It’s official: I’ve fallen for fall. I love everything about it – from the colours of the leaves and the crisp cool air to the excitement of starting something new. But I know some don’t share this same affection. Some may be grieving the loss of summer. For others, it’s a stark reminder that winter is just around the corner. But one thing I’ve been hearing from some of my clients lately, is fear that all of their new healthy habits will be out the window once the shorter, cooler days make it all too easy to hit the couch and over-indulge in hearty, comfort foods.
But I’m here to tell you that just because bears are storing up for winter doesn’t mean you have to. That’s why I’ve provided my top four tips for a healthier, happier fall season that won’t leave your healthy ambitions dead as those fallen leaves.
Fall in love with autumn foods
You may have noticed that a whole new crop of fall fruit and vegetables has taken over your grocery store lately. This healthy harvest means lower prices and better quality on all of your fall faves like beets, Brussel sprouts, kale, pumpkins, squash, cauliflower, zucchini, apples, pears and strawberries. It’s no secret that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is crucial for good health. But despite this knowledge, Canadians still aren’t getting enough. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, in 2014 less than half of adults (39.5%) reported consuming fruit and vegetables five or more times per day (1). That’s even lower than the recommended 7 – 10 servings. If you’re among those missing your quota, fall is a great time to bump your number up.
Check out your local farmers’ market to stock up on all the vibrantly coloured local fall produce. If you happen to end up with more than you can use, just freeze or can your extras so you can enjoy them year round.
Get back in the kitchen
Weather cooling off? Heat things up in the kitchen! Cool nights are a perfect excuse to experiment with delicious seasonal foods. Plus, the more you cook at home, the healthier you’ll be. Research shows that people who cook most suppers at home eat less sugar, fat, and calories than those who rarely cook (And no, nuking a frozen dinner doesn’t count)(2). And the difference is big! One study found that people who spend more time in the kitchen eat roughly 140 fewer calories per day. That’s over 51, 100 calories per year, or nearly 15 pounds!
Hearty fall soups are filling, easy and a great way to use up veggies nearing their shelf life. Use lots of vegetables and broth instead of cream for a satisfying meal that the whole family can enjoy.
Have a couch day game plan
Short, chilly days have a way of luring us to our couches. But the comfort hides a whole host of health risks. Along with decreasing the amount of time we spend being active, too much TV time can also lead to overeating. The main reason: distracted eating. When you’re glued to a screen, it’s easy to mindlessly eat your way to the bottom of a chip bowl. But special occasion eating can also get the best of you. Whether it’s Sunday Night Football or a new season of The Bachelor, the result is often the same: sitting around a TV with a bunch of people and a coffee table buffet. If you’re the type of person who can’t keep your hands out of the bowl, find something else to do like knitting, folding laundry or chopping vegetables. And make sure to schedule in activity breaks, whether it’s push-ups during commercials or a brisk walk at half time.
Munching on raw veggies makes it easy to get up your daily veg intake, even when you’re vegging out. You can also curb your cravings to crunch by munching on low calorie high fibre foods such as air-popped popcorn, edamame or high fibre, low sugar dry cereal.
Settle back into a routine!
As days get shorter and schedules fill up, it can seem like there just isn’t time for a nourishing, home-cooked meal. But what if I told you that it takes just one hour each week to cut your food bills in half, make your family healthier and save you time and stress? Building time into your routine to plan your weekly meals will reduce grocery store trips and food waste, eliminate last-minute fast food dinners and mean you never have to worry about what’s for dinner. Think about it this way: Every day has 1440 minutes. Use just 60 minutes, one day a week for menu prep/planning. That leaves you 1380 minutes to do whatever you want!
Time to dust off your slow cooker and get it back into your fall routine. You’ll save a ton of time and money with the added benefit of coming home to a delicious smelling meal ready to eat. It’s also a cinch to freeze the extra portions of soups, stews and casseroles for easy, pre-portioned meals down the road.
Happy Harvest Everyone!
1) Statistics Canada (2015). Fruit and vegetable consumption, 2014, 2014 Canadian Community Health Survey. (Catalogue number 82-625-X). Retrieved September 23, 2016 from Statistics Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2015001/article/14182-eng.htm
2) Wolfson, J.A, Bleich, S.N. (2014). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutrition; 18 (8): 1397–1406. DOI:10.1017/S1368980014001943