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10 Fall-Themed Comfort Meals That Are Actually Good For You

Ready to curl up to some healthy and delicious homemade dishes?

Food & Drink

So, while I was prepping to pen this article, I decided to do some surfing around on Al Gore's internet to see how different people define the phrase "comfort food". Some said that it's a food that brings back childhood memories. Some said that it's a food that is automatically high in carbs and sugar. Others said that it's a food that makes you feel good when you're feeling low. Interestingly enough, to me, comfort food is something that sticks to my bones, makes me feel warm and cozy inside and tastes absolutely divine.

For whatever the reason, to me, fall is the perfect season for comfort food. The chill in the air, the overcast, the feel-good Hallmark movies—all of these things just beckon for a home-cooked meal that, well, comforts. And so, in honor of the autumn season's arrival, I decided to offer up 10 dishes that aren't your average run-of-the-meal comfort foods but are ones that taste really good and, as a bonus, have a substantial amount of nutritional value to them too.

(By the way, the recipe for each one is featured underneath each description. Enjoy!)

1. Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

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I decided to start this off with a butternut squash dish because, although you can get your hands on this veggie all of the time, it's actually the most delicious between early fall until the winter season is over. Butternut squash is really good for you because it's a good source of protein and fiber, as well as vitamins A and C. It's also got a good amount of various forms of Vitamin B and Vitamin E, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Since butternut squash contains so many antioxidants, it's great at helping to prevent heart disease and the development of cancer cells. Plus, since it's a carotenoid-rich, butternut squash can help with your cognitive health and well-being too.

As far as this particular recipe, while I know that a lot of us roll our eyes whenever "folks" go left on traditional mac 'n cheese recipes, I can personally attest to the fact that adding some butternut squash can make the texture of this particular comfort food meal really smooth. Give it a shot. It just might surprise you.

(Recipe)

2. Sweet Potato Chili 

Is it just me or does there seem to be a never-ending fall-related debate about whether sweet potato or pumpkin pie is the most delicious? Personally, I like both. When it comes to sweet potatoes specifically, they are considered to be a superfood and they should be! Sweet potatoes are also a good source of protein and fiber, along with vitamins A and C, manganese, potassium, copper and niacin. Beyond that, sweet potatoes have cancer-fighting properties in them, they help to keep your vision clear, they support you having a strong immune system and, since they're considered to be low to high on the glycemic index scale, sweet potatoes can help to keep your blood sugar levels in check too.

Aside from the fact that a heaping bowl of chili is a wonderful way to warm up on a really chilly day, if you're a vegan, sweet potato chili is not only great-tasting, but the combination of the three different beans (which are also loaded with protein) and sweet potatoes in this particular recipe will provide you a ton of nutrients. It's a chili delight that is sweet, spicy (thanks to the garlic, chili flakes and herbs) and delicious—all at once.

(Recipe)

3. Skillet Pot Roast (with Cherries)

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I'm not a vegetarian or vegan. I'm totally fine with that. So, if there's one thing that brings me joy, it's a tender slice of pot roast. Whew-whee! Beef is definitely high in protein. Beef also contains the amino acid L-carnitine which reduces oxidative stress and bodily inflammation, and regulates blood sugar levels. Beef is the kind of meat that is also rich in zinc, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and iron. The iron in beef is what makes it a food that is beneficial for people who are anemic (or borderline anemic). It's also got carnosine (another amino acid) in it that aids in slowing down the aging process. If you go with this specific pot roast recipe, it includes cherries. They contain properties that help to maintain your body's pH balance, lower hypertension, help to prevent cardiovascular disease, slow down the aging process and, thanks to the melatonin that are in them, cherries make sleeping so much easier too.

By the way, if you'd like a little help in choosing the best kind of beef to get the kind of pot roast that you're craving, check out Kitchn's article, "The Best Cuts of Beef for Pot Roast".

(Recipe)

4. Eggplant Roll-Ups

Did you know that the best time to get a couple of eggplants is between July and October? If you're a vegan or vegetarian, it's another veggie that can get you a pretty good amount of protein and fiber into your system. Eggplant also has manganese and antioxidants in it which makes it the kind of food that contains cancer-fighting properties and aids in controlling your blood sugar while also promoting bone health and aiding with digestion.

Eggplant roll-ups are dope because, if you want to make a pasta-like dish but you'd prefer to avoid the noodles, eggplant (and zucchini for that matter), creates a texture that is extremely similar to noodles. You can cultivate a good alternative without all of the carb drama. Pretty cool, huh?

(Recipe)

5. Smoky Tortilla Soup

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Even if soup never crosses your mind any other time of the year, I bet having a cup or bowl of it during the fall season, is something that you do, at least once, on an annual basis. Have you ever wondered what the health benefits of soup are? Soup is filled with nutrients so that your immune system is able to remain in great shape during cold and flu season. Plus, soup can help to keep you well-hydrated during a time of the year when the heat in your house can pull moisture out of the air, which can increase your chances of becoming dehydrated.

This particular soup recipe is really good for you because the tomatoes in it have the antioxidant lycopene in it which fights heart disease and helps to prevent cancer. This soup's vegetable stock is basically like drinking a big ole' multivitamin. Plus, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better all-natural way to fight off potential infections than to eat garlic; this recipe has a good amount of garlic in it as well.

(Recipe)

6. Mushroom Crepes

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Another tasty meat alternative is mushrooms. Think about it—whenever you consume some (that have been cooked), don't they taste, well, meaty? When it comes to their health benefits, mushrooms contain antioxidants that fight off free radicals, B vitamins to support your nervous system, copper to build up your blood cells, fiber to keep you regular and potassium to keep your blood pressure in check.

This particular crepe recipe? It's also got spaghetti squash and sage in it. The antioxidants in the squash, along with the Vitamin K in the sage makes this the kind of meal that you truly can feel good about, with every single bite.

(Recipe)

7. Turkey Sausage and Kale Orecchiette

If there's a signature meat for the fall season, it would definitely have to be turkey—you know, due to the Thanksgiving holiday 'n all. Turkey is great on a few levels. It's definitely an awesome source of protein. Turkey also contains Vitamin B, selenium, phosphorus and zinc. The zinc (and tryptophan) in it can help to relax you while turkey's protein can help your body to build and repair tissues. As far as kale goes, it's got off-the-chart levels of antioxidants and vitamins C and K. Kale also has copper, calcium and manganese in it. Eating kale will help to lower your cholesterol levels, put beta-carotene (which is great for your skin and hair) into your system and, it supports bone health and can help to keep you from getting type 2 diabetes as well.

If the combination of turkey sausage and kale sounds awesome but you're wondering what the heck orecchiette is, it's simply a particular shape of pasta. In Italian, orecchiette translates to mean "little ears". Anyway, this is the kind of dish where you can make it appear that you did a ton of work, when it probably will only take you 30 minutes, max, to prepare it. If you want to impress someone, this dish can do it.

(Recipe)

8. West African Peanut Soup

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A soup that is actually pretty popular in America is West African soup. If you've never had it before, probably the best way to describe is, it's like eating tomato soup with some peanut butter in it (it might sound weird but it's actually pretty good). Oftentimes, it's served on top of rice. Other health benefits of tomatoes are they've got vitamins A, C and K. They also contain cancer-fighting properties to keep their heart strong. Peanut butter is really good for you thanks to all of the protein, Vitamin E and magnesium that it's got. If you add to that the other ingredients in this soup like collards, ginger, rosemary and thyme—let me just say that if you've never tried West African peanut soup before, don't let the fall get outta here before you do.

(Recipe)

9. Apple Fritters with Spiced Chai Sugar

You'd be hard-pressed to go to your local grocery store and not be able to find apples in the produce section. But did you know that apples are the most delicious between July and November? That's why, I thought I should give a shout-out to an apple treat. Apple fritters are basically a donut that's got apples and cinnamon in it, but the amount of sugar that you choose to put into yours basically determines how "healthy" they are—or aren't.

Anyway, apples are good for you for a myriad of reasons. They're a low-calorie fruit that's got fiber, vitamins C and K and potassium in them. Apples can lower your risk for getting diabetes, promote gut health, help to fight the growth of cancer cells, help to prevent asthma and, they are great at promoting bone density and strength. The particular fritters recipe that I've included also has cinnamon (it contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties), ginger (its antibacterial compounds help to soothe sore muscles and ease arthritis-related symptoms), cardamom (it contains antioxidant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties) and cloves (which helps to ease digestion while speeding up your metabolism). All of this is good enough reason to enjoy an apple fritter, this fall, in peace.

(Recipe)

10. Pumpkin and Chocolate Bread

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If we're gonna talk about fall-themed foods, pumpkin absolutely has to be a part of the conversation. Since pumpkins are typically harvested in September and October, it makes perfect sense why it's basically the autumn season's signature fruit.

This is a fruit that's got a super high amount of Vitamin A and also Vitamin C, potassium, copper, manganese, riboflavin, Vitamin E and even iron. This makes pumpkin the kind of fruit that can help to protect you from getting chronic diseases, will boost your immunity and help to keep your skin healthy. If you add dark chocolate to all of this, you'll be adding even more antioxidants into your system; ones that will increase blood circulation, improve your brain function, reduce the risk of heart disease, protect your skin from damaging UV rays and lower your blood pressure too.

I'm telling y'all—don't sleep on a slice of warm pumpkin and chocolate bread that's drizzled with butter while drinking your favorite warm drink. When it comes to the best of the best of comfort foods this fall, it honestly doesn't get much better than this.

(Recipe)

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