It often seems like a race to get through the holidays — and the finish line is January and those New Year’s resolutions. The top two are always losing weight and exercising. The problem is that resolutions last for about a month, and then we’re back to our old (not-so-healthy) habits.
I have a challenge for all of us: Skip the resolutions and start now to eat healthier and create a consistent exercise program. In a recent column, Prairie Farmer editor Holly Spangler wrote about how a lot of farmers (and the rest of us, too) are just plain tired. A tough harvest, a tough year.
I’m a firm believer that one of the ways to overcome that stress, which makes us feel tired, is to concentrate on eating healthier.
Instead of focusing on what not to eat — fueled by trying the latest crazy diet that eliminates this category of foods or that category (keto included, in my opinion) — think about what you do want to eat. Foods give us fuel, and like bad fuel in a tractor or car, too much of the wrong foods can make us sluggish or simply laid up for a season.
So, what should be on your list of foods to eat more of in 2020?
Fruits and vegetables. Instead of a diet in January, try adding a new fruit or vegetable every day. Have you tried a Cara Cara orange (full of flavor and lower acid), or how about Holiday grapes (big and juicy and full of flavor)? For the holidays, my Hy-Vee store brought in white and purple asparagus along with the traditional green. How fun to serve fresh on a platter with a dip of Greek yogurt, light mayonnaise, lemon juice and fresh dill. Variety really matters when it comes to produce, as each fruit or vegetable offers our bodies a little different nutrient that we need.
Whole grains. You’ve probably heard you should make a switch to whole wheat bread and brown rice to boost your fiber, but have you tried quinoa in a salad or barley in your vegetable soup? Whole grains are full of B vitamins, and despite the craze over lower carbohydrates, we need complex carbohydrates (from whole grains) in our daily diet.
Water. Few of us get enough water each day. Start the morning with a glass. You’ll feel better, have better skin and actually eat less throughout the day. Skip the soda or Gatorade or sweet tea and go for water. If you need it flavored, add a lemon or lime.
Lean protein. You don’t have to give up meat — meat is the only source of B12 in our diets — but keep it lean. Choose a filet over a rib-eye or prime rib. Choose a pork tenderloin, white meat of chicken and turkey, and less processed sausage and bacon. Have you tried Canadian bacon? It’s much leaner than our American pork bacon and is great on a pizza.
Lean dairy. Calcium is one of the nutrients we skimp on. So go back to drinking a glass of skim milk with your meals, or grab a low-fat Greek yogurt (choose a lower-sugar option such as Oikos Triple Zero or Light and Fit) or some cottage cheese with fruit.
Eating healthy isn’t hard. It just takes some good decision-making. What you bring home from the store is what you eat. So make some healthy choices to fill your grocery cart.
Here’s a recipe to get you started on this journey to better health. May you have a healthy, prosperous new year.
Maple Pork Wilted Salad
8 cups fresh baby spinach or torn fresh spinach leaves
1½ cups peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber
¼ cup thin wedges red onion
12-ounce pork tenderloin, trimmed and sliced ¼-inch thick
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
In a large bowl, combine spinach, cucumber and onion. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add meat; cook 2 to3 minutes or just until barely pink in center, turning once. Add meat to spinach mixture.
For dressing, in skillet heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add shallot; cook and stir 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in vinegar and maple syrup. Simmer, uncovered, 1½ to 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Pour dressing over spinach mixture; toss gently to coat. Top with almonds. Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 325 calories, 24 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrate, 15 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 67 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber, 349 milligrams sodium
Fargo is a dietitian for Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill. Send recipe ideas to her at email@example.com.