It’s coming into that time of year when the days are getting shorter and cooler. Fall is a beautiful time of year but with the shorter days and cooler weather something else happens as well–we start eating more. I know for myself the cooler weather means I have a harder time staying motivated to get in that daily walk or workout session.
Most people have a marked seasonal rhythm which includes increasing total caloric consumption, especially carbohydrates in the fall and winter months. Interestingly, our intake of alcohol has a different seasonal pattern and it seems we generally consume less alcohol in the fall and winter. That’s the good news!
Studies show that we have a tendency to eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall. That translates into three to four pounds a year. We tend to blame much of this ‘fall’ weight gain on the holidays but there are other causes too.
Why Do We Eat More in the Fall?
More than likely, it’s biological–putting on weight in preparation for the potential winter famine our ancestors faced. It makes sense–the fall harvest, storing up for the long winter months was what was needed to survive those cold winters. Historically, we have a tendency to eat when food is plentiful because we never knew when our next meal was going to be available.
Kurt Krauchi, a scientist at the Psychiatric University Clinic in Basel, Switzerland, studied patients with seasonal affective disorder (a type of mood disorder that is caused by lack of light). He found that they ate more carbohydrates, sweets and starch-rich foods during their seasonal depression in winter. “There seems to be a relationship between light and depression, leading to consumption of more carbohydrates in the winter.”says Krauchi.
Tips For Healthy Eating in the Fall
When it comes to my winter habits wearing more clothes means I can hide that muffin top or those rolls added to my belly. But… the foods available in the fall can actually be healthier for us than in other seasons. These foods include (soups, stews, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apples, pumpkins and all types of greens). This is because they are typically packed with many nutrients, such as fiber, protein, beta carotene and vitamin C. Here are a few things you can do to keep those extra pounds at bay…
Make more soups they are great if they’re not made with cream or cheese. Watch your serving size. We tend to eat whatever’s in our bowls.
Stews can be hearty and fattening. But using loads of fresh vegetables and going light on the meat and potatoes can make it a healthier alternative.
Avoid unconscious eating while watching football and the new fall TV lineup. Never bring the whole bag or bowl of anything to the couch or coffee table always pre-measure it in the kitchen beforehand and when it comes to chips, make sure they’re baked, not fried or eat tortilla chips instead.
If it’s pizza your craving, watch the toppings, they can double the calories.
Celebrate the fall harvest in other ways besides making pies. Apples are low in calories when they’re off the tree and not in a pie.
If it’s gotta be pie, try making pumpkin pie with artificial sweetener, egg whites and low-fat milk and of course, have only one piece. Turkey is healthy, as long as you keep it lean, fresh and white.
Get out and enjoy the fall weather. The air is cooler, the leaves are turning and the coast becomes more scenic. It’s the perfect time to go outdoors and do something. Walks on the beach, walks by a lake a scenic hike or a bike ride will all get that heart pumping. Keep in mind that once we set the clocks back, it gets darker earlier, so there are fewer outdoor options for physical activities in the evening. By making adjustments like joining a gym, planning evening walks with a headlamp or becoming an early riser you can continue your daily exercise routine.
Whatever you do enjoy the changing colors of the leaves, the crisp air, the crackling of a roaring fire at the end of the day and the calm before the holiday season!