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Make the new year about your health

By Robin Tant

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After the holidays, we always hear about making New Year’s resolutions such as losing weight or joining a gym. While these may be good goals, often they are not attainable because they are set too high and we cannot follow through for the long term. This year, instead of making it all about a “New Year’s Resolution,” make your personal goal about achieving healthy habits, lifestyle changes and behaviors.

Here are a few tips to help get you started:   

  • Change your outlook. Small, gradual changes will likely last over time. Ask yourself why you really want to make a change in your lifestyle habits. Do you want to improve your health? Do you want to maintain your good health? Start with an apple a day or a 10 minute walk. If you eat fast food every day at lunch, consider preparing a healthier lunch at home one or two times a week. If cooking dinner is a goal, designate one or two days during the week that you will cook. You can build on these gradual steps.
  • Don’t skip meals. Often people think that if they skip meals, they are saving calories. However, skipping meals can actually have negative effects on your health. First, it may increase the likelihood of overeating later in the day. If you skip a meal, you are apt to be hungrier at the next meal and may overeat or have seconds. This can lead to consuming more calories than you would have if you had not skipped the meal. In addition, it may also cause you to have less energy and decreased performance for work, school, physical activity or other parts of your life. If you are not hungry, try eating mini meals such as cold cereal, low-fat milk and a half banana or graham crackers, peanut butter and apple slices.
  • Eat more plant-based foods. Colorful foods such as tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, leafy greens, squash, watermelon, apples, grapes and other plant-based foods are nutrient rich with protective vitamins and minerals that help keep you healthy. In addition, these foods contain fiber which can help fill you up, aid in digestion and may help to prevent certain diseases such as heart disease and some cancers. Salads are an easy and fun way to get in more fruits and vegetables — try a traditional salad with lettuce (romaine and darker color lettuce varieties have more vitamins), carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes, or mix it up by adding a fruit such as mandarin oranges packed in juice and white beans or any favorite bean. (Try dipping your fork into your favorite salad dressing instead of pouring it from the bottle to prevent excess calories and fat.) Add carrots, onions and squash into meatloaf, casseroles or pasta dishes.  
  • Make half of your grains whole grains. Whole grains contain fiber, which has been linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases. Whole grain bread, pasta and tortillas are easy ways to get in more whole grains. Other great options are oatmeal, breakfast cereals and brown rice. To identify a whole grain, look for the ingredient list to contain words such as whole wheat, brown rice, wild rice, bulger, oatmeal or whole rye. Try brown rice stuffing in baked bell peppers or tomatoes or whole-wheat macaroni noodles in macaroni and cheese.
  • Eat mindfully. Eating well is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Try eating slowly and enjoy the texture, temperature, taste and aroma of your foods. Take time and place your fork down between bites. This simple tip can help increase satiety and fill you up faster. Eating mindfully is also a great way to enjoy family time and conversation at the dinner table.

Have a healthy, happy start to the new year with simple lifestyle changes.  

—  Robin Tant is director of the nutrition program of the Pitt County Health Department.



Zucchini and Eggplant Casserole 

  • • 2 zucchini (medium-large, yellow and green) 
  • • 1 small eggplant
  • • 2 tomatoes 
  • • 2 teaspoons olive oil 
  • • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper  
  • • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper 
  • • Salt, to taste 
  • • ¼ cup low-fat cheese or Parmesan cheese
  • • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (about 10 sprigs) 

Heat the oven (with the oven rack in the middle) to 400 degrees. Slice the zucchini and eggplant into quarter-inch-thick rounds. Arrange in a single layer in a large baking dish. Cut the tomatoes into quarter-inch-thick slices. Tuck them into the zucchini and eggplant. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with black pepper, red pepper and salt. Sprinkle with cheese. Pull the thyme leaves from their sprigs and scatter over the top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until vegetables are tender and can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.

Nutrition info: Calories, 104; fat 5.2 grams; Sodium, 59 grams; dietary fiber: 5.9 grams

— Recipe adapted from Yummly.com


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