Have a Healthy Fall

When fall comes around each year, I usually go a little hog-wild on the whole pumpkin thing. I will honestly say that this year so far, my dog has probably eaten more pumpkin than I have (puppy digestive problems, ugh).

Luckily, though, it isn’t too late. Our trees here in Charlottesville are still green, which means the fall season has quite a few weeks left before I let all things holiday take over my brain.

This is usually the time of year I start to go into “hibernation mode” and eat to my heart’s content a little more than I would in the summer. Fall is clearly the perfect time for comfort food, creamy soups, pumpkin baked goods, and Halloween candy, and I like to take full advantage of it.

Lately, though, my health has been suffering a bit because I’ve been ignoring some issues for a bit too long, like my intolerance to dairy and my possible intolerance to gluten. So I’ve decided that if I care about my health, I should probably start acting like I do. I talk about all of that a little deeper here .

Because I’m committed to caring for myself a little more than usual this fall, I’ve had to find other ways to celebrate than drinking several PSLs and shoveling in mini Snickers bars while I bake decadent pumpkin bread (okay- I’m never this extreme, but you get the point.)

To be honest, celebrating in a bit healthier manner has been just as enjoyable as celebrating while downing all the sugar. My days have been full of mostly healthy choices and small, less healthy treats. I’ve found ways around the sugar trap that is a Starbucks latte, and I’ve found that fall veggies are sometimes more satisfying than a piece of candy.

I figured I should share the ways I’ve been enjoying this fall in a healthier way in case anyone else is feeling personally targeted by the amounts of sugary, fatty foods dancing around our heads and baiting us into making decisions that aren’t so good for our health.

If you feel like you’re wanting to take better care of your health this fall, here are some ways you can still be festive without sabotaging your health!

1. You can still have a PSL. Maybe you don’t know, or maybe you just want to ignore it, but Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes (and any of their fall or normal lattes, really) contain 50+ grams of sugar in a grande. Ugh- that is a ton. Now, I’m not judging you if you love PSLs, because I do, too. Because I want to enjoy PSLs (and salted caramel mochas), I’ve become a very high maintenance Starbucks customer, and I’ve come to be proud about my weird/specific orders.

Make a PSL less terrible for you by ordering it with one pump of the pumpkin syrup instead of the normal four pumps. Depending on your milk preference, coconut milk could be a good choice if you don’t want dairy. This is the way I order most of my drinks at Starbucks (one pump vs. four) and they are still plenty sweet and even more delicious (read: you can actually taste the coffee). The latte may not taste like the decadent dessert that you are used to, but it is still a delicious way to get festive and not feel terrible about it. Also, although the PSL below is adorable, you may want to leave of the whipped cream.

2. Delicata squash “fries.” If you haven’t tried delicata squash yet, get yourself directly to a farmer’s market or grocery store and try it out. Here’s the simple recipe I’ve used just about every time I’ve eaten it: Cut the squash into strips (kind of like sweet potato fry sized but a little thicker). Lay the strips out on a baking pan and generously add olive oil, then sprinkle some salt. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

This miracle squash is super easy to prepare, and you can eat the skin, so you don’t have to peel it. It is way easier to cut than spaghetti squash and butternut squash, and it tastes like a mix between a sweet potato and butternut squash. You could even make it a more dessert-style dish by sprinkling brown sugar and cinnamon. I plan to eat this stuff once a week until TJs no longer carries it.

3. Fall salads. Alright, I just discovered this one yesterday, but I’m already hooked! Salads always feel like summertime to me, and when fall comes around, I’d rather have a creamy soup or something else heavy and delicious. Enter the baby kale caesar salad that I had yesterday. With toppings like butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, roasted chicken, and fresh parmesan, this salad screamed fall, and my taste buds were bursting with joy.

I plan on making my own version of this today with mixed greens, chicken thighs, delicata squash (did I mention that I love it yet?) and brown rice (because I like rice in my salad and I forgot to buy pumpkin seeds). I intend to eat this for lunch all week long.

4. Local apples. Okay, this is no genius idea, I know. But fall is all about fresh apples, and why not enjoy this healthy, delicious, and crisp fruit while it’s seasonal? I’ve been loving spreading some Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Butter Spread or Peanut Butter Co. Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter on apple slices for a delicious and healthy dessert alternative.

5. Enjoy the fall foliage. A super easy way to care for your health this season is to walk more. The weather is more bearable than pretty much any other season, and you get beautiful views of color-changing leaves as you walk. I’ve been enjoying more frequent walks with the pup, but hope to enjoy some fall hikes before the season ends as well. My new Fitbit Alta is helping to encourage me to get out and about as well (it yells at me if I sit too long).

6. Healthy versions of baked goods. This is my favorite time of year to bake healthy alternatives to fall favorites, but I must admit that I’ve not done this yet this fall! These pumpkin scones  are a favorite of mine, though (and can be made with other flavors than pumpkin pretty easily). They are easy, and adding the chocolate makes them so much better.

I’ve felt pretty successful in the past few weeks at putting these healthy tips into action and feeling good (you know- not bogged down by too much sugar and heavy foods) as the air gets cooler and the leaves begin to change. Of course I’ve treated myself to some things that just can’t be healthified, like Pumpkin beer and pumpkin custard, for example. But overall, it has been nice to feel lighter and healthier with each choice that I make, and enjoy the true treats in serious moderation.

How do you stay healthy as the weather starts to change and the comfort foods take over?

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