Now that your bathing suit has been packed away, there's no reason to pack on the pounds. Even your sweater won't be able to hide the result of faulty habits that take a toll on the inside of your body – it will only protect the outside.
To help you maintain that energizing glow of summer and keep you feeling fit and healthy until spring arrives, here are 15 tips that you can't afford to skip:
• Light the grill after Labor Day. Grilling is an easy and flavorful way to cook lean meat, vegetables and even fruit. Think outside the oven and grill a butternut squash, and if the weather stays this mild, you might consider grilling your Thanksgiving turkey!
• Bundle up and keep exercising outdoors. Summer might beckon an outdoor exerciser with a refreshing swim or a bike ride, but don't let the chilly weather call you to the couch. Button up and take a brisk walk or a scenic hike. If it's too cold or rainy for outdoor sports, head to your local library and take home a few exercise DVDs.
• Participate in fun fall activities. Go hiking outdoors, head to the orchard to pick apples or enjoy a pumpkin patch. These outdoor activities burn calories and let you appreciate the season with family and friends! (Just go easy on the apple pie you might be tempted to bake!)
• Keep your carefree attitude. People tend to relax during the summer, so keep that laid back spirit through fall. Listen to soothing music, try a yoga class, light some scented candles, or start reading an old classic.
• Tailgate tactfully. Football season doesn't have to ruin your healthy habits. Choose healthy snacks like salsa and guacamole with crudités instead of chips. Click here for my fave guac recipe.
[Read: 15 Healthy Snacks for Fall.]
• Stay hydrated! The temperature may be on the way down, but that doesn't mean you need to hydrate less. Keep a water bottle or container nearby and don't forget that coffee, tea and 100-percent fruit juice will provide hydration, too. Enjoy a steamy mug of cocoa made with hot skim milk instead of water to soothe your spirits and strengthen your bones.
• Warm up your meals, but keep them healthy. Oatmeal, soups, crock pot dinners and stir-fries are all fast and nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They satisfy and comfort.
• Sip on soup. Soup is a great low-calorie option and a perfect carrier for the veggies we don't seem to get enough of at meals or snacks. Start with a low-sodium broth and add a can of tomatoes and whatever vegetables you enjoy, plus some beans for a protein boost. If you buy canned soups, be sure to check labels for sodium content.
• Plan ahead. You may call them leftovers, but I say they're "makeovers." Make a big batch of soup or a casserole dish over the weekend that can turn into lunch or dinner throughout the week. This can save lots of time and calories while preventing spontaneous, less healthy choices.
• Make your crock pot your friend. With warm meals on the menu, you can throw healthy ingredients into your crock pot or slow cooker before heading for work – and you'll walk in to a savory meal after a long day at the office. Not to mention, a home filled with an inviting aroma!
[Read: 10 Tips for a Healthy Fall.]
• Love the pumpkin trend? Look for healthy ways to add this fall squash into your routine. Swap pureed pumpkin for butter or oil in your baked goods, or roast the seeds with sweet or savory spices for a healthy on-the-go snack. Use pureed, canned pumpkin for the banana in this crowd-pleasing muffin recipe.
• Still trying to juggle a back-to-school schedule? Have snacks readily available. Between carpools and after-school activities, fall routines can mean hectic schedules. Portioning out snacks ahead of time will let you grab a healthy bite with slimmed-down calories and a heftier wallet.
• Better breakfast. No one wants to get out of a warm bed in the morning, so set your coffee on a timer, prep overnight oats and have your clothes picked out the night before so you can get out the door in record time. To make overnight oats: Soak whole oats and chia seeds in skim milk overnight, then warm them up in the morning with pumpkin pie spice and a dollop of pumpkin puree – and enjoy!
• Roast root vegetables in bulk. Sweet potatoes and yams are full of nutrients (try this sweet potato smoothie), but also think outside the box. Parsnips, beets and acorn squash are delicious and filling, and they provide a variety of vitamins and minerals.
• Spice up your regulars. Tired of always eating the same things? Switch it up with some spices and seasonings to jazz up your typical dishes. Check out these health benefits of spices, too!
Hungry for more? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns and feedback.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.