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10 Little Ways to Boost Your Health This Fall

Bring it on, autumn.

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Embrace seasonal superfoods

Pumpkins are good for more than just carving—they’re jam-packed with immune-boosting vitamin A, are low-cal and low-carb, and can be roasted, mashed, turned into a soup, or used in baking. Here’s how nutritionists love to use pumpkin puree. And plenty of other autumn veggies can also add a healthy bump to your diet, like fiber-filled beets, vitamin C-packed hearty Brussels sprouts, and potassium-rich sweet potatoes. “Fall is a great to time to get all these new vegetables so you can be smart about the way you change seasons,” says Shanna Levine, MD, a primary care physician and clinical instructor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

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Buy Halloween candy strategically

“Never buy candy you like; that’s an easy set up for getting yourself into trouble,” says Dr. Levine. Another good trick is to wait until right before Halloween to stock up for trick-or-treaters so you’re not tempted by sweets lying around the house. If you can’t deny your sweet tooth, opt for fun size candy bars. This is what 100 calories of your favorite Halloween candy actually looks like.

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Get a flu shot

“I think everyone should get a flu shot, but especially if you have an underlying condition that might predispose you to getting sick, such as being a current or former smoker, anyone with an autoimmune disease, people with diabetes, and the elderly,” says Dr. Levine. Anyone working in a healthcare or community setting, like a school or library, should also definitely get vaccinated, she says. The flu shot can cut your risk of getting the flu by up to 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These natural flu remedies can help you recover more quickly if you do get sick.

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Avoid the pumpkin spice latte trap

You know it’s fall when the pumpkin spice latte makes its debut. “One of the hardest things for people to avoid is the pumpkin spice lattes you see everywhere,” says Dr. Levine. Though they might get you in the autumnal spirit, they’re sky-high in fat and sugar, which add up to hundreds of calories. Make your drink healthier by choosing low- or non-fat milk instead of whole, say “no” to whipped cream, and ask for less flavor syrup. “Cinnamon is a great fall spice that has health benefits and can also be used instead of the sweetener,” says Dr. Levine.

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Protect yourself from a common cold

Even if everyone around you is sniffling, you should still take steps to protect yourself. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands regularly (and avoid these five hand washing mistakes), get plenty of rest, and eat a healthy diet. Try these other easy immune-boosting habits. And here’s what to eat if you do get sick with a cold.

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Be a smart sports fan

Fall is prime time for sports fans, when you can take your pick of football, baseball, hockey, and basketball almost any day of the week. But the big game can also be a huge diet bomb if you guzzle beers and inhale chicken wings every weekend. “Choose the light version of a beer, and drink one cup of water after each glass of alcohol,” says Dr. Levine. “You can also fill up on veggies or choose lean ground turkey for your burger instead of beef.”

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Pay attention to your wardrobe

It’s easy to pile on the pounds during the holiday season without even realizing, but your closet may be a good first clue. “Your favorite pair of jeans is your best barometer, not what the scale says. If they’re a little more snug than usual, that’s a clear sign you’re gaining weight,” says Dr. Levine.

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Get outside

“I like fall because it’s good outdoor weather. Really take advantage of exercising and spending time outside before winter arrives,” says Dr. Levine. “Whether it’s a pick-up game of football or going on a run or hike, be active.” She also suggests setting a footstep goal you want to hit everyday to encourage yourself to get up and move, then using an app or pedometer to track yourself.

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Maintain a routine

As summer fades, so does the sunlight, which can throw your body clock all out of whack. “I encourage people to keep the same routine they had when the weather was nicer. Go to sleep at an appropriate hour, get at least seven hours, and plan your week ahead, like packing a gym bag or making your lunch,” says Dr. Levine. Here are some surprising ways fewer daylight hours affect your health.

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Beat the baking season

With cooler weather comes sweet baked treats, and you shouldn’t be afraid to say “yes”; moderation is the key. “Don’t deprive yourself. You can allow yourself a small but appropriate amount of sweets every day, just don’t overdue it,” says Dr. Levine. Reach for one cookie instead of two, or bring in your own office sweets so you know what ingredients were used. These are smart secrets to eating in moderation.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest