Maintaining good health is important year-round. As each season changes, it's a nice opportunity to evaluate your habits and make changes.
Because of harvest season, fall is a great time to add more vegetables and fresh fruits to your diet. It's also a good time to prepare for winter fitness and try new fitness routines. The following fall health hacks will help you make this season your fittest yet:
Our diet fuels our body, so it’s important to make sure that we eat the nutrients our body needs.
“Nourish your body. Most of us do not receive nearly enough vitamins and nourishment daily. Choose a diet and lifestyle that promotes a healthy balance and keeps you feeling happy and energetic,” says Anna Cabeca, MD, The Hormone Fix author.
Healthy food choices year-round is important, but fall poses some challenges because of the holidays and warm comfort foods many of us enjoy. The following four suggestions can keep your nutition on track as you anticipate the cooler months:
1. Add fresh, seasonal produce
One of the biggest advantages of the end of summer and beginning of fall is that it’s harvest season. There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from.
“Try to incorporate some delicious fall seasonal vegetables into your eating plan like broccoli, beets, bell peppers, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, kale, or green beans. They are full of nutrients, priced well, and tasty when they are in season,” advises Melissa Morris, ACSM certified exercise physiologist and ISSN certified sports nutritionist and writer for Exercise.com.
Some of this produce may not be a normal part of your diet. Adjusting recipes and finding new ones is a great way to mix-up your typical diet and get good nutritional value from your meals.
“Just like wardrobe selection, your diet changes with season too! Take advantage of the seasonal food choices available during fall. Enjoy delicious recipes with root vegetables like carrots, squash, pumpkin, and sweet potato. A warm soup with vegetables and legumes or grains will comfort you through the cold temperatures. They are healthy and nutritious too!” says Alisha Lawson, Product Development Expert for Shiny Leaf.
Grocery shopping has other health advantages, especially if you take advantage of farmers markets.
“A great way to maintain health during the fall months is to get out of your house and go to a farmers market. Being outside will give you some much-needed vitamin D and the wide array of seasonal produce will be a great addition to your diet,” says Jamie Bacharach, licensed alternative medicine expert.
Taking advantage of farmers markets doesn’t just give you the opportunity to be outside. It also offers safer food choices with health benefits beyond the nutrients in fresh produce.
“It's no secret that eating seasonal fruits and vegetables is a great way to stay healthy and have a well-balanced diet. Eating locally grown produce is also a great way to minimize unhealthy pesticides and preservatives that are on many mass-produced produce. It is also a great way of supporting your local farming community.
Furthermore, research has found that eating local, naturally farmed foods can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases. This is particularly true regarding berries, which are high in polyphenols — a phytochemical which has been shown to help prevent dementia and Alzheimer's,” adds Bacharach.
2. Find good substitutes to make recipes healthier
It’s hard to beat a warm bowl of macaroni and cheese during fall months. No one wants to skip out on mashed potatoes or pie on Thanksgiving either. But, some of these comfort foods are high in fat and sugar.
Finding some good substitutes can make your comfort foods healthier while preserving the flavor and taste.
“Most fall and winter dishes have a higher caloric intake because of the increased use of cream, butter and sugar. Try to find healthier alternatives for these ingredients, such as greek yogurt, coconut oil, or monkfruit sweetener,” suggests Renata Trebing, a recipe developer.
You can also adjust recipes to make them healthier.
“There are simple changes that can be made to these comfort fall foods that will help boost their nutrients and reduce their calories. Switching those dense soups for a lighter version that is broth based rather than cream based is a great first step. Choose vegetable loaded soup options over meats. Curb your Halloween sweet tooth with sweet fruits or low sugar baked goods,” recommends Lisa Richards, Nutritionist, The Candida Diet.
3. Make good snack choices
Making sure that you eat nutritional meals is a great place to start. It’s also important to make sure that you’re eating good snacks.
“If you snack in between meals, start incorporating healthier, more satisfying options, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dip, unsalted or lightly salted nuts, or unbuttered popcorn,” suggests Nina LaRosa, Moxie Media Marketing Director.
4. Evaluate your diet
Consider the foods you’re eating and decide what things you want to add and what things you want to reduce. Be creative by adding seasonal vegetables and making substitutions for some ingredients.
“Channel your inner Marie Kondo and think about your own eating habits and food choices. Do they spark joy? Or do they spark anxiety, misery, or frustration? Choose what you’ll eat, and how much, based on tuning in and listening to what your body needs — what would feel good and spark joy for you? This means you might have to lower the caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake,” suggests Cabeca.
“Just because the days are getting shorter, it doesn’t mean that we need to change anything about our exercise, nutrition, or mental wellness habits.
If you are feeling bored with your exercise routine, mix it up! Try a new fitness class, practice meditation, workout with a friend or partner, sign up for a 5K race, or find a new workout plan,” says Morris.
Keep these three tips in mind as you think about exercising and maintaining fitness during the fall season:
1. Exercise regularly
If you have a gym membership at a fitness center, colder weather is a great time to take advantage of it.
If you haven’t found one that you like, it’s a good idea to explore what’s available in your area. You can do this by asking friends for recommendations, researching online, and taking advantage of trials.
Fitness classes are also a great option to explore.
“Use the colder weather as an opportunity to try some indoor workout classes that you haven't tried before! Indoor rock climbing, boxing, or zumba are great options to add variety into your workout routine,” says Trebing.
If you want to attend classes as several different gyms, a ClassPass membership can be helpful.
“ClassPass will help people to find dynamic fitness classes that fit their schedule. We now offer classes from over 22,000 studios and gyms in over 20 countries,” suggests Mandy Menaker, Senior PR Manager.
If it’s difficult to make it to a gym or class regularly, you can also workout at home. You can buy workout videos yourself or try online classes to get some variety.
“YouTube is such a great platform with thousands of workout videos you can easily follow and do at home. Rather than just spending your time watching television the whole day, start with a jumping jack warm up. Once you feel your body is ready, hormones called dopamine are released and pushes you to train more. This is a sneaky way to stay in shape while at home,” says Lawson.
2. Incorporate movement into your day
While setting aside time for serious work-outs is an important part of taking care of your body, it’s important to mix-in movement throughout your day as well.
“When it’s cold out and you’re spending more time indoors, you may find yourself getting less exercise. It can be easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle, so make a conscious effort to get up and move around. Consider using a standing desk at work and doing periodic stretches or exercises to get your blood flowing,” suggests LaRosa.
Beyond making sure that you have breaks while sitting behind a desk, you can even be creative when setting meetings with clients or colleagues.
“Instead of meeting up with your local colleagues at a coffee shop, over a meal or chatting with them on the phone, meet them for a walk so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise, too. You'll feel great after, the time will fly, and it will be a fun activity to share,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls.
Movement throughout the day can keep you engaged and help break-up your work. For more helpful information about how moving can improve your well-being, check out Fall Health Hacks for Your Physical and Mental Health.
3. Spend time outdoors
While fall brings cooler temperatures, it’s not winter yet. It’s still possible to exercise comfortably outdoors.
As you start preparing for cold weather, it’s a good idea to make sure that the air in your home is good.
“Americans spend the vast majority of their time indoors, never having been educated of the potentially harmful effects that are associated with poor indoor air quality. In fact, what we often come across in our line of work, is a resounding misconception that indoor air quality is vastly superior to outdoor. From worsening of allergies to dry skin and respiratory issues, the hidden affects of a home's indoor air quality are prevalent, says Steve Truett, President of Aire Serv, a Neighborly company.
Truett recommends the following to keep the air in your home clean:
- Change your HVAC filter monthly
- Regularly dust and vacuum
- Avoid chemicals use indoors
- Utilize existing spot ventilation (e.g. bathroom and kitchen vents and fans)
- Replace or clean your furnace’s air filter every three months
- Check that your home has good ventilation
- Run an air cleaner
Making sure that the air in your home is high quality will make it a good space to work-out, meditate, and be during cold weather.
Trying new workouts, finding time to be outside, and finding ways to fit movement into your normal day activities will help you maintain and even improve your fitness levels.
As you prepare for even colder weather and spending more time indoors, be sure that your home has proper ventilation to ensure that you’re breathing clean air.
The bottom line
Fall brings a lot of great seasonal foods and produce. It’s a great time to improve your diet and nutrition with fresh fruits and vegetables and make recipe adjustments as necessary.
If you've worked hard to establish good fitness routines during the spring and summer, don't let all your effort go to waste. It’s still warm enough to spend time outdoors and keep any outdoor exercise habits going. It’s also a good time to start exploring other indoor activities that will help you keep your fitness up.