Jan. 1 is still a few days away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about ways to make 2012 your most healthful year yet. I touched base with some of the folks I interviewed for this column during 2011 to ask them about their plans for the coming year. Here are some of their resolutions for eating, drinking and being healthful through the holiday season and beyond.
“In 2012, I will be eating a mostly plant-based diet of root vegetables, lentils, garbanzo and black beans, unprocessed grains and my homegrown herbs and spices — and my own-grown papayas and pineapples — to target my entire detox system and for immune-strengthening benefits. My 2012 fitness goal: Bones willing, I am training to improve my marathon time, ride my bike more and maintain general fitness with yoga.”
Setting a good example
“God willing, I’ll go another year following my nutritionist’s plan for me, which proscribes not only refined sugar and refined grain but several other foods that I’ve proven I don’t eat moderately. I’ll continue to seek out whole foods grown sustainably, including in my two organic veggie gardens. My goal is not only to feed our family tasty, nutritious food but to show our 2-year-old, Joseph, that nutrition matters, and so does living our values. And I’ll keep spreading the science and experience of food addiction to all who will listen.”
“I find big resolutions are often broken. So I incorporate small steps along the way to long-term good health. For example, I’ve just begun an exercise in self-control that’s working. I start my lunch with an apple and a glass of water, and then I wait. Ten full minutes. Then I eat my actual lunch. The apple, the water and the food pause help me feel fuller, making my sandwich or salad more satisfying. In the new year, I’m going to try a similar exercise with dinner.”
— Duffy MacKay , vice president, Council for Responsible Nutrition
“Even though I’m a longtime vegan and eat healthfully, I’m a lazy exerciser. A few months ago, I set up a board on my treadmill so that I could place my laptop on it and walk slowly while working. Added to brisker outdoor walks, it’s amazing how easy it is to rack up 5 to 6 miles per day — sometimes more. In addition, I try to make each meal at least 50 percent raw. Between these two strategies, that stubborn weight creep around the middle has been melting away!”
“The gluten-free diet can be high in empty carbohydrates, calories and fat. I write about and live the gluten-free lifestyle every day and even spent last year testing nearly 200 recipes for a gluten-free cookbook. You see where I’m going with this? I’ve got to lose five pounds. But I am not great about dieting to lose weight. After all, one diet is enough. So I am going to try to eat more legumes, vegetables and high-fiber gluten-free grains like quinoa, buckwheat groats, brown rice and amaranth. More grains and fewer cookies is my mantra for 2012.”
“Staying healthy is not just for ourselves, nor even just for those we love, but for everyone our lives touch — even in the most indirect ways. Nurturing others often sets up a positive feedback loop, reducing our own stress, improving our health, giving us more to give. This holiday season, I’ll try to sing in harmony with my family, laugh with little kids and listen to my elders’ stories. As for food, health comes not just from what you eat, but how you eat (slowly enough to savor) and how you share — in peace. So that’s what I’ll try to pay attention to.”
How to incorporate veggie days
You may have noticed that a number of folks here mentioned making plant-based foods a bigger part of their diets. That’s a great idea. D.C.-based dietitian Jennifer K. Reilly advocates taking that effort a few steps further. Reilly, author of “Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Skinny Dish!,” follows a mostly vegan diet and thinks many other people could benefit from eating less animal-based food.
Reilly knows that might be a daunting prospect for those who, like me, can’t imagine life without meat, cheese, milk or eggs. So she offers these ideas for easing into vegetable-oriented eating habits.
1 Workweek veggie days: “If you can’t move to a completely plant-powered diet, then a Monday-through-Friday or Monday-Wednesday-Friday plan is fantastic,” she says. “Enjoy beans and lentils for protein, and load half your plate with veggies to encourage satiety without breaking the bank on calories.”
2 Once-a-week vegan detox: Reilly says this is “a great way to keep your body running smoothly and keep your youthful looks and energy.” During the detox day, your diet should be free of gluten and refined sugars, and include 60 to 80 percent raw foods, lots of filtered water and herbal teas.
3 Sample vegan day: Green smoothie, raspberries, vegetables and hummus, brown rice and lentils, a large green salad with raw sunflower seeds and avocado, curried sweet potato soup, and raw vegetables dipped in tahini dressing. Says Reilly: “After 21 days of these new habits, they’ll be as solid as gold!”