Dear 2011, This Year I Resolve To. . .

Reader Contribution by Staff
article image

I have heard it and I have made it. Year after year, the New Year’s resolution to take better care of myself looms large. This year, I assert, will be different. This year I will remember my resolution for more than a month. This year, I will integrate changes into the fabric of my life and the resolution will take hold.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, keeping your resolution just got easier thanks to The Cleaner Plate Club, the incredibly engaging book by esteemed food bloggers Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin. I have described this text as “Michael Pollan for everyone,” not because I do not admire and trust Pollan (I do), but because discourse around food has become horribly polarized. During a time when we’re faced with growing rates of both obesity and hunger (the areas with the highest rates of food insecurity are at greatest risk for obesity), we need to focus on universal ways to take care of ourselves and each other. The Cleaner Plate Club does just that.
My new year’s gift to you is an exclusive excerpt (used with permission from Storey Publishing, © 2010) and, not one, but three resolutions for a healthier 2011.

You can find the book, replete with a wealth of easy recipes and sound counsel, in the Mother Earth News bookstore and get 25 percent off with this discount code: MMEOPAC2.

Here’s to our health. . .and to beginning again,

Simran Sethi is an associate professor of Journalism at the University of Kansas. Follow her on Twitter @simransethi.

 From The Cleaner Plate Club:

Three Resolutions to Eat Healthier as a Family
It is possible to teach your kids that chickens don’t have fingers and that the very best foods don’t come emblazoned with cartoon characters. It is possible to serve food that brings your family together and gives your kids the “food roots” they need to someday have healthy families of their own. It’s even possible to do this without a fight. Here are three simple resolutions that can help your family get started on a path to a lifetime of better eating.

Resolution 1: Get Back in Balance with Realistic Goals
Parent’s know: junk food is everywhere. The problem is not with any one food item, but with the accumulation of them, so many are junk food items, day after day after day. Add to this, the food on children’s menus, school lunches, well-meaning relatives with treats, an endless stream of birthday parties, and those evenings when you need to throw dinner on the table fast. Soon, your child’s diet is more high-fructose corn syrup than high nutrition.

Realistically, a perfect diet with kids is like a quest for the Holy Grail. So, if you can just aim for a balance of good food back on the table 80 percent of the time, and those other foods back in moderation 20 percent of the time, it’s a big win. It won’t happen every day, or even every week, but if you can just make it happen most of the time, it will go a long way toward that end goal of a lifetime of better health for your family.

Resolution 2: Stop the Food Fight
“I do it!” When children are young, this phrase can be the backdrop to a tableside power struggle that is more about control than food. Whether it’s the weeklong macaroni and cheese strike, the sudden refusal of a favorite fruit, or a newfound dislike of all things green, new food behaviors might simply be your child’s way of exerting control.

As children get older, “I do it!” gives way to “I don’t like this,” before they even taste what you’ve prepared. Here’s ways to stop the food fight at your family table:

  • Allow your child to choose between two healthy options
  • Only keep healthy foods available at home.
  • Let children choose items from the produce section or the farmers’ market and help decide how to fix them. Have your child help prepare the meal.
  • Make good food, but don’t make a big deal out of it if your efforts are rebuffed. Try different preparations of the same foods, or try the same recipe on a different day.
  • For young kids, think about nutrition over the course of a week rather than during a given meal.
  • Don’t bargain for bites. Pressuring kids to eat makes them less likely to choose healthy foods.
  • Most kids go through phases during which they refuse certain foods. As with all of your child’s phases, it won’t last forever.

Resolution 3: Meet Your Vegetables (All Over Again)
Perhaps you were the kid who hid your mushy peas inside your napkin, or who waited out a plate of overcooked broccoli for hours after the rest of the family left the table. Or maybe you were the kid who downed carrots gladly and asked for more.

Now you have your own family to feed, and you want to encourage them to eat vegetables. Food fads come and go, yet fruit and vegetable consumption remains the one wholly undisputed piece of food advice — the diet recommendation that has best stood the test of time. Here are a couple great recipes to reintroduce your family to vegetables.

Sweet Potato Parmesan “Fries”
You can vary this recipe a bit to pair it with a main course. For example, skip the Parmesan and use a sprinkle of cumin on the sweet potatoes with a more southwestern menu. Or use a spice blend like a curry or garam masala, adding 1 tablespoon of honey to the olive oil that gets tossed on the fries. For crisper fries, cut the sweet potato sticks {1/8} inch thick and use a light coat of nonstick cooking spray instead of the olive oil. Reduce the baking time to 10 minutes per side.

1{1/2} pounds sweet potatoes (3 medium)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
{1/4} cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and julienne them (cut into sticks about {1/4} inch by 3 inches). Toss in a large bowl with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the fries and bake for 10-12 minutes longer.
  4. Remove from oven and set the oven to a low broil, 400 degrees F. Sprinkle the fries with the Parmesan, and broil for about 2 minutes to turn the cheese golden and crisp the fries a bit.

Serves 4.

Spinach Sautéed in Butter and Parmesan
This recipe is lighter in calories and saturated fat than the beloved “creamed spinach” version. It may seem like a lot of spinach, but expect to lose most of the volume during cooking.

1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bunches spinach, 24 oz., chopped
{1/3} cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the butter in a large skillet and sauté the garlic until just turning golden, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  2. Add the spinach and sauté until just wilted.
  3. Turn off the heat, add the Parmesan, and toss until it melts into the greens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 6

.Top photo by Deepti Sethi; book cover courtesy of Beth Bader.