Casseroles, and candy, and cakes. Oh, my! I admit it. I don't want to pack on frightening pounds and body fat during autumn. Let's face it. Turn on Food Network and the sight of awesome dishes are going to grab you. But hold the phone! It doesn't have to be the season to pack on unwanted weight. Sure, this is the time when temperatures get cooler, and it's instinct for us to start cooking up comfort foods (often high in fat, sugar, and calories).Worse, we get a little more sedentary like big bears and fat squirrels getting ready to go into hibernation, right?...
Been there, done that. In my early 20s, when I lived in Eugene, Oregon I fell into the weight gain game during the winter. As a waitress, I ate fattening junk foods and didn't even enjoy the experience. Food was my foe. Once I returned to sunny California, I made friends with nutritious edibles, got physical, and I lost the extra pounds. It was a total diet-lifestyle makeover. Now, residing at Lake Tahoe (a place where it snows and the temps can drop below zero) I have learned to adapt and stay lean and healthy in the colder months--and so can you.
If you want to make a sharp turn into Skinnyland--the place where you get a move on and eat fresh foods it can be done. Today, I went to the pool and swam nonstop for almost 30 minutes. The Brittanys got a longer walk (they're whooped!). I brought in firewood and swept/hosed down the deck. At the store? I got apples, dried fruits, fish, nuts, dark chocolate, coffee filters and--I'm keeping it natural despite my desire to whip up new recipes. No, I will not give up baking or cooking--nor should you, but I'm not going to slide down into the chubby celeb chefs' hole of no return. No way. I'm a northern Californian and want to stay lean and healthy and I hope you do, too.
Tonight I kept it simple. I had a Greek Salad (see the photo above). How easy is that? Tossed green spinach, sprinkled feta cheese, a few tablespoons of olives, roma tomatoes, and pre-cooked jumbo shrimp. I drizzled a bit of EVOO and a splash of red wine vinegar on top. That's it. Oh, I did include a piece of fresh sourdough French bread (from San Francisco, it was a homesick thing)--but no butter. And a handful of dark chocolate nuts. OMG! These are something to write home about.
Here, take a look at some fab fat-fighting fall foods you can enjoy cooking, baking, and eating without putting on fat.
1. Fresh Fruit: Apples, oranges and berries (yes, strawberries are still available). Research shows that diets high in fiber help keep you full. Low-fat, fiber-rich fruit also promotes regularity. The result: A flatter tummy. Try a decadent and healthful warm cobbler teamed with a scoop of calcium-rich all-natural vanilla yogurt with autumn fresh fruit, and drizzle sweet balsamic vinegar on top.
2. Potassium-Rich Foods: Bananas, dried apricots and cranberries are high in potassium and used in baking during fall. They act as natural diuretics, which may reduce bloating. These are good plain or put into all-natural healthful nut breads and muffins that you make and bake.
3. Cheese: Don't skip good cheese because it's a good source of calcium and other nutrients such as protein and vitamin A--and it's creamy and tasty in veggie pastas and hot, toasty sandwiches. But think moderation and real cheese (no fake stuff). Sharp cheddar, feta, provolone are good to get satisfaction from a small amount.
4. Olive Oil: Adding a little extra virgin olive oil to your cooking and baking--like cheese--can help stave off unhealthy food cravings. Not to forget olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which is proven to be heart healthy, may stave off cancer, and help you to keep your weight in check.
5. Nuts: Almonds (as are other nuts) used in cooking and baking are a great godsend. They're high in zinc, rich in antioxidant E, contain some B vitamins, and sodium is very low. The crunchy texture is great in a fall salad or nutrient-dense good for you chewy cookie without chemicals and preservatives and chock-full of those dried fruits.
6. DARK Chocolate: Not just a fall holiday food--it's a year-round health food. Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews, for instance, boast fiber, and iron. Nine scrumptious nuts contain about 200 calories, zero cholesterol, only 60 mg sodium--and will give you that feel-good boost for your mind, body, and spirit. Count on it. Chocolate is oh so versatile--it's not just a dessert. And yep, it can help you cut craving for fattening sweet foods.
7. H20: It's more of a challenge to drink water (not a food exactly but essential for survival) than eat chocolate in the colder months but it can be done. Yeah, I'm doing it now. Try adding a twist of orange, lemon or orange to bottled water. If you purchase water, you'll feel more obligated to drink up! It's good for you from head to toe...
8. ...Herbal Tea. Speaking of water, sipping a cup (or two) of a hot, steaming and healing herbal teas (such as vitamin C-rich rose hips) can help you to fight colds and flu; relieve stress and anxiety (so you won't be tempted to overeat). Black and green teas are chock-full of disease-fighting antioxidants. One cup of green tea has no fat, sodium, sugar, or calories.
9. Tomatoes: These little wonders--hot or cold-are rich in the antioxidant lycopene--a cancer fighter and wonder for hot and filling whole grain rice dishes for dinner to healthy omeletes for breakfast. One cup of chopped tomatos has just 35 calories. Because of this, tomatoes are a fat-free, nutrient-rich, and and versatile fall filler in many hearty meals.
10. Pumpkin: The alpha carotene in pumpkin (like sweet potatoes), a fall favorite, makes this vegetable a nutritional bonanza. Pumpkin is rich in heart-healthy carotenoids, potassium, magnesium, and folate, all of which may protect you from heart disease. This comfort food has only 25 calories per half cup and no fat. During the cold season, a warming and healthful dessert is a slice of pumpkin pie teamed with a steaming cup of hot water spiked with a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar and soothing chamomile tea.
A Bonus Food: A Cup of Cocoa: Don't forget savoring a cup of hot chocolate made with low-fat milk or water for that European touch. P.S. A new study to be published in a medial journal this November shows that yes, cocoa is heart healthy--and it will nurture your spirit and warm your soul.