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


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.


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.


3. Skillet Pot Roast (with Cherries)


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".


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?


5. Smoky Tortilla Soup


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.


6. Mushroom Crepes


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.


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.


8. West African Peanut Soup


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.


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.


10. Pumpkin and Chocolate Bread


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.


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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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