PASTA: Trade pasta for “mock” pasta: lightly sautéed fresh veggies (bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushroom, zucchini, etc.) topped with spaghetti sauce and a teaspoon of grated cheese. This switch is very satisfying, largely because plain pasta is pretty bland. Veggies have more flavor; and with a good tomato sauce (add herbs, capers, olives) and some grated cheese, you can happily make the trade. When we’re in a hurry, we simply slice the zucchini into circles before steaming; but to make it more pasta-like, shred raw zucchini in the food processor or cut it into julienne strips. Or, try spaghetti squash.
PASTA: Switch white flour pasta for whole wheat pasta primavera. If you want to eat pasta regularly, make it the more nutritious whole wheat pasta. Then, fill the bowl with half pasta, half steamed veggies: bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushroom, zucchini, etc.
POTATOES: Trade potatoes for bean dishes. Potatoes have become a default starch for many of us. At least twice a week, substitute bean dishes: from casseroles and sides to salads and soups. Beans are a nutritional powerhouse, putting potatoes to shame. It’s easy to open a can of beans (although cooking from scratch lets you control the amount of salt). Check out recipes from the US Dry Bean Council.
Mix equal amounts of pasta and vegetables for a healthier Pasta Primavera. Photo courtesy FatFreeVegan.com. Here’s the recipe.
POTATOES: Trade mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower. Many moms know this trick: Kids don’t notice the difference! You get lots more nutrition, including cancer-fighting antioxidants, and far fewer calories. We steam the cauliflower in the microwave, and often pulse it in the food processor for a silky purée. You can also use turnips or rutabaga, a cross between a cabbage and a turnip (rutabaga is commonly called yellow turnip). If you don’t want a mash, top the steamed or stir-fried vegetables with plain nonfat Greek yogurt or lowfat cottage cheese and garnish with fresh herbs: a basil chiffonade, minced dill, oregano or parsley.
SOUR CREAM: Trade sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt. We grew up on sour cream and had a pint-a-day habit. The switch to Greek yogurt was surprisingly easy. Greek-style yogurt is less tangy and more like sour cream. We use it with Mexican dishes, cottage cheese, fruit salad, and as the base of every dip. Mixed with noncaloric sweetener and perhaps some cinnamon and vanilla extract, it’s a low-calorie, fat-free alternative to whipped cream. Try different brands: Even plain yogurt tastes different from manufacturer to manufacturer.
SOUR CREAM: Discover fromage blanc. The French answer to yogurt, fromage blanc is a fat-free, fresh and slightly drained cows’ milk cheese with the consistency of sour cream. It’s high in protein and calcium, luscious and elegant. Because it’s only made by artisan creameries, it’s pricier than Greek yogurt. But treat yourself to a tub: The entire container from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery (8 ounces) is just 120 calories. Mix in fresh herbs and garlic for a quick dip, add sweetener for a dessert topping, serve with granola, fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
STARCH: Add fiber and nutrition to plain starch dishes. Garnish plain white rice or a baked potato with diced tomatoes, shredded carrots, slivered almonds or pine nuts to brown rice or couscous
SOUP: Make healthy homemade soups. Soup is filling and can be very low calorie and healthful. When you make your own, you control both the nutrition and the sodium. Look for healthy soup recipes. Make large amounts and freeze in portion-friendly containers.
SNACKS: Trade empty calorie snacks for nourishing snacks. Heart-healthy nuts, fiber-filled fruit such as apples and pears, peanut butter, raw vegetables with yogurt dip or hummus, and plain low-fat yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit are all good choices.
SUSTAINABILITY: Eat Greener. Carry a water bottle instead of landfill. Water bottles have become a fashion accessory: Check out all the options on Amazon.com. This Nissan Intak Hydration Thermos Bottle in 6 colors has a meter to count how many glasses of water you’ve had.
VEGETABLES: Add a new vegetable every month.
Even if you love broccoli or spinach, for example, they can lose their charm if they’re on the table every night. Pick a “vegetable of the month” and add it to your repertoire. You may find that you adore chard, kale and turnips, for example.
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Not a resolution, but a good thing to do in the new year:
*The practice of making New Year’s resolutions developed partially from Christian Lenten sacrifices, but the tradition goes way back: Ancient Babylonians made promises to the gods at the start of each year. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the first month of the year is named. Medieval knights took the “peacock vow” at the conclusion of each Christmas season that re-affirmed their commitment to chivalry. Some Christian groups created watchnight services, held late on New Year’s Eve, preparing for the year ahead by praying and resolving. During the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews reflect upon their wrongdoings over the prior year and seek and offer forgiveness.