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Your fall diet: How to eat healthy again after the summer

Hot dogs, burgers and sausages at a summer barbecue.

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The Question

I've gained a few pounds after a summer of barbecues and ice cream. Any tips to get my diet back on track?

The Answer

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Many people find it challenging to stick closely to their healthy eating plan during the summer. Backyard barbecues, outdoor patios, vacations and cottage weekends can easily get a little more indulgent than expected. Now is the time to renew your healthy eating focus. Once you do, I have no doubt you'll quickly lose those few extra pounds.

Set the tone for a day of healthful eating by drinking two glasses of water upon waking and before each meal. Replenishing your body with water helps get your entire system moving – your digestive system, your metabolism and your circulation. Drinking water before eating a meal also helps you feel full and, as a result, can help prevent overeating.

Plan to eat five small meals each day: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner. Eating smaller meals more often helps keep your energy level stable and your appetite under control.

Include fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack to fill up on foods that aren't high in calories. Fibre-rich fruits and vegetables also help keep you feeling full longer because they're digested more slowly than low fibre foods.

Higher fibre fruits include apples, apricots, blackberries, mango, pears, plums and raspberries. When it comes to vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, kale okra, green peas and sweet potato are high in fibre.

If you've had your fair share of red meat and processed meat (e.g. hot dogs and sausages on the grill) this summer, cut back. Plan a week's worth of meals that include chicken, turkey and fish most often. Include a vegetarian meal, such as a salad with chickpeas, black bean tacos, or a tofu stir-fry, three times each week.

Make a commitment to cut back on those summer treats (e.g. ice cream). To wean your tastebuds off of sweets, include a favourite dessert in your diet only once a week.

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Likewise, cut back on summer cocktails if appropriate. I advise women to limit their intake of alcoholic beverages to a maximum of one per day or seven per week and men, maximum nine drinks per week. (One standard drink is equivalent to 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of spirits or 12 ounces of beer.)

To help you follow through with these tips, track what you eat every day for the next two weeks. Doing so provides accountability and will highlight what and how much you are eating. Keep tabs on your daily intake of water, fruit and vegetables, healthy snacks, sweets and alcoholic beverages. Keep a food journal or use a calorie and diet tracker on your smartphone or tablet.

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