse reaction bad enough that it becomes big enough news for the FDA to step in. Because the FDA does not regulate, we are relying on the manufacturer to be truthful in its ingredients listings and trust that it contains no more and no less than what it states on the label.  Unfortunately, studies and testing have found that the label is not always completely accurate.  This can be dangerous to any individual;  however, it can be even more detrimental to the young athlete because the unmentioned ingredient in a supplement may be one that is banned in sport (such as a stimulant).  If an athlete were to be tested and found positive for a banned substance, their defense of "not knowing" would not suffice.

All of that to say, there are several organizations that regulate supplements and examine them for good manufacturing practices and truth in labeling.  You can look up specific supplements on the organization's websites and some of them include a label on all supplements they have reviewed and approved (like the USP stamp above).  Check out one of thee sites below before you or your athlete start to supplement:

NSF Certified for Sport -

U.S. Pharmacopeia -

Drug Free Sport -

Informed Choice -

As a reminder, unless otherwise stated by your doctor, you should be able to obtain optimal fuel and nutrition from the foods you eat and the drinks you drink.  However, if supplementation is still needed or desired, I hope this information can be used as a guide to make the safest choices.

Supplement Safely & Happy Fueling!

- Taylor

Find It In Your Food

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This month is all about the facts in our food.  Its focus is on learning about the food we eat and why our bodies need it.  While, yes, supplements are certainly required and necessary for certain medical reasons, the generally healthy person can acquire what they need through the foods that they eat.  If we are choosing the right foods, we are often getting a lot more nutrition in these foods than we think.

I will go into detail about supplements in a later post, but, overall, this month I want you to explore with me the power and magnificence of pure, fresh food and the benefits that these foods hold - the ability to energize our bodies, clear our minds, improve our moods, sharpen our eyes, speed our healing, brighten our smiles, and tantalize our taste buds.  I think food is powerful, magical, medicinal, and, other medical complications aside, it can provide all that we need to be and work at our best.  As long as I'm able, I will pick food first.  I will choose the delight of smelling it, tasting it, pairing its different flavors and textures and temperatures, sharing it with good friends and family, or simply breaking for 10 minutes to savor it on my own over taking pills and supplements.

I hope this month you share in my love and joy and excitement for fresh wholesome food and learn the ways it can empower you to be your strongest, fastest, sharpest self.

Below is a general guide to knowing your food better.  Of course, some of these foods contain more vitamins and minerals than I list here, but I'm including what I get asked about most often.  Follow along on my Instagram account (@thediningdietitian) to learn more about the nutrients in your food this month!


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Meat [beef, poultry, chicken, fish, & eggs] &                               "Meat Substitutes" [beans, tofu, lentils or "plant proteins"]

  • Iron

  • Protein

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin B12 [only in animal sources]

  • NOTE: Pair a source of vitamin C with the plant sources to improve their iron absorption in the body.

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Green Fruits & Veggies [leafy greens, broccoli, avocado, kiwi]

  • Iron (not as much in kiwi)

  • Folate

  • Vitamin K

  • Potassium

  • Carotenoids (such as lutein in avocado)

Red Fruits & Veggies [bell peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit]

  • Lycopene

  • Vitamin C

Yellow / Orange Fruits & Veggies [carrots, mango, winter squash, sweet potato, cantaloupe, apricots,  pumpkin]

  • Vitamin C

  • Beta - carotene (precursor to vitamin A in the body)

Blue / Purple Fruits & Veggies [eggplant, plums, blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate]

  • Anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants)

Whole Grains [rice, quinoa, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, granola bars, bulgur, etc.]

  • Fiber

  • Phosphorus

  • Magnesium

  • Iron (if iron fortified)

  • Manganese

  • Protein (in varying amounts)

Low-Fat Dairy [milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.]

  • Protein (whey & casein - a good combination for building or maintaining lean muscle)

  • Calcium

  • Potassium

  • Vitamin D (in fortified products)

Healthy Fats [olive, canola & flaxseed oil, nuts & seeds, nut & seed butter, avocado, salmon & tuna]

  • Monounsaturated Fats

  • Polyunsaturated Fats

  • Vitamin E

I hope you can use this list as an easy guide to fill your and your athlete's plates, lunch boxes, and snack bags this summer.  Be on the lookout for more posts detailing what these specific nutrients can do for you!

Happy Fueling!