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Simple healthy food swaps: How to cut calories from fall favorites

Here's how you can enjoy all your cold-weather treats, without busting your diet.
/ Source: TODAY

As we head into fall and the nights get colder, many of us have the urge to fill up on heavier meals.

It’s time to break out the Crock-Pots, bake those freshly-picked apples, and start roasting those pumpkin seeds. But not all of these heartier dishes have to be diet-breakers.

New York-based dietician Tanya Zuckerbrot, founder of The F-Factor Diet, shares her favorite seasonal tips. From using fall flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg, to making root vegetables the hero ingredient on our plates, here’s how you can incorporate all the great things about fall, without dropping or destroying your diet.

Cream of broccoli soup: Broccoli is known to pack a major nutritional punch, but when combined with heavy cream and cheese, its health benefits can drown. To get the nutrition from the vegetable and the texture of a creamy soup, use unsweetened almond milk as a lower-calorie dairy-milk alternative. Using a hand blender, mix onion, broccoli, vegetable broth, salt, and pepper with the almond milk to make a light-yet-tasty bowl of broccoli-based goodness. You can even sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top — and this tweaked version will still save you about 200 calories per serving.

Pumpkin spice latte: Nothing says fall quite like one of these lattes, but before taking your first sweet sip, consider this: a nonfat medium PSL has close to 52 grams of carbs and 50 grams of sugar. That’s more carbohydrates than three slices of white bread! To enjoy the least caloric version of this fall-flavored treat, stick with the smallest size and forgo the whipped cream topping. If you want to slash calories even more, go with the iced version, which clocks in at 30 fewer calories and 5 grams less sugar than its hot counterpart.

Spiked apple cider An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but ordering a spiked apple cider drink doesn't exactly have the same effect. Essentially apple juice with some spices and rum, spiked cider is often loaded with excess sugar. Ordering this drink in a restaurant can mean an additional 7 teaspoons of sugar stirred into your calorie intake.

For a warm, fall-flavored cocktail that won’t put you into sugar-shock, try mulled wine. Simply start with a dry, red wine and simmer with orange slices, cloves, cinnamon and star anise for 15 minutes —the smell alone will warm your core.

Spice-Roasted Carrots with Lentils

Maple glazed carrots: Any recipe with "maple" automatically brings fall to mind. While this great side dish is packed with nutrients like vitamin A and beta carotene from the carrots, the maple glaze often negates the root vegetable’s health benefits. With butter, maple syrup, and/or brown sugar, a 52-calorie cup of chopped carrots looks more like 250 calories! To add flavor to carrots without heaps of fat and sugar, roast them with a teaspoon of olive oil, salt, pepper and seasonal spices like cinnamon and nutmeg instead.

Sweet potato casserole: People often consider sweet potatoes to be the healthier choice when compared to white potatoes ... and they’re not wrong. Boasting vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and B vitamins, sweet potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse. Unfortunately, sweet potato casseroles are the opposite.

Traditional sweet potato casserole is made with ingredients like butter, brown sugar and miniature marshmallows — all of which tack on extra fat, sugar and calories. Casseroles are often made using canned sweet potatoes saturated in syrup, adding to the already high sugar content of this sweet side. The raw sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, so they don’t need much to embellish their flavor. To get a fall-tasting sweet potato fix, simply roast them in the oven with a touch of cinnamon and enjoy.