Food & drink

Nutrition: September - the perfect time to refresh your diet

Autumn is harvest time, with an abundance of local, seasonal produce available - including hedgerows heaving with blackberries
Jane McClenaghan

IT is the start of September and there is something in the air. A feeling of change. Time for a fresh start. Back to routine.

The change of season is always a good time to take stock and think about what you want to focus on over the coming weeks to help keep yourself fit and healthy.

For my money, it beats January hands down, as the weather is good, the evenings are still light and there are so many nutritious and delicious seasonal fruit and veg on the go.

Getting back into a good routine and making some healthy changes now can go a long way to help keep you energised, support your immune system and help your mental wellbeing through autumn and winter.

If you are ready for a September reset, then I have some ideas to get you thinking. Here are five simple changes to help you reset for autumn that you can start right now:

1. Change with the season - autumn is harvest time, so there is an abundance of local, seasonal food on our plates, packed full of vital nutrients to nourish our bodies. From berries in the hedgerows, local apples and pears, to root vegetables, leafy greens and cruciferous caulis and cabbages, this is a month to celebrate the very best of our local produce.

2. Eat seven-a-day - are you up for the challenge? We all know the five-a-day message but could you pack seven-a-day into your diet over the next week? A portion is about 80g, or the size of your fist. Start at breakfast - some berries on your porridge, tomatoes with your egg or spinach in your smoothie and pack in as many portions of vegetables and fruit as you can. Bulk out your favourite curry, stew or chilli with extra veggies and you are well on your way to seven-a-day. Fresh and frozen both count, but fruit juice doesn't.

3. Get outside while it is still light. The evenings are still light and bright enough by the time most of us finish our working day to give us a chance to get out for a walk, run or cycle. Get into a good routine now and you are more likely to keep your healthy exercise habits up over the rest of the autumn and winter months too. The benefits of exercise for our physical and mental health are just simply amazing, so turn off the TV and get out there.

4. Get back into a routine. With the lazy days of summer, most of us were a bit more relaxed around mealtimes and menu planning. Now we are back at it, it is a great time of year to get inspired with a couple of healthy new recipes that will switch your weekly menu up a notch without too much effort. Take some time this week to dust off your cookbooks or do a Pinterest board for some inspiration for new dinner ideas.

5. Cook once, eat twice. Taking time think about what you are going to cook and making a wee bit extra means that your effort can go a long way. Make dishes that you can eat over couple of days - leftovers for lunch, or in a slightly different way to make a completely different meal for tomorrow nights. Chilli with rice tonight becomes fajitas with wholemeal warps tomorrow, or spag bol makes a great lasagna layer with wholemeal pasta and thinly sliced courgettes to up your veg intake.

What's in season in September?

Here are some fruits that are at their best this month:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Damsons
  • Elderberries
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Redcurrants

There are plenty of seasonal vegetables on the go this month too, including:

  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Courgettes
  • Cucumber
  • Fennel
  • French beans
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Runner beans
  • Salad leaves
  • Turnips

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