I love Fall. The crisp air, the leaves changing color, cozy scarves & sweaters, and, of course, pumpkin spice everything. I also love Fall because there’s a sense of new beginnings, a fresh start. For many people, September brings with it a sense of routine and a motivation to get things in order in your life – including your eating habits. So here are three ways you can “get back on track” this Fall (and STAY on track permanently).
Remember the saying “fail to plan and plan to fail”? It’s not fancy or sexy, but it’s true. If you want to eat healthier, you have to PLAN HOW you’ll eat healthier. One of the most helpful things I’ve found is to develop the habit of planning suppers. Take a look at your calendar and consider what plans you have and then plan dinners (keeping in mind to include veggies, protein, & whole grains or starchy veg – more info here) with, say, one night a week that you’ll eat out or order in (for Stephen and I that means our weekly date night). For instance, when I know Stephen and I have plans in the evening I make sure I plan a dinner that is quick to prepare, such as pulling out some leftover pasta sauce from the freezer and cutting up carrot sticks while I quickly cook up some whole grain pasta and defrost the sauce, or these lemon dill chickpea wraps with raw veggies on the side (I omit the celery and dill pickle and up the lemon juice & fresh dill).
2. Create a health-conducive environment
It’s a simple fact that our food choices are generally determined by what’s convenient, what’s affordable, and what tastes good. I want to address the first part. If you want to eat more veggies, make sure a variety of veggies are permanent fixtures on your weekly grocery list. If you want to drink more water instead of sugary drinks, pick up a water bottle that you love and carry it with you EVERYWHERE YOU GO (and stop buying the sugary drinks). I encourage you to take stock of what’s in your fridge and kitchen cupboards and ask yourself “is this environment making it EASIER or HARDER to eat healthy?” and then act accordingly. And if you feel like you “must” have certain junk in the kitchen for the kids/company/etc, then put it behind some stuff on the top shelf in pantry. Even though you’ll still know it’s there, the fact that you won’t see it every time you open the pantry means your brain won’t automatically think about it every time you open the pantry.
3. Forget about “getting on track”
You’re probably thinking, “Hold on, Kristy- the title of this article is about getting on track!” I know, I know, hear me out… One of my greatest frustrations as a dietitian is “all or nothing” thinking. I’ve seen this pattern of thinking be such a stumbling block for so many individuals. (This is the person who’s either “on” or “off” a diet, tries to go ‘cold turkey’ with junk food, or feels like one not-so-healthy food choice means her whole day is “ruined”.) There will ALWAYS be things in life that can knock you “off track”: your kid’s birthday party, a family gathering, a work event, Christmas/Thanksgiving/Easter, or simply a summertime neighborhood BBQ. The key is to view these things as normal parts of life, simply little bumps in the road when it comes to eating healthfully. When you encounter one of these “little bumps in the road”, I encourage you to do four things: 1) make as healthy of choices as you reasonably can (for instance do you really need to fill your Thanksgiving dinner plate until it’s overflowing or would you be fine filling it normally?), 2) be selective about your less-than-healthy choices (for instance, if you’re not a big chip lover but there’s a big bowl of chips at the BBQ, don’t have some just because they’re there if you’re not actually going to really enjoy them), 3) do NOT feel guilty about whatever unhealthy foods you enjoyed (food is not meant to feel guilty about!), and 4) see the next meal or snack as your next opportunity to enjoy some wonderful healthy, nourishing foods (you day is not “ruined” because you had an ice cream cone after lunch).
I hope you find these three strategies helpful as you enter into the “fresh start” that is Fall! So pull out those scarves, go for a brisk walk outside, eat something made with pumpkin and have a wonderful Fall! 🍃🍂🍁