Here we are at the beginning of fall, many preparing for the festivities of Halloween or other fall celebrations. Hayrides, corn mazes, and spooky decorations are popping up all around.

One of the most common ways to celebrate fall is by cooking a hearty chili or whipping up some sweet treats. These foods make us feel warm and cozy and help us to celebrate the fall season, but can be a hazard to our health and waistline. Added fats, sugars, and salt can lead to developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other diseases.

When choosing to celebrate with food, keep in mind some healthy habits recommended by the USDA Food Guide, MyPlate:

1. Fill half of your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables. These are full of nutrients your body needs to function well.

2. Limit fats and sugars. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a yummy treat every now and again, but make sure that they are occasional.

3. Choose lean proteins with lower fat content.

4. Limit salt intake. Choose lower sodium foods, and limit adding salt to recipes.

5. Choose low fat or fat-free dairy products to include in your meals.

6. Increase your level of exercise. It is a wonderful time of year to go for a walk!

Here is a recipe from the “What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl” website to help you kick off your healthy fall.

Microwave Baked Apples

Makes: 4 servings

Here is a sweet apple treat that you can prepare in minutes in the microwave.


4 large baking apples

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon


1. Wash apples and remove core.

2. Cut a thin slice off bottom of each apple to form a flat surface. Place apples in a microwave-safe baking dish.

3. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a small dish. Spoon mixture into center of apples.

4. Cover with wax paper and microwave on high power 6 to 10 minutes or until apples are soft.

Source: Kansas Family Nutrition Program, Kids a Cookin’

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Jill Breslawski is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.