Fall’s crisp, cool weather practically demands creamy, warm beverages and big, cozy sweaters—and in many cases, a lax attitude toward your healthy eating and fitness routine. Don’t let the allure of sugary PSLs, over-sized tops, and snuggly fireplaces lure you into a sedentary season. Here’s are 7 of the biggest diet traps to watch out for this season.
1. Trading in salads for hearty soups You certainly don’t need to have a bowl of greens for lunch everyday, but when a lean, fiber-filled meal suddenly becomes cheesy or creamy you’re adding a lot of extra calories—potentially an 250 or more! “Bean soup is healthy and filling, but keep it to a cup not a bowl,” says Keri Gans, MS, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. “And check the labels before you buy.” Pre-made butternut squash or pumpkin soup can be loaded with caloric cream, butter, and sugar, so read or ask about the ingredients to make smart choices.
2. Opting for oatmeal instead of cold cereal Lunch and dinner aren’t the only meals that get heavier when temperatures drop. “It’s common to choose oatmeal over Greek yogurt and fruit in the fall and winter,” says Gans, who personally loves oatmeal. “But when it’s made with milk or cream, and topped with dried fruit, nut butters, shredded coconut, or even chocolate, it can get pretty caloric.” The key here is portion control, because “even healthy foods can lead to weight gain,” says Gans. Stick to one cup max of oats made with water, and measuring out the nuts, nut butters, fruit, and other toppings.
3. Skipping the produce aisle It’s common to stop buying fresh vegetables and fruit this time of year—because it feels too summery and sweet, and because it costs more money when it’s not in season, says Gans. “Switch to fall fruits, like apples, pears, and figs,” says Gans. And opt for high-fiber winter squashes—they’re delicious and can be low-calorie when simply roasted.
4. Downing more (indulgent) hot beverages Pumpkin spice lattes, warm apple cider, hot chocolate… The list of sippable treats this season is long. “Many people end up using warm drinks to warm their bodies, and forget to count them toward their daily calories,” says Gans. It’s OK to have the occasional cup of cocoa—as long as you count that as your treat, not your daily side dish. And opt for calorie-free black coffee or herbal tea for your regular warm ups.
5. Having that “sweater season is more forgiving than bikini season” mentality Many of us breathe a sigh of relief when sweater season begins—phew, no more sucking it in to look good! But some people go too far, thinking once the bikini gets tucked away they don’t need to take pay as much attention to what they’re eating. It’s a slippery slope: one extra chocolate mocha latte here, one extra slice of pumpkin pie there, and you’re off the wagon by Thanksgiving. There’s no reason to let your health go this season. Remembering why you make healthy food choices (to fuel your body for the long-term, not for numbers on the scale or looking svelte in a bikini!) will help you stick to your healthy habits.
6. Tailgating every. single. weekend. One of the most common fall problems Gans notices among her clients is a weekly routine: tailgating. “If you want to go all out for something like the Super Bowl? Fine!” says Gans. “But every weekend cannot be an extravaganza.” On top of guzzling down calories in the form of beer, you might also be noshing on hot dogs, burgers, chips and other stadium-style foods—all of which are high in fat and sodium, and will make you feel sluggish and bloated by Monday morning. Grab the water bottle from the cooler after just one beer, and lay off the salt if at all possible. (Check out 6 Ways to Prevent Over-Snacking on Game Days for more ideas.)
7. Skipping workouts because it’s cold and dark Fitness routines often suffer when crisp fall days become colder and darker. “It can be tough to get to the gym when you have to drive in the dark,” Gans says. “And instead of working out, many of my clients end up eating all night long—it’s a disaster for your waistline and fitness.” The best advice here? Grin and bear it. Layer up and wear reflective gear if you head outside in the mornings or evenings, or consider moving your workouts to midday. Going for a walk during your lunch hour is great for your fitness and your mood! Don’t simply give up exercise for six months.
What are your fitness and healthy-eating pitfalls this season? Share your stay-on-track strategies in the comments below!