The official start of fall is just under two weeks away, bringing with it evening breezes, colorful leaves and, of course, seasonal food staples we all look forward to.
From the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte to homemade apple pie, every flavor adds a little bit of comfort to the colder and darker days of the fall and winter seasons. And while the delicious treats of autumn bring joy, they also change up our typical eating patterns and affect our nutritional balance.
According to Allison Tepper, a registered dietitian and owner of Allison Tepper Nutrition Consulting based in Leesburg, people tend to overindulge in the fall and winter, but it is possible to manage those habitual patterns.
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Whether you can’t stay away from those sugar-filled, seasonal drinks or tend to stick by the appetizer bar at the holiday party, here’s everything you need to be aware of this fall and winter, according to Tepper.
Let’s start with the pumpkin spice latte. What makes that drink so “unhealthy?”
With any of those drinks, there are several pumps of sugar, which eventually adds up. And the coffee and baseline is good, but the amount of sugar, whole milk and saturated fat is really the biggest thing. With anything, if you have something once in a while, it won’t make or break anything. Yet, if it’s consumed over and over again every day in the fall when it’s offered, that’s where there might be an issue. It’s not inherently bad, each individual just needs to take it with moderation.
Are there any alternatives for common treats that are heavy on pumpkin spice, cinnamon or other sweet ingredients?
I definitely recommend asking for less pumps of sugar with the pumpkin spice latte and also switching to 1% or 2% milk instead of whole. A lot of my clients make coffee and add their own cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice on top. You can also add that to healthier bases like oatmeal in the morning or peanut butter toast. But sometimes you need the real thing, so it’s all about being mindful of it. I also think utilizing the nutritious foods that are in season is a great option, like baked apple dishes or pumpkin-based cookies.
With your clients, what do you recommend for overall nutrition during the fall and winter seasons, when food is typically heavier and more sugar-based?
It’s definitely about finding what feels good. I think a lot of times when we overindulge, we don’t feel good, in that we bloat, feel tired, are groggy throughout the day. I recommend to clients to have the food they enjoy, but also listen to your body when it is too much. I focus on the 80-20 rule: 80% of the time you enjoy the nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and so on, and 20% of time you can have the fun foods that we crave. Having those things once in a while isn’t bad for us, but we tend to over-consume.
Holiday season is around the corner, which means indulging is bound to happen. What are some tips and tricks people should consider?
Thanksgiving and Christmas are one-day events that turn into month-long things with leftovers and holiday parties, so you have to be mindful. This is definitely a time for comfort foods, so I recommend staying active as much as possible, whether that be walking or getting some form of cardio on a regular basis. Another pro tip I give is to plate your food and sit down with it. With parties and holiday events where we graze and pick at food, we don’t realize how much we are really taking in. If you organize it on a plate and sit down to enjoy it, that helps you realize when you are actually full.
It’s also important to pay attention to emotional eating. Especially during the holidays, there is a lot of stress with the weather getting colder, and even seasonal depression. I try to encourage clients to pay attention to reasons outside of hunger why they are eating and be honest with themselves about why they are eating. If you are eating for other reasons than hunger, it’s important to find the other activities you can do to take care of yourself.