Everybody knows about the “Freshman 15,” but maybe we should just call it the “Fall 15,” because as the weather starts to cool, our propensity to overeat tends to heat up. Born of a deep-seated human instinct to prepare ourselves for a long winter with limited food supplies, this is the season “comfort food” begins to get a foothold in many a household.
There are plenty of ways to push back against the harmful side of this tendency and still eat good, comforting food by shopping for healthier ingredients, cooking healthy dishes and making sure to keep up with your physical activity.
- Portion your shopping list and cart like you would your dinner plate. Many experts and the government now say half your plate should be covered with fruits and veggies, with a quarter each going to lean proteins and whole grains, so that’s how to divvy up your basket as well to give your kitchen a strong foundation.
- Look for such in-season vegetables and fruit as apples, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery root, cranberries, endive, leeks, okra, pears, persimmons, radicchio, rutabaga and squash. If some of these happen to not be favorites within your household, you can always find delicious recipes built around them, or slip them into your old favorites.
- It’s easy to find healthy and creative recipes to make some of the less-known or popular fall crops more appealing, like glazing Brussels sprouts with olive oil, honey, mustard and other delicious sauces. Try carving your french fries out of celery root for a lower-carb version with the same decadent feel. Grilled radicchio adds an appealing charred taste to sweet sausage.
- Don’t give up on comfort food — just be careful about what you put into it. Soups are perfect for fall as long as they aren’t creamy or cheesy. Put tons of fresh vegetables instead of a bunch of meat into your stews and keep them percolating in your slow cooker so you have something genuinely warm and comforting waiting for you when you get home. Use yogurt or butternut squash to replace some of the cheese in mac and cheese.
- Remember your daylight hours will be getting shorter, so you may have to shift a few things around to keep your workouts on track, such as when you walk or whether to join a gym.
- Don’t shun exercise in colder temperatures — some studies suggest it might be better for burning calories.
Photo: Prescott Farmers Market Courtesy Kathleen Yetman