How was your summer eating? Do you tend to go light in the summer with a bounty of fresh local fruits, grilled chicken, fresh vegetables from your garden? Or have your weekends been filled with fun barbecues, fried seafood at the beach, and picnics consisting of buttery corn on the cob and mayonnaise-laden potato salad? If so, it’s time to get back to the routine.

As the weather starts to transition into milder days and cooler nights, we tend to change how we eat as well. Autumn and winter menus tend to focus on heavier, richer meals but that doesn’t have to be the case. Comfort foods can still be healthy if you make better choices. Choose broth-based soups over heavy cream soups. A homemade chicken soup made with lots of vegetables and a light, low sodium stock is a great nutritious family meal perfect for the season. If you crave cheesy, creamy casseroles, make some modifications to your classic recipes to make them lower in fat. Reduced fat cheeses and skim milk can replace regular high-fat dairy products in recipes without losing flavor and texture. Adding additional vegetables is a great way to boost nutrition and flavor. Switching to whole grain pasta and brown rice instead of their white varieties, adds more fiber and vitamins. Choosing different colored vegetables and fruits each day ensures that your body is getting an assortment of different phytochemicals and antioxidants that help protect cell damage from harmful free radicals in the environment.

Start the day with a high fiber cereal (an excellent source contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving), low fat milk or yogurt and fresh fruit. Lunch and dinner should include whole grains, lean protein and plenty of colorful vegetables and salads.

Nutrition should be considered when choosing snacks as well. Sweets and high sodium, high fat foods offer little or no nutritional value but healthy alternatives can curb hunger while providing some nutrients that may be missing from the daily dietary intake. Some good snacks include fruit and yogurt smoothies, cut vegetables with a light dip, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, fresh fruit, frozen yogurt, nuts, whole grain cereal with 1% milk, whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, English muffin pizzas, and a hard-boiled egg.

So as a new season is amongst us, consider it also a time of new beginnings for a new healthier you and your family.