Three Foods for a Healthy New Year


New Year’s is traditionally a time for reflection– how was 2010– and dedication to new and neglected goals. We all have some items lingering on last year’s list to come back to, like writing blog posts, or bringing your cholesterol down a few more points. Fortunately, there are also the items to celebrate, like a snazzy diploma on the wall, or the birth of a child/grandchild. January first is the first step of a new start, and starting your year off with a few lucky (and healthy) foods is a wonderful way to work on your list of resolutions.

Where to begin? Look to your family’s traditions. My mother talked me into eating one spoonful of black-eyed peas for years on end. I’d rather not, but fortunately there are many more traditions out there. Italians also eat legumes, in the form of lentils, so I like to cook up a pot of lentil soup or make a lentil salad. Both lentils and black-eyed peas are supposed to bring wealth, due to their coin-like shape. They are also both good sources of slowly-digested carbohydrate, protein, iron, fiber, and other vitamins. Definitely add some to your plate.

Greens are a great addition to any lucky New Year’s meal. Pairing greens (cabbage among the Pennsylvania Dutch, collards in the American South) with the beans add that nice green color, reminiscent of both money and all those wonderful nutrients. Make it a New Year’s resolution to eat more greens, for the health benefits from your eyes to your waistline, and for the chance that they might just bring you more money in the next year. Hmmm, actually, if you eat more greens you might save money on some future health expenses?

In Asia, New Year’s meals typically include long, long noodles that represent a long life. Cook some soba, a buckwheat-based Japanese noodle, for a nice shot of whole grain nutrition. If you can’t find that, a brown rice or whole wheat linguini would substitute in quite nicely. Make sure you don’t break the noodles before eating them!

Try them separately– an omelette with spinach for breakfast, lentil soup for lunch, and noodles for supper– or throw together a one pot pasta dish. Here’s one untested idea:

Cook your pasta, throwing in a couple cups of chopped raw greens for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking time, and drain, reserving about 1 cup liquid. Return the empty pot to the stove and add some olive oil, minced garlic, a few chili flakes, and a diced shallot. Saute briefly, then add in canned or pre-cooked black-eyes peas and heat through. Add the drained pasta and greens, adding enough pasta cooking liquid to coat. Stir until well-mixed and hot.

Finally, keep up the good work. Eat those beans, greens and whole grains throughout the coming year for continued health and prosperity!

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