A Resolution to Keep

There’s something about the beginning of a new year that causes us to reflect on our lives. These reflections often prompt us to make resolutions to change or improve some things. This almost always involves a four letter word - that’s right - FOOD. A significant percentage of New Year’s resolutions involve a vow to diet. The immediate problem that ensues, of course, is choosing the diet. In today’s diet-crazed society, the choices are amazingly numerous, and it seems like every few months a new diet or eating plan emerges that is touted as the latest successful diet rage. The problem with all of them however, is maintaining the chosen program. One can manage to adhere to almost any food regimen for a short period of time (case in point: I once gave up chocolate for an entire 6 hours!). But, once the diet is deviated from, or even worse, discarded, the result is typically a return to the previous eating habits that caused us to make the initial resolution for change. The proverbial "back to square one." So, what is the answer?

Experts in nutrition seem to agree that the only way to make a lasting change in one’s diet is to make it something that you can live with for a lifetime... a lifestyle change, not just a diet. I also think it should be something that has a bit of "wiggle room," because we are, after all, only human. This would mean, for most folks, that all "fad" diets that severely restrict your intake of any particular food group are probably not going to be something you embrace as a lifelong change. I believe that world-renowned culinarian, Julia Child, was absolutely right when she said "...moderation in all things, with a great variety of all things. If you do that, then you can’t overdo." So, it seems it’s simply a matter of eating moderately-sized portions (something that is almost unheard of in our super-sized world) and eating enough variety to keep it all interesting. Of course, it’s also a matter of making educated and thoughtful choices in the foods we eat, and Julia always counseled everyone on the importance of selecting the very best ingredients. We all know enough now to avoid saturated fats, watch our salt and sugar consumption, and to choose lean proteins, healthful grains and fiber, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies.

There are so many beautiful, diverse, fresh foods available in the market today. Combining fresh ingredients in a simple and satisfying way yields results that have far greater flavor and are generally much more healthful than pre-prepared dishes and fast food. It’s this type of "dieting" that can be easily embraced as a lifelong commitment. Of course, a love of cooking is extremely helpful!

A proper diet should include a wide variety of healthful foods packed with fresh flavors that satisfy the palate and the soul, not highly processed foods or cardboard-flavored frozen entrees with a specific calorie/carbohydrate/glycemic index count or vitamin-enriched beverages that are intended to replace an entire meal. While frozen "diet" entrees, liquid meals, and meal-replacement bars may indeed have their place, I cannot imagine committing myself to a life-long menu of them.

Then, of course, there’s the cooking - other than punching a few microwave buttons or operating a can-opener, these pre-fab food choices provide little opportunity to flex one’s culinary muscles. In addition to the joy and satisfaction that comes from time spent in the kitchen, just think of the exercise points you can rack up pushing a cart through the market, carrying a bag of lovely fresh ingredients and chopping, whisking, and stirring your way to a delightfully delicious homemade meal. Now that’s a diet I can live with.

So with a tip of the hat (chef’s toque!) and raise of my glass to Julia for her sound advice, I invite you to begin this year’s "diet" by taking a trip to the market and whipping up a mouth-watering "moderate" meal to share with family and friends. It’s a resolution you can really sink your teeth into.

Featured Recipes by Riki Senn: