After a notably long and hot summer, the weather is finally beginning to cool off. This means many things - including easier sleep and new-season boots but also an abundance of autumn produce hitting supermarket shelves.
Just as our wardrobes change with the seasons, so does our diet - and it should. In contrast to the leafy salads and nightly barbeques of summer, autumn provides heartier produce to ground and nourish us as the temperature drops.
It's all about eating seasonally - a concept which sounds hard, but you've probably been doing all along. You might swap your morning muesli for a warming porridge, topped with some winter fruits like pears and kiwifruit. You'll probably pop the winter cover on the barbecue and pull the slow cooker out from the back of the cupboard where it's been hiding.
Countdown nutritionist Deb Sue tells Newshub eating seasonally not only benefits your taste buds, it also helps your health, your wallet and you’re supporting local growers.
"Eating seasonally also supports local growers! Whatever is in season is plentiful so more affordable," she explains. "[And] those fruit and vegetables have been picked or harvested at their optimum time meaning their nutritional content is at its best,” she says.
Eat the rainbow
The cooler weather often conjures images of beige foods - think pasta and potatoes. But Sue says just because it's starting to get cooler, it doesn't mean the variety of fruit and vegetables isn't there.
"Having a variety of fruit and vegetables remains important in autumn and winter to ensure you're getting a good mix of nutrients, so eat your colours,” she recommends.
Some of her favourites include green beans, orange buttercup, green courgette, purple eggplant and green brussels sprouts. Even the humble parsnip is full of nutrients.
"These vegetables are so versatile and can be included in things like soups, casseroles, lasagne, roasted vegetable bakes, frittatas, moussaka..." she reveals.
"Soups and casseroles are an easy way to incorporate and add extra vegetables into your meal, and easy to make."
Courgettes, butternut and brussels sprouts are all important sources of vitamin C which helps us absorb iron from food, reduces fatigue and helps to support the immune system - all very important as we move into the cooler months. Leeks and beans are full of fibre, which is important for gut health.
It's also the perfect time to buy Odd Bunch produce at Countdown. It may not be the prettiest stock on the shelf, but we shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
"This will be seasonal produce that may be a bit odd shaped but still as nutritious as the regular produce and even more affordable," says Sue.
"If it's going into a casserole or soup it doesn't really matter if there is a mark on the skin or it's a bit funny shaped."
If you're mourning the end of the berry season, don't fear. Autumn is home to some of the most beautiful fruits Aotearoa has to offer, including feijoas, kiwifruit, persimmon, citrus fruits and passion fruit - also all high in vitamin C.
"Think crumbles, stewed fruit, or on their own!" says Sue.
But if you truly can't let go of that morning smoothie just yet - don't fear. Just head down to the frozen food aisle and you'll find some fruit and veg you won't find on the shelves, like frozen mango or berries. These have mostly been snap-frozen at the point of picking meaning much of the nutrients remains.
So go ahead and enjoy eating the rainbow, then embrace the cooler months with energy and vitality.
This article is created for Countdown