Multi-colored leaves. Crisp, autumn air. For many of us, fall is a favorite time of year — for good reason. Couple all that beauty with cooler, more comfortable temperatures, and it’s the perfect season to get outside and get active.
But throw the holidays into the mix, and things start to get sticky. How is it possible to stay healthy when you’re surrounded by temptation?
Well, have we got a treat for you! There are ways to indulge in those cravings — in a way you won’t regret. Keep reading for some tricks to staying healthy plus some twists on your favorite fall snacks.
1. Quality over quantity
Remember the days of winters past, when you’d be able to eat all the sweets and goodies around you with the only consequence being a potential stomach ache? Whether sneaking an extra cookie before bed or not being able to resist tasting all the gingerbread cookies that had just been decorated, getting caught was well worth the treat.
Fast forward to the present, and it’s no secret that indulging in a single delicious treat (whose ingredients you feel good about) is much better than eating a whole bag of junk food.
So don’t deny yourself this season — just choose high-quality treats and exercise a little bit of portion control to ensure you feel good both mentally (bye bye, guilt) and physically (see ya, digestive issues) after you’ve indulged.
2. Substance over style
So how do you know if you’re making the right choice when it comes to all those treats? Make it a priority to become a label reader. (Yes, the small print on the back of the packaging too.)
Oftentimes, there’s a lot more to “organic,” “low fat,” or “healthy” products — and it’s up to you to do a little detective work to see which “health” claims you can believe and which are false promises designed to trick health-conscious consumers.
• First things first: If an item labeled “organic” doesn’t come with the USDA organic symbol, this claim hasn’t been officially verified and may just be a marketing ploy. But even products that are certifiably organic aren’t necessarily good for you if its ingredients aren’t healthy. At the end of the day, organic sugar is still sugar — so don’t let fancy language lure you into purchasing something you’ll regret later.
• Another thing: Items labeled “low fat” often contain ingredients that are worse for you than the original real food this lower fat product is replacing. A good example is low-fat flavored yogurts that are high in sugar (or sugar alternatives) and other not-so-great ingredients that have been added to fill a flavor void. Plain Greek yogurt doesn’t need sugar because it contains healthy fats that result in a naturally creamy and delicious product. The fact that obesity rates began to soar around the time these low-fat products hit the market is no coincidence.
• A final thought: If you pick up a product that claims to be “healthy,” and see that it’s filled with a long list of ingredients you can’t even pronounce, opt for an item with five ingredients or less. Even better, don’t buy processed and make your own!
3. Homemade over ‘healthy’
The truth is, our grocery store aisles are inundated with products — many of which make false claims about their health benefits or ingredients. With so many choices, it can be challenging to separate fact from fiction. The good news is, if you make it at home, you never have to wonder.
If you’ve convinced yourself you’re too busy to bake, consider this: Making your own treats isn’t just good for your physical health — it’s good for your mental health too! Challenge yourself to making something simple to see just how fun baking can be, and you might end up re-prioritizing your weekly schedule. (Check out League’s Healthy Snack Guide for some easy, healthy recipes to try this fall season. We’ve even included your grocery shopping list!)
When you’ve inevitably tired of all those sweet (and savory) treats, remember that fruit is “nature’s candy,” and it doesn’t come with a label. It’s always a healthy option, no matter what time of year.
To a happy and healthy holiday season!