Start Fall Fresh with These Easy Tips for Healthy Eating

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girl holding fruits

The new year may yet be months away, but for many of us, it’s the crisp days of autumn that feel like a true new beginning. Maybe it's left over from that everything's-ahead-of-us excitement that accompanied the start of a new school year when we were kids. New teachers, new friends – not to mention a new pencil box, maybe some new school shoes – meant a fresh chance to become the person we wanted to be.

Of course, nothing says we can’t capitalize on that fresh-start fall feeling even as adults. In fact, as Refinery 29 writer Justin Sedor recently suggested, following through on health resolutions may actually be easier to keep when the weather is more hospitable, before the temperature drops, the winter winds whip up, and the snow, slush and ice turn sidewalks slippery. Given this, Sedor suggested a series of “tiny tweaks” you could make to immediately improve your health.

We liked that idea – and the fact that several of the suggestions include tips for healthier eating. Inspired by those, here are four suggestions to kick off the new year, err, fall:

Drink More Water

Not only will sustained H2O sipping keep your thirst in check, it will also help your body maintain a normal temperature, keep your joints cushioned and lubricated and spinal cord protected, and clear out waste. Carry a water bottle around with you and, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends , drink before you get thirsty, especially if you are engaged in vigorous physical activity.

Trim the Sugar

We know we need to consume less sugar – Americans consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, or about 350 calories, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends that women consume no more than about six teaspoons (100 calories) and men no more than nine teaspoons (150 calories) daily to lower the risk of obesity and heart disease. Much of this added sugar comes from packaged or processed foods. Avoiding foods that list "sugar" — or one of the many other names for sugar — as the first or second ingredient can make a big difference in your overall sugar intake.

But don't go crazy with the sugar substitutes, either. A recent study has suggested that artificial sweeteners may alter our microbiome leading to metabolic changes that could result in glucose intolerance.

Control Your Portions

Keeping portion size in check has been shown to limit calorie intake, especially with high-cal foods. Be careful not to overeat at restaurants, which often serve portions that are larger than is recommended for one person. (You’re not obliged to clean your plate; you can always bring home your leftovers and make another meal of it.) At home, it may help to plate your food in a visually appealing way, and then instead of placing serving dishes on the table, put excess food away or out of easy reach, so you think twice before serving yourself seconds – or thirds.

Snack Smarter

If you're hungry between meals, don't reach for the chips. Grab a piece of fruit or an attractive plate of cut veggies instead. And whatever you’re snacking on, put a reasonable portion of it in a bowl or on a plate, so you can see how much you’re scarfing down, especially if you're eating while doing something else, like watching TV or reading. Store less healthy snacks, if you must buy them, out of sight and possibly in a harder to reach spot, like on a high shelf, to keep from impulse snacking.

Amy Reiter also contributes to FN Dish.

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