Fall Back to Good Health

11/09/2011 12:16 pm ET | Updated Jan 09, 2012

The days are shorter. The leaves have changed and you're forced to wear more clothes. Thankfully, we're still averaging the high 60s here in the South, but cooler weather and darker days have finally set in across the country. This change can throw a wrench into your healthy eating and workout regimen and negatively impact your mood. Here are some simple tips to help you stay on track, fight winter weight gain and boost your overall health and well-being.

Fight the urge to hibernate. The extra nighttime hours means more time spent indoors which can trigger boredom and late night snacking. Limit couch TV time as this is a common trigger for senseless snacking. Set a "kitchen closed" policy after dinner. Retreat to your bedroom to read a book, take a bath, call a friend or help your kids with their homework -- anything to keep nighttime noshing at a minimum.

Move More. Now that sunrise comes an hour earlier, let the light in and use that time to fit in a morning workout. If you typically exercise outside in the evenings, don't allow your workout regimen to fall by the wayside because it's too cold outside. Ask a friend to join you, enroll in group classes like Zumba® or consider doing exercise videos at home. Where there's a will there's a way.

Check your vitamin D status. When the sun goes down, so does your ability to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for healthy and strong bones but recent research shows that vitamin D may also play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing heart disease. And it appears that many people don't get enough -- especially in the winter months when there's less sunlight available to stimulate vitamin D production in the body.

To boost your vitamin D intake, reach for foods like salmon, tuna, fortified orange juice, milk, eggs and some mushrooms. Food sources are limited, so you may need to supplement. Before supplementing, ask your doctor for a vitamin D deficiency test to see how you're doing.

Get enough sleep. Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. Skimping on your nightly zzz's can lead to weight gain and increase your risk for conditions like diabetes, heart disease and even depression.

In addition to these tips, be sure to balance your daily diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats like nuts and avocadoes. A healthy diet energizes and keeps weight gain at bay making it easier to deal with the health and wellness challenges we face in the cooler, darker months of the year.