Tis the season – pumpkin, spice and everything nice

Cooler temperatures mean hockey is in full swing, Sunday night football, falling leaves and the reintroduction of your favourite fall comfort foods. Perhaps you had an easy time sticking with your diet lately, but you know the upcoming holiday parties, Halloween candy still lying around, and everything pumpkin will make it hard to stay on track.

This time of year isn’t without its share of diet pitfalls. Be aware of the dangers, face them head on, and implement simple but effective ways to avoid the weight gain that’s so common this time of year.

You’ve waited for football and hockey season all summer and now it’s finally here. Watching the game at home or meeting with friends to cheer the home team on may be a couple of your favourite fall activities, but beware! When you combine sitting on the couch for hours on end with beer, soda, nachos, wings, pizza, ribs and hotdogs, you’ve got a recipe for weight gain.

Don’t worry. You can still have fun and enjoy the game. You’ll just need to make a few game-time snack adjustments. Mindless eating is one of the top causes for overeating. One way to avoid this diet pitfall is to save your snacks for half time. You’ll also need to know that yummy food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Swap out light beer for regular beer, sugar soda for water or club soda, switch to whole grain chips with salsa or hummus instead nachos, baked chicken for wings, or a bison smokie for hot dogs.

Trick-or-treating, block parties, and costume parties have one thing in common: candy. Made of sugar and high in calories, one piece of candy won’t do much harm. But how often are you able to eat just one and quit when a bowl full of yummy sweetness is sitting there tempting you all day?

The best way to avoid the pitfall of Halloween candy is to keep it out of sight (in the freezer) or better yet, keep it out of your home. When you’re craving a sweet treat, chew a piece of sugar-free gum, munch on a handful of dried fruit, or enjoy a bite of dark chocolate.

What’s your favourite fall indulgence? The options are nearly limitless: pumpkin muffins for breakfast, caramel apples at the fall festival, pumpkin-spice lattes on a cool evening, apple pie for dessert and the list goes on. While there’s nothing unhealthy about apples and pumpkins, pair them with creams, fats, and sugars and they quickly lose their low-calorie goodness. Surprisingly, one pumpkin muffin contains up to 630 calories, a 16-ounce pumpkin latte 380 calories, and a caramel apple 500 calories. At the end of the day, the treat just isn’t worth it.

Avoid the seasonal treats altogether or choose low-fat, reduced calorie options.

Like apples and pumpkins, other fall harvest foods like squash, nuts, potatoes, stews, and soups can be part of a healthy diet. It’s the way these foods are prepared that matters. Anytime you fry; smother in gravy; serve in a bread bowl, or prepare with heavy cream, butter, or cheese, these foods can become the downfall of your diet.

Continue to enjoy the best of the fall harvest by grilling, baking, or boiling your vegetables, holding off on sauces, creams, and extra cheese.

You’ve heard me say this before. You need to plan ahead for the best success with your nutrition. If you leave your meal planning to last minute or without a plan at all it is much easier to pull into the drive through or skip that meal entirely (don’t do either). So keep it simple, keep it tracked and keep yourself sane with a healthy meal plan thought out in advance. And as always, leave an evening free each week to cook your meals in advance. Good luck this fall!

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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