Creating Hearty Meals with Autumn Veggies

When the days grow cooler and the nights fall earlier, eating food that feels warming to the soul and nourishing to the body tends to come to mind.

So it’s not surprising that for many, the idea of a crisp, light salad or a chilled veggie plate isn’t exactly the most alluring idea for a meal.

At the same time, when we think ‘hearty’, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to ditch our low-glycemic nutritional plan by defaulting to heavy mashed potatoes, milk-based chowders or pasta with cream sauce.

While all three of the previous examples would be filling indeed, they’d also tend to leave one feeling weighed down and stuffed, rather than focused and prepared to carry on with great energy for the remainder of the day.

What is the happy medium, then?

What can we eat that will fit the bill of providing for the feel of a bit more of a sustainable meal, but not leave us ready for a nap?

You guessed it: autumn veggies.

To clarify, we’re talking broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage and the like.  

In other words, produce that can grow in colder climates.

And while many may automatically think of winter squash as a go-to, it’s not necessarily the best option to rely on at every meal.

First of all, they’re not technically a veggie, but a fruit[1].

Not that this detail is big deal in and of itself, but if we refer to how to best categorize how much we should eat from the veggie category compared to the fruits, it helps to put it in context.

(Psst: reminder:

  • Lots of low-glycemic, low-sugar veggies every day
  • Low to moderate low glycemic fruit, like berries
  • High glycemic fruit much less frequently, and always when timed properly with regard to exercise.)

Keeping in mind how important it is to consider glycemic index of foods, we can use a common winter squash as an example.

Acorn squash is a high-glycemic food. One-half cup of acorn squash has a GI of 75. This is close to the glycemic index of a white potato. The glycemic index ranks food with a GI of 55 or less as low, and 70 and above as high[2].

Yes, there is are a variety of squash types we can select and some are lower on the GI scale than acorn, however the point remains that it would behoove us to focus primarily on the crucifers and other winter veggies, whichever are available to us based on where we live.

Then comes the fun part.

How can we transform these delicious veggies into a warming meal without getting bored of steaming them, day in and day out?

  • Steam, but use that only as step one. Then, puree with any and every savory flavor you can think of, to create a hearty soup. Ever heard of cream of broccoli? Well, why not try it made without the cream and go heavier on the avocado? If you’re in a climate like we have here in LA, you can access this fantastic fruit year round. If not, add some garlic and warm it over low, then puree it before dousing it with some olive oil, and topping it off with some sliced, roast chicken.
  • Vary your fat source to avoid getting in an olive oil and garlic rut.   Try duck fat with green onion, lemongrass and ginger with any veggie of your choice, after giving it a quick parboil to speed up the cook time, then serve with baked, skin-on fish, of any variety you can find near your abode.
  • It doesn’t get easier than this.   Slice crucifers and onions, top with a few slices of natural, uncured bacon and place them in a roasting pan while you pan sear a piece of grass-fed flank.

Any time of year, veggies provide the foundation for what really is a plant-based diet. Grass-fed animals eat plants. Pasture raised and wild animals either eat plants or other animals, which ate plants.

We eat both.

And since Paleo is not an all protein, or all fat diet, but actually a balanced one with anywhere from 22 – 40% of calories coming from carbohydrate[3] (and those carbs are not coming from low quality source, but vegetables, as well as some from raw nuts and seeds), it is, in fact, plant based.

So, pile on the vegetables!



[1] “Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Fruit or Vegetable — Do You Know the Difference? The Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

[2] “What Is the Glycemic Index for Acorn Squash?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 02 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2015

[3] Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011. Print