Why you’re fatter this fall: Fix summer diet blunders to slide into those skinny jeans

Posted Sept. 19, 2012, at 8:40 a.m.
You probably know by now that sipping a mojito or margarita can rack up as many calories as a drive-through cheeseburger. You may not realize, however, that you're doing double the damage when it's hot because warm weather tends to leave people somewhat dehydrated, which hinders the body's ability to burn fat and alcohol'’s diuretic effect dries you out even more.
C.W.Griffin | Miami Herald | MCT
You probably know by now that sipping a mojito or margarita can rack up as many calories as a drive-through cheeseburger. You may not realize, however, that you're doing double the damage when it's hot because warm weather tends to leave people somewhat dehydrated, which hinders the body's ability to burn fat and alcohol'’s diuretic effect dries you out even more.

Summer Staple: Frozen Yogurt

Why it’s bad: Though frozen yogurt contains live and active cultures that contribute to gut health, calories can add up quickly if you choose any size bigger than a small. And once you figure in all the toppings, you may as well have gone with ice cream, says Keri Gans, registered dietician and author of “The Small Change Diet.” (Discover the biggest frozen yogurt nightmares.)

Autumn adjustment: Forgo the froyo. Dress up a 6-ounce container of low-fat plain Greek yogurt with fresh apple slices or pureed pumpkin with a teaspoon of honey. The protein-packed snack will keep you full for hours.

Summer Staple: Vacation

Why it’s bad: Those weekend road trips are good for your soul — but they may bad for your body, Gans says. The combination of skimping on exercise and indulging in rich foods spells trouble.

Autumn adjustment: If you have the chance to get away, take it (we’re not Scrooge, after all). But pack your sneakers and gym clothes as motivation to keep moving while away from home.

Summer Staple: Sugary Drinks

Why it’s bad: You probably know by now that sipping a mojito or margarita can rack up as many calories as a drive-thru cheeseburger. You may not realize, however, that you’re doing double the damage when you drink them during the summer, says Jennifer Hanes, MD, a Texas-based doctor who recently lost 70 pounds. Warm weather tends to leave people somewhat dehydrated, which hinders the body’s ability to burn fat; alcohol’s diuretic effect dries you out even more.

Autumn adjustment Match the alcohol drink for drink with water. Bored with H2O? Add a mint leaf, a slice of cucumber or a squeeze of a lime to plain seltzer for a fizzy kick.

Summer Staple: Salad

Why it’s bad: Summer salads tend to be topped with sunflower seeds, avocado, mozzarella and olive oil. Those are all healthy in moderation, but their calorie and fat counts can add up quickly. “Sounds crazy, but salads can pack more calories than a hot fudge sundae,” Hanes says.

Autumn adjustment: Flavor your greens with salt or lemon juice. For some sweetness, top them with sliced apples and cinnamon. And be sure to steer clear of these dressings that turn salads into fat bombs.

Summer Staple: No Meal Plan

Why it’s bad: With more daylight hours, longer weekends and no school in session, it’s tempting to stay up late, sleep in and log happy-hour time on the patio. Chances are, your three-meal-a-day schedule went out the window.

Autumn adjustment: It would be super boring to plan your life hour-by-hour, but pay attention to the times you’re eating, and limit yourself to regular meal times, Hanes says. The occasional late-night snack or happy hour is totally fine, but if you do too many, you’ll continue to gain weight. Drop even more pounds by learning the best times to eat for weight loss.

Summer Staple: Smoothies

Why it’s bad: They’re cold, refreshing and healthy — sometimes. Many smoothies contain sherbet, sugary fruit juice, flavored frozen yogurt, honey, whole milk, agave or other sweeteners, says Andrea Giancoli, registered dietician and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Autumn adjustment: You can continue sipping your smoothies, but steer clear of any of the ingredients above. For a healthy fall blend, mix a banana, 100 percent pumpkin puree (not to be confused with pumpkin pie mix), ice, a spoonful of peanut butter and skim milk or unsweetened soy milk, Giancoli says. Or whip up one of these healthy smoothie recipes for weight loss.

Summer Staple: Outdoor Dining

Why it’s bad: A summer filled with barbecues, poolside dining and boardwalk fare can pack on the pounds super quickly. Not only do you have limited options food-wise, but you’re also sporting a relaxed anything-goes attitude, which may make you less likely to even pause before digging into the cheeseburgers on hand.

Autumn adjustment: Before you know it, those summer barbecues will be replaced with holiday soirees. Eat something healthy at home before you go out so you’re less inclined to dig into the cookie tray. Read on for more advice on avoiding holiday weight gain.

Summer Staple: Crash Dieting

Why it’s bad: If you fasted or tried another crazy diet to slim down before swimsuit season, your quick results likely came with a price. “When you starve yourself, you end up overdoing it later and eating everything in sight,” says Susan Roberts, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at Tufts University and author of “The Instinct Diet.”

Autumn adjustment: Fill your plate with seasonal foods like apples, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin.

Summer Staple: Iced Coffee

Why it’s bad: Iced coffee alone is perfectly fine: It’s low in calories, and studies show drinking moderate amounts of coffee regularly fights mental decline and reduces the risk of diabetes, says Rania Batayneh, nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You, a nutrition consulting firm. Add a little mocha or caramel flavoring and toss it all into a blender with ice and whole milk, though, and your brisk beverage can become a calorie bomb — up to 700 per drink. At one popular chain, an icy menu item packs a whopping 96 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of eating a half-cup of the sweet stuff straight, Batayneh says.

Autumn adjustment: Instead of syrup, add almond, soy or coconut milk, all of which will add a little sweetness to your drink.

Summer Staple: Lemonade

Why it’s bad: If you simply mixed lemon juice with water and ice, it would be almost too tart to drink. To make sour lemons into sweet lemonade, you need to dump a load of sugar into it. Commercial brands contain about 30 grams of sugar, or 7 { teaspoons, per cup, Batayneh says.

Autumn adjustment: Replace half the lemonade with unsweetened iced tea, or squeeze a little lemon juice into green tea.

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