Fall and winter might mean dropping temperatures, but it's also the start of a beautiful new season. Here is how to make some very simple changes for a very healthy fall!
Can you smell it? The crisp air with a hint of campfires and mud? The start of a new season serves as a wonderful opportunity to reinvigorate your health goals. So instead of dwelling on the shorter days and colder temperatures, use fall to get yourself in tip-top shape, especially before the holiday season. It only takes a few small tweaks to your diet and fitness habits to get you well on your way. Take a look at these eight changes that will make this fall the healthiest one you've ever had.
1. Eat In-Season Produce
Eating local, in-season produce is a change that will benefit the quality of your meals as much as your health. "In addition to its optimal flavor and being more affordable, in-season produce is in its ideal environment and will be in top form nutritionally," says Deborah Levy, M.S., a registered dietitian and the health and nutrition consultant for Carrington Farms. "And by choosing seasonal foods, you will likely get a cleaner food because fewer pesticides are needed." Some nourishing seasonal foods to add to your meal menu this fall? Acorn squash, pears, Brussels sprouts, pomegranate and pumpkin.
2. Focus on Healthful Fats
When fall arrives, the comfort food usually isn't too far behind. But give some thought to what you're cooking and baking with, and then try to find healthier alternatives if possible. For instance, Levy recommends substituting coconut oil when cooking or roasting. Coconut oil has a higher smoke point, which means it can be heated to higher temperatures without breaking down into free radicals. Plus, it also has a bevy of health benefits, such as being high in natural saturated fats, which increase the healthy HDL cholesterol and decrease the unhealthy LDL cholesterol.
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3. Pick a Challenge
If you're accustomed to waiting until New Year's to re-energize your workout goals, it's time for a new tradition. Fall is actually a prime time for setting physical goals in order to reap the rewards by swimsuit season, says Laurent Amzallag, health and fitness coach and founder of Yala Fitness. Whether it be training for a spring marathon or committing to a 30-day workout challenge, setting a goal will spark your momentum. The same holds true for your diet. Create a "nutrition challenge" for yourself that eliminates refined carbs for a month. "With fall being the start of the holiday season, this is the most important time to clean up your diet - so you'll have more control during the holidays," says Amzallag.
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4. Work Out With Others
As challenging as it is to wake up before the sun on a chilly morning, starting your day with a "sweat session" will keep you healthy and happy throughout the fall, says Amzallag. The best guarantee that you'll actually make those workouts a regular part of your week is to get others to join you. "You will double your chances of being committed to your morning run or walk when it is done in a group. And being with friends will help you fight the mild depression that comes with a season change, especially when it gets colder and darker," says Amzallag.
5. Make Time to De-Stress
Don't reserve time to de-stress only when stress becomes too overwhelming. Be proactive about it. Levy recommends doing something daily that helps you unwind, such as a bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender or taking 10 minutes to meditate. Also think ahead to this season's stressful situations and start devising a game plan to make them more manageable. If family drama is eating away at you, address it before the holidays to make the time spent together enjoyable and stress-free.
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6. Wait 20 Minutes
Since the body tends to go into "hibernation" mode in the fall, practicing mindful eating becomes essential if you want to fend off weight gain. Levy suggests making eating an activity of its own. In other words, don't attempt to multitask by watching TV, using the computer, reading or talking on the phone during a meal. "This is because the mind is distracted in activity and does not register the amount of food being consumed," she says. "By the time the stomach feels full, there were likely too many calories eaten." Also, wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds because that's how long it takes for your stomach to signal your brain that it's full. If you're still hungry after 20 minutes, start with a second helping of vegetables first, says Levy.
7. Up the Vitamin D
As the planet's axis tilts away from the sun, our vitamin D levels tend to get low. That's why it's important to have a doctor run a 25-hydroxy vitamin D level on your next lab work, suggests Dr. Trevor Cates, N.D., a naturopathic physician and founder of The Spa Dr. skin care line. In addition to keeping your immune system strong, vitamin D can also boost your mood, aid with skin issues like acne, rosacea and psoriasis, and even protect skin from the sun's UV rays, says Dr. Cates. If your vitamin D levels are low, talk to your doctor about supplementation and incorporate vitamin D-rich foods into your diet, such as egg yolk, sun-dried shiitake mushrooms and fresh wild salmon.
8. Hydrate More
Hydration might be a common tip for summer health, but it's equally important in the fall as your skin becomes drier. Dr. Cates suggests hydrating your skin "from the inside out" with eight glasses of water, plus one glass of fresh coconut water. Additionally, eat hydrating foods that are loaded with good fats, such as wild salmon or coconut, olive and avocado oils. And don't forget about other areas that are prone to dryness, such as hair and nails. For dry hair, warm up a tablespoon of coconut oil and apply as an overnight treatment. For brittle nails, sip bone broth or take a collagen supplement, suggests Dr. Cates.
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What Do YOU Think?
What are some health changes you plan to make this fall? Do you usually follow through with your resolutions? What do you love most about the fall season? Let us know in the comments section!
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