While I didn’t get around to posting my Top 10, or 11, or even 5 popular recipes for 2011 – I will join the wave of resolutions, goals, and/or good intentions for eating healthier, exercising more, accentuating the positive, etc. that happens at this time of year. For some, a healthy mindset may last just long enough to detox from the holidays; for me – I remind myself throughout the year, and when it comes to healthy eating – well, that’s what I emphasize year round! I fall off the wagon now and then (french fries are my nemesis) and love my wine and cocktails, but indulgences are balanced out with clean eating, such as the Crispy Kale and Hoppin’ John above which, in true southern tradition, ushered in the new year at our house.
2012 is already shaping up to be a watershed year, punctuated with milestones and travel adventures: Don and I will become grandparents for the first time, we’ll continue our escapades in Paris and, after one cancelled trip, will be traveling to Hong Kong in April, College girl was accepted for a study abroad program and will be living in Japan for 6 months, and who knows what else the future holds! All we have to do is stay healthy to be able to enjoy it all – you don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone and that is especially true when it comes to one’s health.
A few months ago, I was contacted by an associate of Long Island Heart Associates in Long Island, NY about writing a guest post for my website. I’m thrilled that someone clear across the country noticed my emphasis on heart healthy recipes! Just another example of how 2012 is going to be FABULOUS! Today’s post is courtesy of Ashley from Long Island Heart who offers 5 easy to implement Heart Healthy Resolutions:
Each year, the list of most common New Year’s resolutions is topped by losing weight and getting fit. All too often, people pursue these resolutions by banishing all indulgences to the back of the pantry in hopes of removing food from their psyche altogether. If you’ve tried this method before (“If I don’t see the brownie mix hiding in the cabinet, I won’t crave it, right?!”) you’ll know it works. Or, at least it does until about the third week in January. Some lucky people with rock-solid willpower might even make it through the Super Bowl or beyond without touching junk food and other associated evils. Instead of buying into the traditional all-or-nothing hype, why not try something new this year? Rather than serving up an extra serving of guilt with each meal, make a resolution to celebrate food in 2012!
Resolution 1: Try one new food each week
Make a resolution to seek out something new and different for your plate each week. It’s easy to stop appreciating food when you fall into a rut of eating the same bland ingredients every week. Not only does experimenting with a variety of foods expand your skills in the kitchen, but it also promotes better overall health by providing a wider range of nutrients. If you have been shopping at the same grocer or market for years, a change of venue might be enough to inspire you to grab some unfamiliar produce. Whether you venture to the Chinatown markets of New York or one of Orange County’s many farmers’ markets, there are bound to be flavor palates you have not yet experienced. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas:
Resolution 2: Make a family meal schedule and stick to it
Study after study has extolled the benefits of eating dinner as a family on a regular basis. While longing parents might envision a Norman Rockwell gathering or a meal hand-prepared by June Cleaver, being realistic is the key to making family dinners work. Coming together around the table each night has been shown to improve health and school/work performances.
With one or multiple family members involved in extra-curricular activities, starting with 2-3 dinners per week can help get everyone into the routine amid busy schedules. If you don’t already have one, start a family calendar with daily or weekly family dinners clearly marked. Communicate to your family that dinners are a priority, and stick to the posted schedule. Kids not enjoying family time? Encourage youngsters to invite friends over to share in a family meal and suggest upcoming menu items. Even the busiest moms and dads can pull off family dinner by following these rules:
- Keep it simple! Stick to crock pot recipes and things that can be easily assembled
- Get everyone involved in planning, prep and cooking
- Don’t be ashamed to designate a “Take-Out Night” once a month. Just be sure to order extra veggies with your lo mein 🙂
Resolution 3: Stop to enjoy the food you are eating
It’s no secret that the “secret” to most French foods is hearty helpings of butter. So why is it that people in the land of croissants and clarified butter are able to remain long and lean unlike their American counterparts? Researchers have attributed the French physique to the nation’s attitudes towards food, weight and pleasure. Instead of leaving the office for 20 minutes to grab whatever lunch options are found at the deli, the French (and Europeans as a whole) enjoy long, leisurely meals. Incorporate all your senses, savor and pause to appreciate food on a plate, as opposed to eating on the run, in your car or at your desk, you may find yourself feeling full before the plate is empty. People who eat more slowly tend to enjoy their food more and choose healthier options. By putting this theory into practice, you can decide to eat any food you crave, regardless of calorie count. But when the urge for a brownie sundae hits, make sure you pause between each bite of fudgy goodness to appreciate the flavors gracing your taste buds. You may be surprised that just a few bites will satisfy your sweet tooth instead of the entire bowl.
Resolution 4: Grow your own food
For those lucky enough to live in Southern California, a modest backyard vegetable garden can produce enough veggies to liven up dinner plates almost year-round. Home-grown vegetables provide a cheap and sustainable form of nutrition for families and also have the potential to get youngsters more interested in what they are eating.
Having a hard time getting your family to finish their greens? Elementary-aged and even younger kids have shown to be more interested in trying new foods when they’ve had a hand in planting and tending them. While planting and growing a backyard garden can especially engage kids, the benefits of extra vegetables are enjoyed by the whole family. Home-grown green beans, carrots, lettuce and cucumbers are all easy-to-grow plants that pack an added nutrient punch. Eating your daily 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables is key to protecting against heart disease and cancer.
Resolution 5: Spoil yourself with fine food
Between work, commuting, school, homework, and extracurricular activities, it’s easy to think of meals as just another agenda item to be checked off the list. Thinking this way prioritizes efficiency over all else at the expense of quality and pleasure. Rather than making a resolution to give up junk and fast food, re-frame your thinking and make a resolution to spoil yourself with culinary delights. Insist on eating a complete, wholesome meal instead of settling for greasy drive-through options, because you know your body deserves the best. If you truly believe in your own self-worth, why would you nourish your body with anything less than what it needs?
This doesn’t mean each meal has to be a gourmet, three-course affair complete with candle light and white linens. What it does mean, however, is that each meal should be deliberate and considered. Instead of reaching (or driving) for whatever is closest in proximity to you, stop to consider what your body really needs at that moment and make a conscious decision to fulfill that need. Though it may sound difficult, a little practice (and these few tips) can help you stay on track: keep nutritious snacks on hand to ward off hunger until you can sit down for a complete meal and learn to take cues from your body. Do you really want Doritos, or is your brain asking for some lean protein?
This guest post was written by Ashley from Long Island Heart Associates. Photos and recipes for featured dishes by She’s Cookin’.
For questions about maintaining a heart healthy diet, contact a cardiologist in your area today:
Long Island Heart Institute, Long Island, NY
Hoag Heart Institute, in Orange County, CA