Smart Swaps for Fall's Unhealthiest Foods

Indulge the healthy way with lighter versions of your favorite fall fare

pumpkin spice latte
iStock
'Tis the season for dropping temperatures and (fat-filled) comfort foods. Before you start packing on the cold-weather pounds, learn how to indulge the healthy way with lighter versions of your favorite fall fare.
1 of 10
pumpkin spice latte
iStock
Autumn beverages

Don’t let the “produce” in seasonal drinks deceive you. Seemingly innocuous beverages such as pumpkin spice lattes and apple cider can squeeze fat and sugar into a liquid form. Whipped cream, alcohol, and added sweeteners can bump the calorie total of one drink to more than 500 calories, says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, author of the series.

Swap: Sip a glass of red wine with your meal to avoid extra calories from fat- and sugar-laden additions to beverages like hot toddies and boozy ciders, says Keri Gans, RDN, author of . To satisfy a hot chocolate fix at home, heat up chocolate milk, which contains numerous vitamins and minerals — and fewer calories. If you indulge at a cafe, order the smallest beverage size available, opt for nonfat over whole milk, and just say no to the whipped cream.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
2 of 10
chili
Getty Images
Chili

Though it’s the perfect antidote to a cool day, the beef and cheese in chili can pile unwanted saturated fat into your diet. Plus, canned beans often pack extra sodium.

Swap: Use lean meat like ground turkey instead of fattier ground chucks. And experts recommend reducing the amount of meat in a recipe by adding in vegetables and beans to provide soluble fiber, which lowers LDL (the bad) cholesterol. Avoid unnecessary sodium by using canned beans with low or no added salt and rinsing them with water, says Gans. If you can’t forego the cheddar, sprinkle a small amount of reduced-fat cheese on top to help keep fat content in check.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
3 of 10
meatloaf
Getty Images
Meatloaf

Moms may love meatloaf for its convenience, but this school-year staple can come with a high price: saturated fat. Restaurant versions are also teeming with sodium.

Swap: Refrain from ordering meatloaf at a restaurant. Instead, prepare the comfort food at home and replace salt with spices to flavor the dish. Limit the saturated fat in your loaf by using lean meats such as ground chicken, sirloin, turkey, or bison instead of chuck. Try sneaking in a bit of oatmeal for some meat and boost the fiber content, says Salge Blake.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
4 of 10
apple turnover
Getty Images
Apple turnover

The flaky, buttery pastry you love results from heaps of butter laden with saturated fat. Even worse: Pre-packaged turnovers often harbor trans fat.

Swap: Shine the spotlight on in-season fruit instead of smothering apples with added fat, sugar, and a pastry crust. Sprinkle raisins and cinnamon on top of a cored apple before baking. Top the cooked fruit with low-fat Greek yogurt and enjoy for breakfast or a post-dinner treat. If you’re craving a more decadent dessert, make an apple crisp, says Salge Blake. Use oatmeal and whole-wheat flour for a fiber-filled, low-sugar crumble that will satisfy a sweet tooth.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
5 of 10
pumpkin bread
Getty Images
Fall breads

The amount of added sugar in pumpkin-chocolate chip, cranberry-orange, and caramel-apple breads makes these loaves as decadent as traditional desserts, says Gans. Treating them like breakfast breads won’t do your waistline any favors.

Swap: Instead of purchasing fall loaves, bake them at home where you can use whole-wheat flour and control the fat and sugar content. Increase the amount of fruit in the recipe and mix in less sugar. Consider adding oatmeal and chia or flax seeds to boost your daily fiber intake. For breads that call for chocolate chips, use a smaller portion of the mini variety, resulting in less added sugar and fat but a larger number of chips per slice, says Salge Blake.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
6 of 10
caramel corn
Getty Images
Caramel corn (or other embellished kernels)

This sweet treat pops up at parties and in gift baskets all season long. Caramel, butter, and other toppings contribute unhealthy fat and sugar, which overpower popcorn’s otherwise healthy whole grains.

Swap: For a less sinful seasonal snack, toss air-popped corn with apple or pumpkin pie spice to reduce sugar and fat. Use 100-calorie popcorn packs to help keep portions in check, says Salge Blake.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
7 of 10
roll cake
Getty Images
Roll cake

The signature element of these desserts — the spiral — often features fat alongside seasonal flavors such as pumpkin, apple, and German chocolate.

Swap: Limit your fat intake by savoring the fresh flavors of seasonal fruit, says Salge Blake. Use fresh and cooked fruits, like cooked apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon, rather than cream or custard in the swirl.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
8 of 10
hamburgers
Getty Images
Tailgate foods

Many key players in a classic tailgate spread — hamburgers, hot dogs, and dips — are loaded with fat. Veggies often warm the bench at these events.

Swap: Make burgers with whole-wheat buns, reduced-fat cheese, and lean meats such as ground turkey or sirloin. Or, try a veggie patty to limit your saturated fat, says Salge Blake. Replace calorie-laden, seven-layer dip with Greek yogurt dip or hummus. Ditch the potato or tortilla chips and stock up on fresh veggies or whole-wheat pita chips for dips. Trade mayo for yogurt in potato salads, and leave the fiber-filled skins on your spuds. Toss fruit on the grill for a naturally sweet dessert, says Gans. These clever swaps will make fiber, lean meat, and produce the MVPs of your next tailgate party.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
9 of 10
cranberry sauce
Getty Images
Cranberry sauce

This turkey topper also serves as a spread in fall sandwiches. Both canned and homemade versions have the same flaw: too much added sugar!

Swap: Use less sugar in your recipe — you probably won’t taste the difference, says Gans. Opt for natural sweeteners such as orange juice or citrus rind, and amp up the flavor with cinnamon and other spices before reaching for the sugar bowl. Cooking the sauce with whole cranberries adds fiber to the dish, too, says Salge Blake.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
10 of 10
bread pudding
Getty Images
Bread pudding

While this crowd-pleasing dish may offer a solution for day-old bread, the amount of fat can pose a problem for your diet.

Swap: Add fiber to this creamy dessert by preparing it with whole-wheat bread, says Salge Blake. Decrease the fat by using butter instead of oil and nonfat milk rather than cream. If you’re hosting a soiree, prep individual-size treats with help from a muffin tin. Not only will this control portion size, it will also be less messy to serve, says Gans.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below