A study conducted in 2000 revealed that Americans gain an average 1.5 pounds between two key holidays – Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. While this isn’t too surprising, the trend can start as early as September or October if you’re tempted by sugary seasonal treats like pumpkin spice lattes, baked apple pies, Halloween candy, and warm comfort foods like casseroles and pastas. Combine an intake of richer foods with less activity due to colder weather, crazier school-year schedules, and spectator events like football, and what do you get? A recipe for fall weight gain. The good news is that a seasonal expansion isn’t mandatory. The following strategies can keep you from falling back into bad habits and maintain your hard work at the fitness center all the way through the gauntlet of tasty fall temptations. Here’s what we recommend.
Keep Your Activity Levels from Falling
It’s a natural tendency to move less once fall hits. You no longer have to be beach-ready, and if you’re an outdoor sports enthusiast, bad weather starts to interfere with your favorite ways to stay in shape. If you have kids, you might also find it more challenging to make it to the fitness gym between shuttling them to school and extracurricular activities.
Simply being mindful of these seasonal changes goes a long way. If you wear a fitness tracker, check your activity levels and make sure you’re still reaching your goals. If you can’t make it outside during daylight hours or during bad weather, sign up with a gym near you and enjoy the benefits of working out on your timetable. If you watch your kids play sports after school, walk or jog around while you do it.
Meal Plan and Prep Ahead
Hectic fall schedules can also interfere with healthy eating habits. Take a day to plan what you’ll be eating the rest of the week and do any prep work ahead of time. This will make the work/school week run smoother without resorting to unhealthy fast or convenience foods. Overnight oats, mason jar salads, and big batches of healthy soups are a few simple suggestions.
Substitute Healthier Ingredients in Fall Favorites
Did you know you can substitute butter with Greek yogurt, olive oil, avocado, applesauce, natural nut butters, or even pumpkin puree? When baking pies, substitute high-calorie crust with an oat and nut topping and make your own fresh fruit filling rather than using the canned varieties loaded with sugar. Speaking of sugar, swap out refined white sugar with stevia, honey or maple syrup. While making your favorite comfort foods, use leaner cuts of meat and lighten up your sauces. Whatever you can do to make a recipe a bit lower in calories and higher in nutrients will benefit your waistline and help you maintain your fitness goals.
Avoid Halloween Candy
You can still enjoy Halloween without giving into a candy binge –just buy your treats at the last minute so they’re not sitting around to temp you. When it’s all over, donate your leftovers to a favorite organization and don’t fall for the post-Halloween candy sales.
Use these tips to consciously fight the fall trend toward less activity and more food, and you’ll avoid that 1.5 pound creep not only this year, but many years to come.