Direct skin exposure to sunlight is needed for your body to produce Vitamin D.
Vitamin D supports bone, teeth, muscle, and immune health.†
Most people spend less time outdoors in sunlight during the fall and winter months, which impacts Vitamin D production.
There aren’t many foods that naturally contain the sunshine vitamin, but some foods are fortified with Vitamin D.
Cooking seasonal recipes with natural and fortified food sources of Vitamin D can help support your Vitamin D intake during fall and winter.
As daylight lessens during fall, so does our skin's exposure to sunlight, which signals our bodies to produce Vitamin D. Diet and vitamin supplements that contain Vitamin D become more important to ensure adequate Vitamin D intake during fall and winter.
In this article, we’ll review food sources of Vitamin D and share six cozy fall-inspired recipes to help support your Vitamin D needs this season.
Vitamin D During Fall and Winter
Your body is capable of making its own Vitamin D, but it needs sunshine to do so. If you live in a region with true fall and winter seasons, your body likely isn’t making as much Vitamin D as it does during warmer months. There are several reasons for this, including:
Spending more time indoors as temperatures drop
Wearing more clothing outdoors so you have less skin exposure to direct sun
Fewer hours of daylight to spend outdoors
Getting enough Vitamin D is essential to support bone, teeth, muscle, and immune health. Including more foods that can support Vitamin D levels during fall and winter can help make up for the loss of time in the sun.†
Food Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is found in just a handful of foods. Some foods, like dairy products and cereals, have Vitamin D added to them to help people meet their needs.
Here are the best foods with Vitamin D:
Fatty fish, including salmon, sardines, and tuna
Mushrooms treated with ultraviolet (UV) light 
Fortified milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
Fortified non-dairy milks, such as soy or almond
Fortified orange juice
Fall Recipes to Support Vitamin D Levels
How can you turn the above foods into delicious recipes for autumn? Here are six easy, cozy recipes to support Vitamin D levels.
1. Cinnamon Apple Smoothie
Blend 1 cup of Vitamin D-fortified dairy or non-dairy milk with ¼ cup plain yogurt, ¼ cup rolled oats, 1 diced apple, 2 teaspoons honey, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and ½ cup ice. For a nutty twist and extra protein, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of almond or peanut butter.
2. Pumpkin Yogurt Parfait
Mix ⅓ cup unsweetened canned pumpkin puree, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and 1-2 teaspoons of maple syrup into ¾ cup plain yogurt made from Vitamin D fortified milk. Top with sliced banana, slivered almonds, and/or pumpkin seeds.
3. Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Mushroom Egg Bake
Dice one large sweet potato, then toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the sweet potato to the bottom of an 8-inch baking dish. Top with 2 cups baby spinach, 8-ounces of sliced mushrooms, ½ cup chopped onion, and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
In a mixing bowl, beat 8 eggs with ¼ cup milk. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Pour eggs over vegetables and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until eggs are set in the middle, about 25 minutes.
4. Warm Brussels Sprout & Salmon Salad
Arrange salmon filets on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Roast at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until the fish is opaque and flakes easily, about 15 minutes.
While the salmon bakes, thinly slice a pound of brussel sprouts. Top with thinly sliced red onion, chopped apple, walnuts, dried cranberries, and any other toppings you wish. Serve salmon on top of salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or your favorite vinaigrette.
5. Tofu & Mushroom Stir-Fry
In a small bowl or jar, whisk together 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Set aside.
Pat a firm block of Vitamin-D-fortified tofu dry and cut into 1-inch cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook until browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove tofu from the pan.
Drizzle a little more oil in the pan and saute 1 sliced onion, 3 cups broccoli florets, and 16-ounces of mushrooms until tender. Add tofu back to the pan with the soy sauce mixture. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 1-2 minutes. Serve over cooked rice or quinoa.
6. Creamy Mushroom Vegetable Soup
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Add 1 chopped yellow onion, 2 carrots sliced into rounds, 2 chopped celery stalks, and 1 pound of sliced mushrooms.
Sauté the vegetables and mushrooms until softened and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add a couple of minced garlic cloves to the pot and sauté for another 30 seconds.
Sprinkle ¼ cup of all-purpose flour into the pot and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then pour in 3 cups of chicken stock and 1 cup of Vitamin-D-fortified whole milk. Stir in two diced russet potatoes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and a bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth is thickened and potatoes are cooked through about 15 minutes.
Before serving, remove the bay leaf and finish the soup with a squeeze of lemon juice or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
You can also add meat to this soup. Sauté 1 pound of ground chicken or turkey in a drizzle of olive oil till browned, then add the vegetables and mushrooms to the pot and continue with the recipe.
The Bottom Line
Your body needs at least 5 minutes of exposure to direct sunlight on your arms, legs, and face (with no sunscreen) to produce Vitamin D. Most people spend less time in the sun as days turn shorter and cooler in the fall. You can make up for this seasonal gap of the sunshine vitamin with diet and/or a Vitamin D supplement. Try adding these fall-inspired recipes to support Vitamin D levels to your meal plan.
Sharon Lehman, RD is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a health writer. She specializes in intuitive eating, recipe development, food photography, and hormone health. She shares healthy living tips and recipes on her blog www.heartandstove.com
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.