Chow Bella

Five Ways to Eat Better in 2012

It's a new year and we've made ourselves so happy and so sick on sweets and treats this holiday season -- and it shows in that uncomfortable waistline snug and tug. We've got a remedy:

We could tell you many different ways to eat more healthfully, but they all boil down to eating more vegetables.

The truth is that it's often difficult to get turned on by thinking about turnips or cabbage but these are some of the foods that will eventually save your life, and if you choose pesticide-free and grown near your home, you're contributing to the Earth's health, too. It's a win-win proposition.

Now, here are 5 ways to make them more of a habit:

5. Juicing/Smoothies. The beloved Alton Brown (among many other food/health authorities) lost weight in recent years due (in part) to his switch to a morning fruit smoothie for breakfast. It's sort of like front-loading your day with plants just in case your schedule doesn't permit for much of the fresh stuff later on.

4. Join a CSA. Joining you local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a little like joining a gym but in the very best way. You're forced to learn how to prepare foods you don't usually put into your shopping cart since, by design, the farmer chooses what's best in the fields that week. There's absolutely a learning curve but if you can make it to the end of a season, you'll have learned how to cook/store vegetables like your great grandparents did back in the day. You'll also learn that you actually love Swiss chard and rutabagas. Putting your hard-earned money into farms and workers who are out in the fields long hours and in some crazy weather just to have this nourishing food available for you is a very good thing.

3. Two words: Vegetable soup. This is a fantastic tip. Learn to make an amazing basic vegetable soup adding onions and/or garlic with whatever vegetables are leftover in your fridge with a flavorful broth once a week, and you'll have a frugal and flavorful lunch all week long. Zap a portion in the microwave and you've got something pretty excellent for lunch or a last minute dinner that's so good for you. Top with a small spoonful of a pistou (or pesto) that you keep frozen along with some fresh (or toasted straight from the freezer) bread and a bit of fabulous cheese and you will be treating yourself to something special that you made with pretty minimal effort.

2. Switch to plant-based meal planning. If you're already meal planning in general, that's great. When planning/choosing your meals, think vegetable first and meat next. You know that you're supposed to fill your plate half-full of vegetables, this will ensure that you're reserving it's spot on the plate and giving them the focus it deserves. You can start switching up your words with "we're having spinach for dinner" (that happens to have chicken), versus "we're having chicken for dinner." Similarly, focus on fruit-based desserts will help fit those other fresh gems into your diet.

1. Cook at home. This is the most important tip. If you don't know how to cook, it's time to get on it. If you know how but don't do it enough, give your cooking space a little redo to lure you back. Get yourself a good knife and cutting board, toss the cheap and more-work-than-they're-worth kitchen tools, bring in fresh flowers and/or herbs, a little music to soothe (you savage beast you) and make cooking a helluva lot more romantic, and try using the good tabletop stuff for everyday.

Bonus (non-vegetable) eat better tip for 2012: Sardines. Dr. Weil sings their praises since they're known to help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and they're quite delicious, actually. If you are a fan of canned tuna, you can easily switch to these fishy friends. They're vegetarian (read: mercury free), sustainable (their natural predators have been over-fished) and fill you with the important omega-3s that we all need. Here's a list of 30 ways to prepare sardines if you need some inspiration.

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Jennifer Woods
Contact: Jennifer Woods