The Diet Detective: 7 Ways to Stay Healthy This Fall

It's happening--it's getting dark earlier, our kids are going back to school, and it's getting cooler. Fall is about to begin.

And get this, according to John de Castro, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Sam Houston State University in Texas, we eat about 200 calories more per day in the fall, and not because of Thanksgiving--this is in addition to that weight gain.

The likely reason we do this is in preparation for the winter months of famine. What famine, you say? These days there is none--probably another reason we keep gaining weight as a country. But in the past, we ate when foods were plentiful--like the time of the fall harvest.
 
Perhaps we eat more simply because swimsuit season has ended, and we can start hiding behind bulky winter clothes. Whatever the reason, here are a few tips to keep you healthy and living well during the fall months.

Make Soup

Healthy vegetable-based soups are great (see: DietDetective.com for a chicken soup recipe). Make sure to avoid high-fat soups loaded with fatty meats, cream and/or cheese.

Not only are they high in calories, but recent research from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom shows that high-fat foods also lead you to be "stupid and lazy."

The researchers fed mice high-fat diets, and after nine days they "took longer to complete a maze and made more mistakes in the process than their low-fat-diet counterparts."

Watch What You Eat

Avoid unconscious eating while watching football and the new TV fall lineup. Never bring the whole bag or bowl of anything to the couch or coffee table-- pre-measure it in the kitchen beforehand.

When it comes to chips, make sure they're--baked, not fried. For pizza, watch the toppings--they can double the calories.

Eat Apples, Pears, Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash

Apples have been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers as well as cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes. Apples are loaded with flavonoids such as quercetin, which is important for keeping blood vessels healthy and reducing inflammation throughout the body.

Butternut squash and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which is said to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

A medium pear has 5.5 grams of fiber, 212 milligrams of potassium and is a good source of vitamin C. All these fruits and veggies are also low in calories and loaded with nutrients.

Pack a Healthy Lunch

While there are signs that the recession is ending, it doesn't hurt to pack your own lunch. What are some good brown-bag choices for you and your kids? Make sure to avoid processed foods with added sugar, and always include a fruit such as an apple, orange or pear.

Avoid fatty lunch meats like salami, bologna, roast beef or ham. (See more brown-bagging tips at www.dietdetective.com/column/brown-baggin'-it.aspx.)

Opt for lower-fat foods such as white-meat turkey or chicken breast. Avoid high-calorie drinks, including juice, and try to get your kids used to drinking water. But be careful about restricting your children's junk food intake too much, says a recent study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics.

A combination of "high parental restriction and low self-control" puts kids at the highest risk for weight gain. The best advice is to teach your kids to control their own behavior. Also, keep in mind, children copy their parents--so if you eat healthy, they will probably eat healthy.

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