I’m going to be straight with you. I. LOVE. FALL. Cool air; pumpkin- and apple-flavored everything; football; pumpkin patches; the breathtaking sight of vibrant red, orange, and yellow trees, followed by the crunch beneath my feet when those multicolored leaves finally hit the ground. Give me all of it!
So what’s a fall-loving but the goal-focused person to do with all of the new challenges that this season creates? Let’s dive a little bit more into the top four fall challenges, and then talk about some strategies for navigating them successfully without feeling like we’re missing out on one of the best seasons of the year.
Comfort Food Can Still Be Comforting
It’s completely natural for our food affinities to follow the seasons. During spring and summer, when fresh fruit abounds and temperatures rise, many of us gravitate towards lighter, more refreshing fare like cooling watermelon and fresh salads.
In the same way, when temperatures drop, we tend to start wanting more warming, filling foods like a hearty chili, shepherd’s pie, and mashed potatoes. If this is the case for you, please know you don’t have to avoid any of these. As with most things, a little planning can be a big win as far as making these fit into your daily eating plans. For example, your favorite chili can become a lean, mean, protein powerhouse if you swap in some extra lean protein. The same goes for shepherd’s pie – typically made with beef or lamb and topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes, this can be made more macro-friendly with a lean protein swap. You might also try topping it with a mixture of mashed potatoes and steamed cauliflower – this will reduce the carb content big time but I’m willing to bet you won’t even notice the difference!
Space limitations mean it’s impossible to give ingredient swaps for every fall dish – but fortunately, there are literally thousands of free recipe resources online that do just that. A few of my favorites?
- If PSLs (or other warm fall drinks) are your downfall, rest assured! The Macro Barista shares macro-friendly versions (with the EXACT way to request them at your local coffee shop) so you don’t have to worry about remembering a handful of substitutions.
Tailgating and Football Games
Whether you’re heading to a tailgater or a house party to watch the big game, it’s common to find these environments challenging. Food and beer are often the centerpieces of any good tailgater (and let’s be honest, tailgater food is rarely “lean protein with a hefty serving of vegetables”). However, tailgaters often end up being potluck style, which means they don’t have to be the nutritional nightmare many of us are used to.
If you’re hosting the tailgater or football party – awesome! This is a great opportunity to offer a mix of macro-friendly foods plus classic football favorites. By ensuring there are at least a few macro-friendly options for you (and any other nutrition-conscious friends), you enable yourself to participate in the festivities while still building most of your plate with nutritionally sound choices.
If you’re the guest, know that most hosts are thrilled when party guests bring something to take some of the “feeding a crowd” load off their shoulders. Now’s a great time to make a contribution that fits into your day! You’ll be a great guest and you’ll know there’s at least one thing to nosh on that won’t derail your goals.
If you end up at a tailgater where it seems like nothing will fit your macro budget, this is a great opportunity to use a strategy I like to call “one and done.” Here, you take a plate and give yourself the freedom to put anything you want on it. The caveat is, once you’ve consumed what’s on that plate, you don’t go back for seconds. If this is the strategy you choose – make sure you choose foods you like, and enjoy them while you eat them! Try to be mindful of the aroma, flavor, and texture of each food. This lessens the likelihood that our brains will continue demanding more after we’ve finished the plate. After your plate is empty, strive to avoid lingering around the food table – it’s so easy to mindlessly grab “just a few bites” of this or that without even realizing it.
Any discussion of tailgaters wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about beer. And while lots of us SUers are well into No-Boos October, if you haven’t given up alcohol for the month, then I encourage you to have a plan before you go. I don’t necessarily mean a macro plan, with a fully calculated day – I mean a plan for how many (if any) drinks you intend to have while there. Just like it’s easy to eat mindlessly if you linger by the food table, it’s equally easy to consume more drinks than you intended if you find yourself spending most of your time by the cooler, keg, or bar. So, grab your drink and then head elsewhere when possible. Enjoy that frosty cold one! Then, if you’ve decided one is your limit, grab something else once it’s empty (so nobody feels the need to be “helpful” by handing you another one). If plain water isn’t your jam, lots of other calorie-free options abound such as flavored seltzer, diet soda, unsweetened iced tea, etc.
Don’t Get Caught in “Eating Season”
The above tips aren’t exclusive to tailgaters -they can be employed at any of the myriad fall parties you’re invited to (and of course, that doesn’t end in October – Thanksgiving and December holidays are on deck next and you can practice all of these strategies right through to the New Year!). In addition to what we’ve already discussed, another favorite strategy before any holiday event can be to really think about what you most want to enjoy. It’s hard to completely separate ourselves from the fact that in America, many of these holidays are very food-centric. But that doesn’t mean they have to turn into gorge-fests and it definitely doesn’t mean you have to eat anything you genuinely don’t want to.
The “one and done” strategy is useful here. I also recommend to my members that upon arriving at a food-centered event, take stock of what’s on offer. If it’s a dish that your favorite aunt only prepares once a year, for Thanksgiving, and you LOVE it – please PLEASE enjoy the heck out of it! But if it’s a bowlful of candy on Halloween night, that you could also pick up on any given Tuesday at the local grocery store – ask yourself if it’s really worth the calories, or if you could take a pass knowing you could have some at any other time of the year. If you decide you still want to enjoy some – by all means, plan it in and enjoy. But sometimes, just the realization that there’s nothing really special about yet another mini Twix bar is enough to help us take a pass and save those calories for something truly festive and unique.
Cold Weather Doesn’t Have to Slow You Down
This isn’t directly related to food, but absolutely can affect our daily energy expenditure! When the weather turns cold, many of us feel naturally less inclined to be active. Whether it’s because we can’t stand having a cold nose, or don’t have too much extra time to spend warming up before starting to jog…it’s easy to forego outdoor exercise in favor of a warm blanket, on a cozy couch, in front of a crackling fire. This means fall and winter are great opportunities to look for activity “sneaks” – ways to add activity into the humdrum of your day.
Maybe you park farther than usual from the entrance to your workplace. Or, once you’re inside a warm building, take the stairs instead of the elevator (if you arrive early, take the stairs a few times!). Set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to get up and move around for 5-10 minutes per hour, especially if you have a job that keeps you seated for most of the day. Need to speak with a colleague? Walk to their desk or office, rather than calling or sending an email. If there’s a fitness facility in your workplace, perhaps you can hop on the treadmill and walk for 15 or 20 minutes during lunch break.
Fall Can Still Be Fun, Even When You’re Focused on Your Goals
For many, it can feel like a change in the seasons is another change to routine (that presents new challenges and frustrations). As summer turns to fall and we start losing our daylight hours, warmth, and fresh foods, use this season to try out new ways to maintain your goals. Through transforming your favorite comfort foods, rethinking your tailgate, getting movement in (even when it’s cold), and more, you may find that fall is your favorite season yet!
Ready to take your fall to the next level? Connect with your coach today to get a game plan in place!