Fall into Healthy Eating

By Susan Epstein, MS, RD, CDN

The days are getting shorter. The leaves are changing color. Sweaters are coming out of the closet, to hide the definite weight gain the colder months bring. Fall has arrived and it’s the time of year we indulge in festive holiday foods that makes Mr. Sweater our close friend in hiding our new bulge.

Studies have shown that during the fall season, it’s common for people to increase their caloric intake by 200 calories per day. Most of the empty calories come from carbohydrates. There are several reasons why this happens. For one, it may be ancestral. Our ancestors stored their fall bounty to save for their long winter ahead. When food was plentiful (during the fall season), people tended to eat more. Subconsciously, they feared food would not be available later in the season. Therefore, they had a higher consumption.

The next reason is the end of the warmer months, which is usually filled with more activity. We tend to do more outside, under the warm sun and blue skies, as opposed to the colder months, due to the time change and on set of early darkness.
Which brings us to our final reason for our sudden weight gain. With the lack of activity, we consume more during the holiday season from Halloween through New Year’s. No activity, coupled with the extra calories, equals large sweatpants and sweatshirts to conceal the winter bulge.

These extra calories are all something we would like to avoid. Here are 3 tips to help you fall into healthy eating habits this year:

    1. Look for in season fresh produce, such as apples, squashes, like acorn and butternut and green vegetables such as kale, brussel sprouts, arugula, and swiss chard. These are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and Beta Carotene. When preparing fall and winter stews, load up on vegetables and lean proteins such as chicken or turkey. When choosing fresh produce, remember not all fruits and vegetables from the fall harvest need to be made into pies, casseroles, or desserts. Eating them without the extra unwanted fats are delicious and healthier as well!
    2. Enjoy the fall weather and scenic views. The cool crisp air is ideal before the winter arrives. Spend time outside. Take long walks or bike rides to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage.
    3. Avoid mindless eating, a definite weight gain trap. Mindless eating happens during football season or the barrage of the new fall television schedule. Avoid this trap, by measuring your portions of food. Even better, try to break the habit of eating while watching.

Keep your eating at the kitchen table only and you’ll be sure to avoid the extra weight gain during the fall season.