Fall spices that taste great—and can help avoid extra calories

Released: Friday, November 11, 2016

By Registered Dietitian Taylor Ayers and Certified Nutrition Professional Karissa Elsass, both with LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Ingestive Behavior Laboratory

As the air starts to crisp, one of the first things that comes to mind for many of us are the delicious tastes and scents of fall. From sweet pumpkin spice lattes to savory thanksgiving turkey, fall spices are some of our favorites. Cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, clove, ginger and allspice seem to find their way to the front of the spice rack when the temperature starts to dip—and they're a great way to add flavor without accumulating extra calories.

To welcome the fall season, we've put together a few of our favorite ways to use these spices:

  • Try roasting your meat with a flavorful fall spice blend to infuse flavor without the added fat of frying.
  • Coffee and yogurt are great opportunities to experiment with some of fall flavor spice combinations without adding extra sugar. Try adding a few nuts like cashews or almonds to increase the protein and add a little crunch.
  • Allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ground cloves come together to enliven donut holes with less sugar than traditional recipes. Find our perfect pumpkin donut holes here.
  • Even a Cajun seasoning can be a great alternative to fried okra. Our metabolic kitchen dished up this tangy recipe for roasted okra by using spiced olive oil and Cajun seasoning.

Spices like ginger and cinnamon enhance the taste of dishes. Any added health that ingredients like these may bring are nice bonus. Research continues on these and other natural products. In fact, both these spices have been linked to the ability to help prevent against heart disease, cancer, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and bacterial infections, as part of a healthy diet.
Allspice, which is made from the dried fruit of the pimento tree, contains chemical compounds that may help reduce inflammation, while aiding in digestion and maintaining heart health, among other properties.
Nutmeg comes from the seed of the nutmeg tree, which is native to the Banda Islands in Indonesia. Long used in traditional folk medicine by various cultures, early research shows a potential link between nutmeg and colon cancer chemoprevention strategies, and other research suggests nutmeg has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Last but certainly not least, who can forget garlic? Although not a traditional fall spice, it's been shown to bring a host of medicinal benefits, including the ability to prevent or shorten the average common cold.
Here are some of our favorite spice flavor combinations using these spices:

  • Cinnamon, sage, garlic, cayenne, lemon zest: This spice blend is great on poultry, pork, and roasted vegetables. This blend is spicy and the lemon zest (instead of lemon juice) gives a brightness to the spicy sweet flavor of the cinnamon, sage and cayenne.
  • Ginger, cumin, and orange zest: Great on poultry, pork, baked sweet potatoes and roasted carrots. Try roasting a chicken with this combination, along with diced sweet potatoes, carrots and some honey. Adding honey to anything you cook with this blend really brings out the flavor.
  • Allspice, nutmeg, and clove: Together, these three smell wonderfully of fall. If you're limiting your carbohydrate intake, adding these spices to a cauliflower macaroni and cheese can add enough zing that you won't miss the pasta.
  • Clove and orange: Clove and orange pomander balls are a fall tradition in many cultures. We often see them hung as a home decoration that brings the woodsy scents of autumn. Others slice oranges and simmer them with cloves on a stovetop for a warm fall scent. Once your house is filled with fall aromas, try stewing chicken with orange, clove and white wine in a pot on the stovetop or in a crockpot to create a delicious Moroccan chicken.

Get creative with fall your spices—don't be afraid to try new combinations and experiment with flavors. Here's a handy tip: don't overdo it; a little goes a long way with many of these spices.

We hope that you love the flavors of fall as much as we do. To see other fall recipe ideas from registered dietitians in Pennington Biomedical's Metabolic Research Kitchen, visit www.pbrc.edu/kitchen.

For more information on how you can support this and other projects at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, visit www.pbrf.org.