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Don't wait 'til January — put your healthful eating plans in place now

Year after year, in survey after survey, the most popular New Year's resolutions relate to diet, exercise and weight loss. It's probably no coincidence that we make these resolutions after the damage is done, at the end of the holidays.

Resolving to turn the ship around is a healthy response to the feeling of waking up fat, hungover and generally disgusted with oneself. But it would make a lot more sense to make our diet-related resolutions before we come unglued. Losing weight is a lot harder than avoiding weight gain, and chances of success are higher.

So, now is the time to craft a plan, so you can arrive at the holiday battlefields prepared with some belly defense strategies. You want to enjoy yourself, obviously. You even want to stuff your face. And with the right set of holiday resolutions, you can.

1. Treat your stomach space like the most valuable of real estate. Don't just give in to the first tray of hors d'oeuvres that floats by. It's easy to surrender to gluttony and slip into eating mode, filling your belly with whatever is within arm's reach. Just don't. If there is nothing good to eat, then don't eat. Take a breather. Something more worthy of your belly will be around soon enough. 

2. Wait until lunchtime to eat breakfast, especially the day after a pig-out. Some people worry that skipping breakfast leads to more eating later the day to compensate, which can supposedly cause weight gain. But the most recent evidence (not to mention the anecdotal experiences of vocal breakfast skippers) suggests that response is rare. In any case, during the holidays you know you were already going to eat more later in the day, so skipping breakfast to compensate in advance just makes sense. You won't starve, and after the gluttony it sometimes feels like a relief to not eat, allowing your belly to get some rest. 

3. Up the activity. I don't mean to imply that you can exercise away the excess. In theory you could, but unless you become an endurance athlete, your workouts probably won't compensate for the level of gluttony typical of holiday fare. Exercise is always good for you, and will help you build some discipline that you can put to work at the holiday trough. And if you're skipping breakfast, you do have that time slot available.

4. Pre-party with green plant fiber. If you show up with a contented belly buzz, you won't be that guy crowding the food table. You will be prepared to control yourself, better able to adhere to the first resolution.

Arriving at a lavish buffet with green fiber in your belly has other benefits, too. It's a good digestive aid that will help move along all the custard puffs, pumpkin pie and cookies. A bowl or two of the kale salad recipe below will put a good base layer in your belly, taking the edge off your hunger. 

Like many salads, this one isn't low on calories. But the calories come from fat, which like fiber sates the belly and takes the edge off of hunger. Calories from salad are better than calories from cake.

Massaged Kale Salad

Serves: 4
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

3 bunches kale, stems removed and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch slices (about 8 cups)
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta
1 cup pitted olives
1 beet, preferably golden, finely shredded
1 carrot, finely shredded
1 clove garlic, minced

Place the kale, lime and salt in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to knead the salt and lime juice into the kale leaves. This action breaks the cell walls, leaving the kale soft, pliable and easier to eat than unmassaged kale. Squeeze handfuls of kale as hard as you can, over and over, for about 1 minute. 

Stir in the oil, followed by the remaining ingredients. Toss well. (Alternatively, reserve the shredded beet and carrot for garnish.) Serve.

Photo (hero): Ella Olsson/Fresh and Lean for Unsplash
Photo (kale salad): Ari LeVaux