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Food & Cooking
Healthy New Year

Healthy New Year

Healthy New Year
Photo Credit: Renee Brock
Miso Ginger Poached Wild Salmon With Asian Vegetables (styling by Lisa Hanson) (Photography by Renee Brock/Special)

Healthy New Year

It seems every year, the New Year is the time when so many of us make healthy eating resolutions. And, of course, January is when memberships for weight-loss programs boom. But, inevitably, the resolve to diet withers, and we go back to scarfing and feeling guilty.

So what’s the long term solution?

“People need diners education just like they need drivers education,” says Carolyn O’Neil, a dietitian and journalist, who writes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Healthy Eating column.

“Nutrition advice, especially at the beginning of the year, when people have such great intentions, is often associated with a list of foods you’re not supposed to eat,” O’Neil says. “Cut back on salt and sugar and fat. No desserts. No French fries. It’s a list of negatives.”

O’Neil, who is the co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” (Atria Books), and often gives tips for making healthy choices while still enjoying dining out, likes to take a more positive approach.

“We’re in a new age of nutrition discovery, and as a dietitian, I’d much rather people focus on what they should be adding to their diets,” O’Neil says. “Try adding more whole grains, for instance, which have more nutrients and fiber. Maybe you get brown rice instead of white rice with your sushi. Maybe you’re ordering a pizza and you get a whole grain crust.”

So-called superfoods, like acai berries, chia powder and coconut water, have become another hot topic for healthy eating features this time of year. But O’Neil thinks the term can be confusing and says some of the more exotic finds can be too expensive.

“So many foods have jumped on to the superfood bandwagon, it really has become a three-ring circus,” O’Neil says. “The original intention of the term superfood was to define a food that offered you one-stop shopping for a lot of different nutrients.

“The term nutritionists use is nutrient-dense, meaning you’re getting more bang for your buck with every bite, either of a range of nutrients or a lot of one specific nutrient. That might be something like mango or fat-free milk or eggs or kale or even lean beef.”

O’Neil’s advice for 2013 is to add a wider variety of whole grains, including “ancient grains,” and leafy greens.

“Try quinoa, if you haven’t tried it, yet,” O’Neil says. “It so easy to make because it cooks in just a few minutes. Kale was the big star last year, but other greens are becoming popular again, including everything from Swiss chard to turnip greens and Asian mustard greens.”


These tasty recipes help add grains, greens, healthy proteins and a range of important nutrients to your diet.

Georgia Pecan Confetti Quinoa

Hands on: 15 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes. Makes: 6 ½ cup servings.

Quinoa is a delicious gluten-free grain-like seed that cooks up light and fluffy like rice but contains more protein. This super side dish featuring confetti-colored orange and green seasonal veggies, such as squash and greens, is flavored with garlic and rosemary. Crunchy Georgia pecans add even more great taste and nutrition because pecans are a source of heart healthy fats and antioxidants.

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ cup carrots, diced and steamed

1 cup butternut squash, diced and steamed

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups cooked quinoa (prepared to package directions)

2 cups kale, stripped off the stem and sliced into ribbons

¼ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves

pepper and sea salt, to taste

¼ cup toasted pecan halves or pieces (reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish)

Heat oil in large skillet and add carrots, butternut squash and garlic. Cook until crisp tender. Fold in the cooked quinoa, kale, rosemary and pecans. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Present quinoa on a large platter and garnish with additional toasted pecans.

Adapted from a recipe by Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD, co-author “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!”

Per serving: 282 calories (percent of calories from fat, 25), 9 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 26 milligrams sodium.

Spinach and Ricotta Meatballs with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Hands on Time: 30 minutes. Total Time: 75 minutes. Serves 4

This family-friendly finalist in the Aetna Healthy Food Fight recipe contest uses lean grass-fed beef and provides a heart-healthy dose of omega-3s and other nutrients. Adding ricotta and spinach to the meatballs keeps them moist. Baking instead of frying cuts down on added fat. Subbing out al-dente spaghetti squash for pasta cuts the carbs and gives the dish a nice nutty flavor.

1 whole spaghetti squash, halved and seeded

3/4 pound grass fed ground beef

1/2 cup low fat ricotta cheese

1/2 pound baby spinach, steamed, drained and chopped

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

4 medium tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup basil, shredded

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375

To prepare the spaghetti squash:

Place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, to prepare the meatballs:

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, ricotta, spinach, onion and garlic. Roll into 16 golf-ball sized balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

To prepare the sauce:

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and 1/2 of the basil. Cook until just warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve:

Remove squash from oven and shred with a fork to create spaghetti-like strands. Divide into serving bowls, Top with meatballs and tomato sauce, the remaining basil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

From a recipe by Lisa Hanson.

Per serving: 333 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 25 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 19 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 72 milligrams cholesterol, 254 milligrams sodium

Miso Ginger Poached Wild Salmon With Asian Vegetables

Hands on: 20 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes. Serves: 4.

We know salmon is omega-3-rich. But if you don’t enjoy cooking salmon because of the fishy odor, poaching is the perfect virtually foolproof method, as the seasoned broth keeps the fish moist. Any quick cooking vegetable can be used and the broth flavorings can be changed up with white wine and herbs. Serve over brown rice or rice noodles to round out the meal.

2 cups water

1/4 cup Mirin (Japanese rice wine)

2 tablespoons yellow miso paste

2 tablespoons grated ginger

2 tablespoons crushed garlic

4 wild-caught salmon filets (1/4 pound each), skin off

1 cup snow peas

1 cup bean sprouts

1 cup shredded broccoli

Sesame seeds and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring water, Mirin, miso, ginger, and garlic to a simmer. Add salmon filets and gently poach for 5 minutes. Add snow peas, bean sprouts and broccoli and continue to simmer for 3 additional minutes.

To serve:

Divide salmon and vegetables between 4 bowls. Ladle broth on top and garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro.

Per serving: 197 calories (percent of calories from fat, 23), 26 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 54 milligrams cholesterol, 402 milligrams sodium.

From a recipe by Lisa Hanson

Nina’s Caldo Verde (White Bean and Greens Soup)

Hands on: 20 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes. Serves: 4.

This simple take on a Portuguese classic is a fast and surprisingly flavorful soup that makes a fat-free meal with protein, fiber and dark leafy greens.

2 15 oz cans white beans and their liquid

2 cups water

2 cloves garlic

1 onion, peeled and quartered

3 cups Swiss chard, chopped

1 link turkey andouille sausage, thinly sliced (optional)

In a large saucepan combine white beans and their liquid, 2 cups water, garlic and onion. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender or standard blender. Return to the heat and add the chopped kale and sausage (if using.) Bring back to a low simmer, until chard is wilted, about 5 minutes. Divide into bowls and serve.

From a recipe by Lisa Hanson

Per serving, without turkey sausage: 313 calories (percent of calories from fat, 2), 22 grams protein, 57 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams fiber, 1 gram fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 71 milligrams sodium.

Per serving, with turkey sausage: 369 calories (percent of calories from fat, 11), 26 grams protein, 57 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams fiber, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 23 milligrams cholesterol, 356 milligrams sodium.

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