What to Eat During Fall

Foods To Endure Life Transitions

September and October are such a time of transition–the temps are dropping, the wind is picking up–that it made me wonder what to eat during fall so that I can weather the change a little better.

Which is why I’m bringing my nutritionist bestie, Mary Sheila Gonnella, back on to talk us through some practical strategies for eating foods to fuel you, sleeping and other good stuff that will help us water ski right through this season of transition, instead of getting tossed about by the waves. 

I especially wanted to talk to Mary Sheila now because in addition to being a certified nutritionist and owner of Occidental Nutrition, she’s also a practitioner of Ayurveda, which is India’s system of traditional medicine and teaches how to combine honoring our own nature with what’s happening in Mother Nature. 

Listen To The Podcast Here

To me the summer into fall transition feels fairly epic, much more so than spring into summer or fall into winter. What’s going on in nature now and how does that relate to what’s going on in us? 

Absolutely because what’s going on in nature is also usually going on inside of us because we’re so elemental, just like our environment is too. That’s the beauty of the science of Ayurveda, is it deals with the elements of ether, air, fire, water earth. And summertime is hot. It’s a very expansive time of year. We might be out more socializing, or maybe out more in the garden or in the elements because the weather permits that. And it’s a great time to be more social.

So all these things are going on. We’re out expressing, our gardens are growing. Everything is just doing its thing in the summertime. And the elements that are in action in summer are fire and water. And that makes it hot and hot is what we call ‘pitta’ in Ayurveda. So all this excess heat, you know, anytime something gets too hot over time, it begins to dry out.

And that leads us into the fall. Fall is a drier time of year. We have the winds blowing and in some places it’s extremely dry before it becomes wet. And so we want to make sure that we take care of that transition and it is a harder transition because sometimes maybe any excess we’ve had can make it harder for us to kind of moisten and hydrate those tissues. And then that’s where we might be more susceptible in our immune system. Our guard could be down for viruses in the fall when people tend to get more sick. If you have kids, you’ve, you’ve experienced that as well.

So it is a bigger transition from being this big expansive demand, kind of hunkering down a little bit more and getting ready for the cold in the winter and feeling sometimes the agitation of dry, because with dry also can come kind of more agitating or anxiety type of feelings.

So what kind of foods are steadying and extra nourishing now? In other words, I really want to know, what should we be putting into our grocery carts?

Yes. And what you have to think about in this sense is what is the local produce that is available because nature will tell you exactly what you need.

So in the fall we harvest and pull in all of our root vegetables and our winter squash and apples and pears, and maybe the last bit of the berries. So all of those foods are very moistening and soothing to our tissues. And if you think about root vegetables and winter squash, you cook them and they become wet and soft, and that’s going to kind of be a very grounding food.

Even roots. They are grounding there under the ground, and that is exactly what is great to be eating. And again, if it’s dry, then we want to cool down and we want to moisten with soups and stews and cook those, those veggies in the broth to just really get them all, all the vitamins and minerals sort of mixed in with the liquid. And they’re very easily accessible that way.

How about lifestyle practices? What are some great ways to take care of yourself during the transition to fall? 

You know, one of the things that’s always kind of makes me chuckle is when I first met my husband years ago, he asked me, where is your favorite place? And the first place that came to mind. And I said it, and I thought, Oh gosh, he’s going to think I’m kind of weird or something. But I said, my bed. I love going into bed. And I love sleeping. I love just crawling in there, and it was fall. And I don’t know if that would be my answer year round, but I know every year in the fall, I just love it. It’s like, we’re extra tired. It’s like we’ve had a real long weekend or a summer of maybe a little more excess and it’s just time to get into bed and to sleep and rejuvenate.

And that’s exactly what sleep gives us. It’s so immune protective and it’s so brain protective and it’s a great time, you know, the days are shorter anyway. And I always appreciate when everybody comes home. So I think having a good dinner and if you live with other people, having a dinner around the table. And getting to bed early is really a great way to allow that transition to be easier on your body.

Yeah. You know, that’s such a good point because I feel like once school gets on the horizon, the first thing I start to think is, man, we’ve got to start getting to bed earlier. And again, you’re kind of validating that instinct. And I’ve also heard that the way that adults can get more sleep is to go to bed early. So I, for one, all the light in the summer, I find really stimulating and I find it really, really hard to sleep in the summer. So thank you for giving me permission to go to bed early and enjoy the darkness.

What are some of your personal go-to things you’re doing now, whether that’s foods or something else?

Last time we talked, I talked about soup, but because we’re coming into that real dry time, that’s what I’m eating now, too. I am doing more broth and soup. Sometimes I’ll do it in the morning before it gets hot, or sometimes I’ll do it in the evening when it’s cooled down a little bit. But I just feel like it’s such a great nourishment tool. And then the other thing, and this is an Ayurvedic practice called abhyanga, is oiling your body. And you really want to do this with edible oils.

So it’s whatever you have in your cupboard, whether it’s avocado, olive, almond, coconut oil, any of those oils will do. And you just oil your body, before or after a shower massage it in there. And that is actually a way to, it’s protective against the dry. You know, we talk a lot about eating, good, healthy fats and oils. And so we do that from the inside and then we can oil from the outside so that those can kind of meet in the middle.

And I love doing those, you know, having soups and oiling my body, you know, going for walks even in the evening before it gets dark. All of that is just, you know, calm things. We don’t have to always be, you know, super robust, but just allowing our body to be calm and nourished is really a great way to allow that transition to be easier.

I have used oil as my primary form of moisturizer for a really long time. And it’s so nice. Sometimes I’ll put a little bit of maybe lavender oil in the oil before I put it on. And, um, you know, we don’t really touch ourselves that much. It’s almost like you’re giving yourself a calming massage the same way that you would maybe rub somebody else’s back or try and calm your pet down. You know, you could just rub the oil in and protect yourself against that dry wind. 

And where can folks find you who want to know more? 


Yeah, well, you can always find out what my latest offering is at my website, which is Occidentalnutrition.com. And I do have a free series coming up with my ayurveda teacher DeAnna Batdorff. And that is the Ayurvedic Secrets of Food Alchemy. So that’s coming up soon and then whatever else I have going on, you can always find it at occidentalnutrition.com.

Daily Tiny Assignment: 

So I love the things that Mary Sheila shared about things we can do that will help us stay steady.  I just want you to pick one of them. Is it making soup? Is it getting bed early tonight? Or is it picking up some oil at the Whole Foods that you can use for your new moisturizer? Or do you already have some stuff in your kitchen that you could use after your next shower? Just do one of them with the intention of, I am helping myself stay steady during this time of uncertainty.

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