6 Delicious Fall Recipes That Are Dietitian-Approved

By Samantha Cassetty, R.D.
Reviewed by Daniel Lew, M.D.
September 25, 2023

A balanced diet can certainly include some Halloween treats and pumpkin-spiced desserts, but if you want to feel your best during the fall festivities, you’ll want to nourish yourself with healthier foods, too. So, we rounded up some surprisingly healthy recipes that involve autumn’s festive flavors.

What Makes a Healthy Recipe?

If you’re trying to eat better, use these criteria to gauge the healthfulness of recipes.

  • It contains plant-heavy, whole food ingredients. Research suggests that eating a diverse range of plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes) is tied to a healthier gut microbiome (microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, and microscopic eukaryotes, that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other animals). Beneficial gut microbes may also help influence overall health and wellness, in part by helping to regulate factors such as immune functioning and inflammation.
  • It has healthier ingredients compared to traditional recipes. Look for recipes that contain nutrition upgrades: healthier versions of ingredients, such as whole-wheat flour instead of white flour, low-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or 100 percent juice as a sweetener instead of sugar.
  • It reduces foods and nutrients you’re better off limiting. For example, a recipe may lower the sugar, sodium, artificial flavors or sweeteners, or saturated or trans fat counts compared to a more conventional version.
  • It offers some nutritional value. Food should taste delicious, but meals and snacks are also an opportunity to supply your body with nourishing fuel. Recipes that offer protein and fiber can help you manage hunger, while wholesome carb-rich ingredients can provide you with steady energy. And whole foods provide the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and bioactive substances needed for good health.
  • It doesn’t have artificial ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners. These ingredients can be okay sometimes, but questions remain about their healthfulness, with one study showing a possible correlation to cancer.

Healthy Fall Recipes to Try This Season

All six of the recipes below offer health benefits and are either made with in-season ingredients or feel festive enough for fall celebrations.

1. Protein-Rich Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

On average, women consume less than the optimal amount of calcium. The National Institutes of Health recommends women get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day until age 50, and 1,200 milligrams per day after that.

Containing a full cup of milk, this smoothie supplies 300 milligrams of calcium to help you meet your daily quota. You’ll also score 15 grams of protein between the milk and the almond butter, plus more than 5 grams of fiber. This duo helps you manage hunger by filling you up and delaying the return of hunger, so that you can go longer periods between refueling.

Additionally, pumpkin is a rich source of vitamins A and C, which are important for night vision and wound healing, respectively. Remember: It’s important to get 100 percent pumpkin and not a pumpkin pie mix or filling, which has added sugars and artificial flavoring.

Credit: Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian in Stamford, Connecticut, with a focus on plant-based food

2. Pomegranate Pecan French Toast

For the ultimate tasty breakfast treat, try this twist on traditional French toast.

It's been given nutritious upgrades thanks to whole-grain toast, pomegranate arils (the seedy bits), and pecans. Plus, you’ll heat the pomegranate and pecans in real pomegranate juice to sweeten the topping without adding processed sugar. That means you won’t need to add syrup.

Whole grains are a good source of magnesium, a mineral involved in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rhythm. Magnesium is also required for sleep. It’s estimated that up to 75 percent of people don’t consume the amount of magnesium recommended, but you’ll get about 10 percent of your daily requirement with this delicious dish.

Pomegranates are chock-full of good things, including antioxidants; vitamins, such as vitamins C, E, and K; and folic acid. There have also been reports of the potential benefits of consuming pomegranates, such as reducing diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer.

Credit: Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian in Stamford, Connecticut, with a focus on plant-based food

3. "Candy Corn" Overnight Oats

Candy corn is a love-‘em-or-hate-‘em Halloween treat, but there won’t be any debate about this shockingly nutritious creation. It’s made with whole-grain oats, and it’s important to know that whole grains may help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Another bonus is the protein level. It’s helpful to eat a protein-packed breakfast, since your body naturally breaks down muscle tissue at night. By starting your day with a protein-rich meal, you’ll kick off the repair and rebuild phase, which prevents muscle decline over time. This meal has 22 grams of protein, which is enough to satisfy many people’s needs.

Besides all the good things this recipe has, it also doesn’t have any of the bad things. There’s no saturated or trans fat; both have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease.

Credit: Lauren Harris-Pincus, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook

4. Cranberry Pistachio Granola Bar Squares

One of the healthiest things you can do is eat a wide range of plant foods each week. One study found that eating 30 different unique plant species in a week may lead to a healthier gut. In this case, “healthier” means a gut full of more beneficial bacteria, as compared to the gut health of those eating 10 or fewer different kinds of plants per week.

These granola bar squares make it easy to reach that goal since they’re made with seven types of plant-based food, including oats, pistachios, and ground flax seeds—plus fall favorites pumpkin seeds and cranberries.

Credit: Lauren Harris-Pincus, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook

5. Spicy Carrot Fries

Snacking on fries just became healthy thanks to this fun fall swap.

This version is baked rather than fried, and made with carrots, not carb-heavy potatoes. Plus, because they’re seasoned with a pinch of cayenne pepper, these healthy fries may also help keep you from overeating.

Some research suggests that the capsaicin found in spicy peppers may help increase your sensations of fullness, so it may decrease your desire to eat. Beyond the benefits of not overeating, capsaicin may also help decrease fat buildup while also having a positive impact on the gut microbiome.

Credit: Lyssie Lakatos, registered dietitian nutritionist, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, registered dietitian nutritionist, the Nutrition Twins

6. Savory Sweet Potato Soup

Here’s a festive fall treat that would be filling on a cool evening. That’s because a bowl of this soup boasts 21 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber thanks to ingredients like white beans and cauliflower.

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A and also an antioxidant that protects you from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress promotes diseases like cancer and heart disease, but an antioxidant-rich diet can help offset the cellular damage that contributes to this process. Additionally, long-term beta carotene intake has been shown to decrease brain aging by protecting the organ from oxidative stress. Enjoy this soup knowing you’re nourishing your body with nutrient-rich, hearty fall veggies.

Credit: Lyssie Lakatos, registered dietitian nutritionist, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, registered dietitian nutritionist, the Nutrition Twins

You May Also Like: