Short Days, Long Nights
As the temperature dips and the days get shorter it gets a little more challenging to eat a healthy diet. On a chilly day, it sometimes feels easier to curl up on the couch with a bowl of canned soup. And with the decrease in daylight, we tend to eat more food, specifically carbohydrates—starches and sugars.
Some scientists say that we consume an additional 200 calories per day during the fall. When you think about it, it makes sense from a biological standpoint. Our ancestors would put on weight in the fall while food was abundant from the harvest and it was just smart to get ready for the winter famine.
Another reason that healthy eating can be so difficult in the winter is the lack of sunlight. As it gets darker earlier, we get less exposure to the sun, which can lead to a drop in serotonin. Serotonin is the “feel good” neurotransmitter and that drop can cause depression and food cravings. Spend time outdoors as much as you can. Perhaps go for a walk during your lunch break or even move your desk close to a window if you can.
You can boost serotonin with healthy carbs like root vegetable, grains and fresh fruit. What follows are some great seasonal choices to keep you well-nourished and hopefully away from sugar and refined carbs.
Enjoy! I hope you have a happy and healthy autumn.
Great seasonal healthy carbohydrate choices
Roasted Winter Vegetables
Winter squash is a great choice because it is super nutritious packing in lots of fiber, vitamin A and omega 3 fats. Not to mention how filling it is. It is easy to make sure that you have a variety of squashes on hand because they make great table decorations at this time of year and can be stored for months at a cool temperature. Recipe: Roasted Squash and Mushroom Soup
Brussels Sprouts are awesome. Roast them and you will see that these little gems are not your mother’s Brussels sprouts. They are an excellent source of vitamin K and a good source of folate and iron. Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar
Parsnips are sweet and nutty. If this is a veggie you have ignored give it another try. We love to roast them because it brings out the natural sweetness. Adding parsnips to your diet will give you a good source of potassium and fiber.
Cauliflower can be steamed, roasted, or grilled. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C and contains substances called glucosinolates that help to prevent cancer.
Rutabaga is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. This is another vegetable that tend to get overlooked which is too bad because they are delicious, easy to prepare and a great source of vitamin C and fiber. Just cook them in the same way you would cook squash or try this great Recipe: Roasted Rutabaga
Sweet potatoes are so easy. Just wash them and pop then in the oven to roast. They are anti-inflammatory and a great source of vitamin A and iron.
Apples are abundant these days and are a great source of quercetin which will help with fall allergies and may even help to prevent Alzheimer’s due to the level of flavanols in this delicious fruit. Apples also contain about 4 grams of fiber per serving. Recipe: Healthy Granola with Greek Yogurt, Apples and Cinnamon
Pears are another abundant and nutritious fruit. I recommend you try them baked or poached because cooking brings out their flavor. They provide lots of fiber and are a good source of vitamin C which is important as we move into the cold and flu season. Recipe: Baked Pears with Mascarpone
Figs are one of my personal favorites. I can’t wait to see them show up in the produce section in the fall. They contain lots of fiber and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium as well as antioxidant vitamins. You can add them to salads, eat them out of your hand or try this delicious Recipe: Mascarpone Stuffed Figs
Pomegranates—Here is a great example of powerhouse antioxidant and a good source of folate. Easy to throw in salads to amp up the flavor and texture. The juice is good too, just watch the portion because of the effect all juices can have on your blood sugar. Keep it to a couple of ounces. Add it to seltzer water if you like.
Boost your Immune System
The other issue you want to pay attention to in the fall is the onslaught of sugar and alcohol which starts at Halloween and goes right through to the New Year. It usually starts with a handful of candy corn which you probably don’t even like and continues nonstop until the holidays are over.
This year it may be smart to not even get started. Here’s why. Excessive sugar intake takes its toll on your immune system and your adrenal glands. The healthier your immune system the more likely you will be to ward off colds and flus. And if you get the cold, if your immune system is in good shape, the duration will be much shorter. Plus, you will get the added benefit of avoiding the annual holiday weight gain. I notice that the more nourished my clients are the less likely they are to turn to sugar and refined carbs.
Although the fall season can be a challenging time to get what you need, it’s always fun to try out some great new recipes and learn how to fall into balance!