There’s something eternally comforting about the taste of fall. Hot and spicy drinks in hand-warming mugs, decadent pumpkin pies, and crisp apple streusels all offer a level of comfort unmatched by foods from any other season. Most of the dishes that scream “fall” are enjoyed around a table, with family, after hours of meticulous work peeling apples, roasting pumpkin (or, you know, opening a can…), or rolling out pie crust. (Maybe that's why they're so comforting?)
But let's get real — life's demands aren't always conducive to long, elaborate meals or slaving over the stove. Fear not: We have 36 healthy recipes to help you enjoy the flavors of fall any time of day, no matter how busy that schedule gets.
Photo: Kelli Dunn / The Corner Kitchen
1. Maple Pecan Oatmeal Warm, gooey, and comforting, this tasty oatmeal is a great way to start the day. Vanilla, cinnamon, maple syrup, and a bit of brown sugar give it plenty of warm autumn flavor.
2. Banana Maple Yogurt Greek yogurt is always a great snack choice. It’s packed with protein and can be found in non- and low- fat varieties. Add sliced banana, some high-quality maple syrup, and a few chopped nuts, and you have a just-sweet-enough super-filling snack.
3. Maple Yogurt Balls This one requires some work, but we promise it’s worth it. Straining Greek yogurt to make it even thicker makes it easy to shape into perfect spheres, which you can roll in cinnamon, cover in chopped nuts, and drizzle with maple syrup. Yum!
Photo: Christal / Nutritionist in the Kitch
4. Vegan Pumpkin Pie Energy Bars These healthy, fall-flavored bars just require four simple steps — chuck the ingredients in a food processor, blend, press into a pan, and freeze. They're a perfect grab-and-go solution for the afternoon munchies.
5. Mini Pumpkin Pies Yes, you can enjoy classic pumpkin pie in a single-serve, Tupperware-friendly snack. Try these mini personal pies that can easily be thrown together, baked, frozen, and defrosted overnight in the fridge before toting along for a snack the next day. (Plus, they’re really great for lunch boxes!)
6. Healthier Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins We’ve all been tempted by the oozing pumpkin cream cheese muffins in the case at Starbucks — don’t even try to doubt it. But the coffee-shop versions of this fall favorite are packed with calories and fat (to take it even further, replace the oil in the recipe with unsweetened applesauce). This recipe cuts down on the unhealthy stuff, but still offers the flavor and creamy delicious texture of the pastry case.
7. Healthier Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Feel free to enjoy one or two of these cookies without any guilt: The flour is whole-wheat, the butter replaced with apple sauce, and the chocolate chips are dark (and packed with antioxidants).
8. Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal These days, it seems like anything can be added to oatmeal. And while there are some out-of-the-ordinary combos out there (poached egg and bacon anyone?), adding a scoop of superfood pumpkin puree and cinnamon spice make a perfect accompaniment to creamy oats. Add about ½ cup of canned pumpkin purée to ½ cup of rolled oats (or 1 packet of plain instant oatmeal). Throw in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, a sprinkle of brown sugar or drizzle of maple syrup, and some almond milk and voilà! Oatmeal reminiscent of the classic Thanksgiving favorite pie. Throw it in a sturdy Tupperware container and eat at any temperature when hunger pangs hit.
9. Pumpkin Yogurt Cup Ever thought to add pumpkin purée to yogurt? Neither did we — until now! Throw some pumpkin granola or toasted pepitas on top, and you have a whole pumpkin-themed snack (or breakfast). Drizzle with some agave, honey, or syrup for added sweetness. Store for up to two hours outside the fridge, or keep cold until ready to enjoy.
10. Grain-Free Pumpkin Pancakes These pumpkin pancakes are perfect to throw on the griddle in silver-dollar dollops and then refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to munch away. Eat ‘em plain or tote them along with a mini container of maple syrup or Greek yogurt for dipping.
11. Pumpkin Dip This one’s sure to be a hit at the next cocktail party (or as a midday snack). Mix up a few cups of vanilla Greek yogurt with some reduced fat cream cheese, a sprinkle of sugar, pumpkin purée, and spices. Refridgerate until it’s set (about three hours) and serve alongside sliced apples, graham crackers, or cinnamon sugar pita chips for a semi-sweet pumpkin-packed dip.
12. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Even after Halloween, there’s always reason to pick up a pumpkin and crack it open (just maybe not to carve scary faces) — for the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are packed with protein, magnesium potassium and zinc, making them a super healthy snack. The best part? They can be flavored however your little heart desires. Fancy a sweet treat? Throw on some brown sugar and cinnamon. Need something spicy? Add a little cayenne pepper and lime juice. Looking for a mix of spicy and sweet? Opt for a mix of sugar, cayenne, and a pinch of salt.
Photo: Aylin Erman / Glow Kitchen
13. Pear-Carrot Sweet Morning Juice
Fall comfort food doesn't have to be heavy! Start the day on a healthy note with this healthy, refreshing juice made from pears, carrots, lemon, and a hint of cayenne pepper.
14. Spiced Apple and Pear Cake Low-sugar (or no sugar!) cakes make great portable snacks if you’re up for prepping ahead — especially when they’re packed with fruit or veggies. This low-sugar, whole-wheat apple pear cake is full of fruit and fall spices. Plus, who doesn’t feel special when you get to eat cake midday and not feel guilty about it?
15. Baked Pears with Greek Yogurt Another star topping for our favorite Greek yogurt! Simply bake ½ a firm pear with some extra-special flavorings, cool, and top with plain Greek yogurt.
16. Edamame Crostini with Pears Toast up a few bits of bread and top with this protein-packed, slightly sweet topping for an inventive take on bruschetta. Edamame is packed with fiber, making it a great option for snacking, and the sweetness of the pears adds just enough depth in flavor and texture.
17. Pear Smoothie Yes, smoothies can make a great midday snack, provided you have access to a fridge or freezer. Try this protein-packed pear smoothie with cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, egg white, and protein powder for a filling snack (or breakfast).
Photo: Kelli Dunn
18. Spiced Cranberry Sauce This real-deal cranberry sauce is far from the jellied version that comes in a can. Simmer cranberries, agave, and plenty of spices until they break down into a sweet, flavorful sauce that's perfect on toast, yogurt, oatmeal, or meat.
19. Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies What can we say — pumpkin purée makes great cookies! Instead of the more classic chocolate chip addition, dried cranberries add a nice chewiness to these treats.
20. Cranberry Granola Granola is always a great option for long days away from home or the office. It’s easy to pack and keeps fresh no matter what. Try this version with dried cranberries for a slightly sweet and tart addition.
Photo by Kate Morin
21. Butternut Squash and Feta Muffins
Savory muffins sounded weird to us at first, too. And then we tasted these bad boys. The squash is just sweet enough and the feta compliments it perfectly, adding nice pockets of cheesy goodness through the dough. Bonus: These don’t even require a pat of butter!
22. Butternut Squash Hummus Chickpeas are not the only avenue to great hummus. Roasted squash (or beets, too!) can make perfectly unique hummus. Simply combine some pre-cooked squash and add lemon juice, tahini, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Use veggies to dip for a doubly healthy snack.
23. Glazed Acorn Squash Believe it or not, something as simple as a few slices of roasted acorn squash can make a filling, healthy snack. Because the squash is packed with fiber, the slices will keep you fuller, longer. Slice, season however you like (salt, pepper, and paprika; or some maple syrup, maybe?), roast, cool, and pack in small containers to tote along for snacking.
24. Carrot Cake Smoothie Carrot cake, in liquid form? Don’t mind if we do! This simple, healthy blend of carrot, almond milk, banana, protein powder, and spices makes for a beta carotene-packed snack that can easily be stored in a sturdy container at any temperature until you’re ready to enjoy (since it’s dariy free!).
25. Butternut Squash and Apple Soup This velvety, veggie-rich soup is just what the doctor ordered for a chilly fall afternoon. Make a big batch on the weekend and heat it up with crackers, whole-wheat bread, or rice for a quick, warming meal.
26. Broccoli and Cheese Bites A recent revelation: Muffin tins are our snack-making friend! Whip up a mix of eggs, milk, broccoli, and cheese, bake in muffin tins, and refrigerate until ready to eat. These bites are packed with protein from the egg and offer a healthy serving of superfood broccoli.
27. Fennel, Apple, and Raisin Salad We know this sounds strange, but just trust us. Fennel bulb’s lightly licorice flavor pairs perfectly with slightly sweet raisins and tart apples for a refreshing and healthy snack. The flavorful, citrusy dressing is just enough to add some moisture and tang without making the salad soggy after sitting for a while.
Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft
28. Apple Chips
We promise: with this one, patience will pay off. After slicing apples as thin as you can get ‘em, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at a low temp (200 degrees) for a few hours until the slices have slightly curled and they’re perfectly crunchy.
29. Apple Pie Dip Betcha didn’t think apple pie could come in dip form, too! Simply chop up a few apples and mix with some lemon juice, brown sugar, apricot preserves, and cinnamon. Then, prep some cinnamon-dusted tortilla wedges and use to dip!
30. Mini Caramel Apples These little guys are almost too adorable. While caramel apples often masquerade as the healthy option sold at carnivals and the like, the gigantic apple beneath that inch-thick coating of sticky caramel and crushed up candy bars does not redeem this option. But when scaled down (significantly) this favorite fall item can be a healthy choice (in moderation). Take a melon baller to your favorite type of apple, and remove as many full spheres as possible. Stick in a toothpick, dip in some caramel (or dark chocolate!), roll in some chopped nuts, let them set, and enjoy as a teeny tiny snack.
31. Apple Cheddar Cheese Bread We all know the classic apple pie accompaniment is a slice of nice cheddar cheese. So here’s another way to enjoy that sweet n’ salty baked combo! Plus, since they’re mini loaves they make the perfect treat to snack on in bits throughout the day. Plus, they pack a healthy dose of protein and fiber!
32. Apple Pie Protein "Ice Cream" Whip up a batch of this easy recipe for a healthy dessert or a protein-packed post-workout snack. Blend together apple, banana, spices, almond butter, protein powder, and almond milk until smooth. Freeze the mixture until it reaches the consistency of frozen yogurt and then scoop!
33. Baked Apple Halves Sliced and half, cored, and topped with an oat-n’-brown sugar mixture, and baked, apples can be a hearty fall snack any time of day. Plus, they can be prepared in a big batch, or done one by one. The benefits? Fiber from the apples and oats, and satisfying that sweet tooth with the bit of brown sugar (or maple syrup, if that’s your thing).
34. Applesauce Cookies These cookies can actually pass as breakfast, too. Made simply from bananas, oats, applesauce, vanilla, ground flax seed, and dried cherries, there’s really nothing even remotely naughty in this recipe. Bake up a batch and store in the freezer until a crazy hectic day hits. Take a few out to defrost on your desk until snack time.
35. Apple Pecan Buckwheat Bake Bake one of these individual cakes in the morning to bring along until snack time. This recipe is a great way to fill a baked-good craving without overloading on sugar and fat. In fact, these mini bakes have nearly none of that stuff — just 1 tablespoon of honey to sweeten!
36. Cheddar Apple Mini Sandwich Here’s a new use for crackers: make mini sandwiches! Layer small slice of apple and cheddar cheese between two healthy crackers and stack ‘em tight in a Tupperware container. Worried about the crackers getting soggy? Pack the apple, cheese, and crackers separately and stack when that tummy starts grumbling.
Have a favorite fall snack we missed? Share the recipe in the comments below or tweet us @greatist!
Originally published on October 31, 2012. Updated September 2013.