8 Tips for a Healthier 2018

vegetable "crackers"

It’s January and we are pumped to eat salads, drop some pounds, get in shape, right? Well … if you’re like me, that’s a yes and a no. I definitely want to get back into my routine, to eat lighter than I have been and to move my body more. But it’s hard. The days are dark, the weather is iffy, the pull of the couch is strong. I’m here today to help you say yes to healthy habits. Here’s hoping these suggestions are helpful and doable and carry you into 2018 feeling great.

Add more fruits and vegetables to your day.

There are so many ways to say “Yes!” to plants: Plan more meatless meals, turn your veggies into pasta, embrace salads, reach for fruit rather than dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. Here’s my pro-tip: Ditch the crackers and instead eat hummus, cheese, dips, yogurt, nut butters on round veggie slices. Think carrots, radishes, cucumbers. You could even bake zucchini, beet or sweet potato slices to turn them into a nutrient-rich “cracker” or toast for breakfasts, snacking or lunches.

honey glazed chicken breast

Embrace healthy grains. 

Oats, rice, bulgur, quinoa. I really like all of these grains. But I don’t reach for them as often as I do pasta. You know why? Time. Pasta takes 10 minutes. The rest of that list takes a little planning. So do yourself a favor and stir up a big pot of rice or bulgur on Sunday. Then, all week long, you’ll have these grains prepped in your fridge to add to roasted veggies or stir fries. You’ll have the base for a Buddha Bowl all ready. Your lunches will be healthier. It’s a small step that can make a big difference.

Cook dinner more.

You’ll almost always eat healthier when you cook your own food. I get it that cooking is time-consuming. And it means you have to clean the kitchen. I know that there are so many nights when dinner is a drive-by affair with kids eating at all different times because of conflicting practice schedules. Here a few ideas that might make dinner easier: Meal plan. (There’s no way I’d get through the week without having a least a rough idea of what I’ll be making each night.) Prep your meal in the morning. (It’s not for everyone, but I find that I can throw together a lot in a half-hour if my veggies are chopped, my meat is roasted and my grains are already cooked.) Embrace Leftover Night. (Even with some big eaters at my table and packing leftovers for lunch every day, I try hard to make enough so that at least once a week my meal is made from what’s already in the fridge.)

Teach yourself some kitchen basics.

Ina Garten counsels cooks to pick a few recipes and make them over and over until you have a stable of standards you can pull from. I agree with that and would add that during these quieter months of winter you pick a skill or two you’d like to get better at. Mine is pie crusts. Maybe yours is learning to bake bread or biscuits. Or perfecting a favorite go-to sauce. Or learning to pickle. Whatever it is, get a basic under your belt that will make your meals better all year long.

an apple feast

Take a class.

In that same vein, let your quest for more skills be a fun, social occasion. Roanoke Community Garden Association has monthly cooking classes that are free. (Next up: Cooking with Local Beer). Roanoke City and County as well as their libraries all offer classes in as diverse topics as Celtic cooking and learning about herbs. Another venue: Garden Song Eco Cafe, a lovely little spot in Roanoke’s Old Southwest. (They’ve got a vegan cheesemaking class going on in February).

Start a Farmers Market habit.

Come spring, you’ll have so many markets to choose from: Downtown Roanoke, Salem, Vinton, Roanoke County, Grandin Village, West End, Blacksburg, Catawba. The hardest part, I think, isn’t finding a market to frequent, but working market stops into your weekly routine. One thought: start slow. January through March stop by the CoLab on the third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You’ll be surprised at all there is to buy, even in winter. And just maybe you’ll decide to shape your food shopping around a Saturday market this spring and summer.

carrots and beets

Sign up for a Farm Share or CSA.

You’ll be supporting local farmers. You’ll be bringing the most delicious veggies you can imagine into your home every week. It’s not the same level of commitment as growing your own food but the payoff is just as good. We have many farm share models to choose from in our corner of the world. Check out Thornfield Farm, LEAP Farm Share Program, or Seven Spring Farm to see what’s offered and how to sign up.


Plant a pot of something — or plan to.

Gardening is not for everyone. But even the blackest thumbs among you can water some sprouts, tend a few herbs or plan for a couple patio tomatoes this summer. While the days are chilly and spring seems forever away, it’ll do you good to have something green in your life! If you are a gardener then you know now is the time to peruse your seed catalogs and dream of warmer days.

Here’s to a healthy new year!