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After New Year’s, it’s time to eat healthy

This veggie casserole is a great way to start the new year off right. (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

It’s Jan. 2 and we have just entered a new year — and a new decade. The past decade brought technological innovations: smart phones, social media, electric vehicles, self-driving automobiles. It also opened our eyes to new challenges — the biggest being our planet’s changing climate.

The darkest part of the year is behind. As light increases and darkness fades, many begin each year with reflection and renewal, pondering past problems and planning for a better, more positive future.

Resolutions are an attempt to motivate ourselves towards positive change. Are you one of the 45% of Americans who made resolutions for 2020?

More than one-third of all New Year’s resolutions have to do with food, fitness and healthier eating — the most popular being weight loss. Each January, diet books fly off bookstore shelves. Gyms and exercise classes experience a rise in new members. But studies show that most of us fail the challenge.

U.S. clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani says about 80% of people fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolutions. Only about 8% succeed. That could be because resolutions tend to focus on past negativity — what we failed at last year and want to improve on this year.

Gareth Mills from Strava puts it this way: “Sticking to resolutions is hard and we all know there’s a lot of talk and pressure in January about getting fitter and being healthier.”

So how can you achieve a healthier lifestyle in 2020?

Experts advise that small steps are best. Don’t set huge goals: instead, begin with small successes and challenge yourself to bigger goals. What positive things happened in the past year that you can build on in this one?

Create a plan for success. How will you maintain motivation? How will you handle the discomfort and stress when you fail?

Write your goals down; this helps with accountability.

Find a supportive community where you can encourage each other. Be sure to celebrate small victories.

Move forward with optimism, hope and plans for the future. May the year ahead be healthy and productive.

Here are a couple simple recipes that focus on plant foods rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals to encourage a healthy diet. Simply put, a plant-based diet just means replacing some of the meat with vegetables and fruits. It’s not so much about what you eat, as the proportion. At least half — or more — of your plate should be vegetables and fruit, with only a small space for meat.

Plant-based diets like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet emphasize fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. But stick to real foods rather than their processed counterparts. Potato chips and fries, refined grains (cereals, pasta, white rice) and sweet drinks may contain plant foods but should be avoided.

Begin small by reducing your consumption of animal-based foods and replacing them with plant-based foods like vegetables, fruit, beans and nuts. Most of your dinner plate should be vegetables, salads and fruit, leaving only a little space for the meat.

Here are a couple recipes to get you started on this journey.

Main Dish Vegetable Casserole

This takes just 15 minutes to prepare and about a half hour to bake. Make a salad while the casserole is in the oven, and dinner is on the table.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion (about 1 cup)

1 green bell pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup frozen green beans

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup black beans

1 can (1 3/4 cups) diced tomatoes, drained

2/3 cup grated cheese, such as sharp Cheddar

Directions:

Peel and dice the onion; wash, seed and dice the pepper. Heat oil in skillet; add onion and pepper, sprinkle with the salt and saute 5 to 7 minutes; add green beans, and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Spray or grease casserole or baking dish. Add the corn, black beans, tomatoes and half of the grated cheese, and place everything in casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake until bubbly (about 30 min) for the cheese to melt and the flavors to blend Serve with a salad of tossed greens. Serves 2 to 3.

Green Tartine

Tartine is French for an open-faced sandwich. This makes a filling and healthy lunch.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bunch greens (arugula, kale, spinach, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, etc.)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon prepared mustard (such as Dijon)

2 Tablespoons plain yogurt

½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Good, hearty multi-grain bread

Directions:

Wash greens and chop coarsely. Drain, spin-dry and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet. Peel and mince the garlic, add, and cook 1 minute. Add greens, sprinkle with salt, and saute until wilted for tender greens like spinach or arugula. If using tougher greens like collards or kale, add a half cup of broth, water or wine, cover, and braise until tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. In a small bowl, mix together mustard and yogurt, and stir into cooked greens.

Top bread slices with the greens mixture and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Place in broiler or toaster oven and broil, watching closely, until bread crisps and cheese melts.

Happy New Year!

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.