Whether you’re sad that summer is coming to a close or you’re ready to ring in autumn season with your first pumpkin-spice latte, you can’t deny that the end of summer brings with it a sort of diet reality check. I don’t mean weight loss diet; I mean your overall diet. Even if there is no “back to school” hoopla going on at your house, I’d venture to say that that September’s arrival still means a switch away from the breezy, more impromptu meal style of summer and back to the more organized meal style of fall.
I welcome seasonal changes to my diet—they are part of what makes the year interesting, they prompt new food explorations, and they give me an opportunity to revamp things about my eating that may have gotten off-track the previous season. Here are a few thoughts about how welcoming fall into your life via your diet can be a really good thing.
Get back to more organized meal planning.
I find in the summer that I don’t plan meals nearly as much because it’s fun to have a loosey-goosey, less structured life in the summer (maybe we’ll cook out if it’s nice out, maybe we’ll go out to eat if it’s raining, let’s pack a picnic and go enjoy the late-summer evening, it’s too hot to cook so tonight we’re just having BLTs)—and that’s okay. Sometimes having no real plan IS the plan—and that is part of the beauty of summertime! Whatever meal planning may mean to you, if you’re like me, you welcome the chance to get a bit more organized and predictable come fall. That doesn’t mean you have to go crazy with the “meal prep” craze you see all over social media (I for one don’t want to eat the same food all week—maybe that’s just me), but you can incorporate more planning into your weekly eating in a variety of ways. I’ve got some ideas below, but also check out other tips here and here:
- Start writing down which days you’ll cook at home (and your plan for the entrée) each week so your family can plan around that.
- Make Sunday afternoon your time to get into a soup or casserole-making habit, giving you at least a couple meals worth of food that is ready for the week ahead.
- Start looking at the store circular/advertisements again so you can save some money and plan meals around what’s on sale that week.
Rein in your “special summer food” habit.
It seems like most people I know eat certain things in the summer—often not very healthful things—that they rarely eat at other times of the year (looking at you, s’mores). I get it; I do it as well. For me, kettle-cooked potato chips are something I really only eat in the summer—they go so well with cookouts on the deck! Granted, I try to compromise by getting the reduced-fat chips (I love them), but it’s still a good example. For some of you it might be hot dogs, ice cream or margaritas. I’m not making any judgments—again, fun summer foods make the season special. But now that summer is ending, it’s time to get back to the basics of a healthful diet.
If your favored summer food is not a healthy staple food (like fruit, for example), September means it’s time to break up the relationship and start fresh. Also, if your “special summer food” habit has caused some weight gain that you’d rather not keep as a summer souvenir, finding your way back to a more balanced eating plan can usually help out there. Here are a few ideas to help you get ready for making dietary changes, and tips for making healthy eating a habit again.
Re-discover the family dinner table.
Although kids’ school schedules and extra-curricular activities do create some chaos, there’s usually at least a few nights each week that you can come together around the table to reconnect and eat a nice, healthful meal at home. Having dinner with each other is important for several reasons including social, emotional, physical and even budgetary benefits, so it’s worth prioritizing it (make “family dinner night” obvious on the weekly meal plan—write it in bold and include the time dinner will be served). The Family Dinner Project offers lots of resources for planning, recipes, organizational tips and conversation starters to help make family dinners fun and rewarding for the entire family.