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Early September enters on the coattails of the hottest days of summer, bringing with it football, Pumpkin Spice Everything, and the start of cozy season. While most of us are far removed from the long days and frenzy of harvest season, the urge to keep busy, to find things to look forward to, and to make memories to keep us warm through the long winter soon on its way is still hard-wired into our very cells, making us restless and nostalgic, and not doing a thing to stop our mouths watering or our hands reaching for all those rich, heavy, foods.
As we rapidly enter the time of the year that involves nearly three months of absolute gluttony, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a healthier start to your day and still enjoy the decadence of the season. Moderation, portion control, and maintaining some level of exercise are some great ways to have your cake and eat it, too.
Choosing healthy options doesn’t mean you have to forego all of your holiday favorites or stand around looking miserable while everyone else enjoys themselves, but it does take a little bit of planning, and the ability to make small modifications. Instead of reaching for the processed foods, stick with homemade. Use smaller amounts of ingredients like butter, salt, and sugar. Opt for baked instead of fried, and prepare for celebrations where food and drink are abundant by eating smaller, healthy meals before and after the parties.
“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” – J.K. Rowling
Moderation and portion control can be very effective in maintaining healthy eating habits during this season, especially when you’re reaching for homemade goodness instead of foods heavily processed, and often loaded with fats and preservatives. One way to achieve both moderation and food control is to eat smaller, healthy meals before and after festivities so you can afford to choose a few of your favorites without feeling like you have to go all out at every event. With just about two months to practice before the holiday bashes commence in November through New Year’s, making a plan for maintaining health and wellness now is a great way to cement these habits into place so they are well-established when it’s time let them take center stage.
Add more vegetables to the meals before and after the more indulgent occasions. A salad of mixed greens, walnuts, cranberries, sprinkled with a crumbly cheese and a light dressing is just one of many ways to incorporate a little of the seasonal spirit into your diet while making sure you’re keeping greens and healthy fats in your diet, and if your lunch break allows for it, these fresh, crisp, late summer days are great for a quick, brisk walk.
While quick lunchtime walks, after dinner strolls, 20 minutes on the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike several times a week are probably. not representative of your usual fitness routine, they are better than not moving at all, and even those efforts (or ones like them) will make a difference in both your physical and mental health. Maintaining physical health is often linked with positive mental health aspects and can make a big difference during the holiday season, which many people find lonely or stressful.
We are meant to spend around one third of our lives sleeping and the need for rest does not recede during the holidays. You don’t have to be the first guest to arrive, or the last to leave at every party. Popping in for a quick visit and then saying your thank yous and goodbyes will not only aid in making sure you’re getting enough sleep, but it also compliments two of your best friends: Balance and Moderation. Self-care is as important as ever. Make keeping your schedule as consistent and regular as possible a priority.
Maintaining healthy habits during the holiday season are vital for your overall well-being. Getting enough sleep, maintaining some level of physical fitness, practicing self-care, and choosing healthier options are all foundational practices aimed to set you up for success.
Put your best foot forward by starting your day with these fall-inspired, healthy breakfasts:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly wash the outside of the squash. Cut in half lengthwise. Clean out seeds, cut ½ of a stick of butter into pats, and divide evenly between the halves of squash. Sprinkle to taste Pumpkin Pie Spice (if you don’t have Pumpkin Pie Spice – nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, ginger, allspice. Add small, equal parts a little at a time, to taste). Set one half of squash on top of the other, wrap loosely with foil. Place on baking sheet and put in oven for about 50 minutes, or until the squash can be scraped out easily with a spoon. Be careful when testing and scooping. The squash will be very hot.
In the morning, add in the spinach, low fat yogurt, a milk (or milk substitute) of your choice, and some protein powder if you prefer. Optional: Top with a small amount of whipped topping and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
In a bowl, break six eggs. Wash, dry, and add a double handful of fresh spinach. Add a splash of milk, and garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together. Pour into muffin tin, until about ¾ full. Topping suggestion: Avocado and halved cherry tomatoes, sprinkled with gouda cheese. Bake 25 – 40 minutes. When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the muffins are done.