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Veggin’ out

Clean eating for a healthy new year

Another new year is here, which also means thousands of new resolutions have been made. Typically, the majority of those resolutions end up being health related — to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise regularly, eat better or just get healthier in general — whatever that might mean to you.

Eating better is a great step in the right direction to improve your health and get a good start on that resolution. Moderation is the key. You don’t have to deprive yourself completely of the things you love and only feed yourself things you don’t like. If you do that, your “healthy” eating journey most likely will be cut very short. You have to enjoy your food and feel good about what you’re putting into your body in order to stay on track.

Too many people put themselves on such strict diets to try to see quick results that it just doesn’t work. The food might not taste good to you and then you end up binging on junk food because you just can’t take the diet anymore. Or you don’t see results right away — you’re not losing weight like you wanted to or you still can’t fit into your skinny jeans after a week of dieting — so you binge. Have patience! Weight loss should not be done rapidly — it’s not healthy to loose weight too quickly. It might be frustrating, but hang in there!

I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, but I’ve tried many different diets and exercise plans. I always had a terrible time losing weight and was very impatient about losing it when I tried. But right before I became pregnant, I really found my groove — a nice balance of healthy eating and exercise and I ended up losing 12 pounds overall in less than two months. That may not sound like a lot, but it was amazing for me and done in a very healthy way that I could keep up with — until I got pregnant. But now, just two months post-baby, I plan to try to get back into that groove as soon as possible. But it was worth the gain in this case!

When I lost the weight, I also exercised almost every day. I either went to the gym and ran on the elliptical machine for about five miles or I did an at-home workout with a DVD or just something I made up on my own. I also played roller derby and had a 2-hour practice twice a week. Along with my exercise, I followed a clean eating plan. Clean eating is all fresh food — nothing packaged or anything with a long list of ingredients that you can’t pronounce.

I also joined a weight loss/motivational group on Facebook, which actually really helped my progress. We had challenges and posted our food and workouts for each other every day. It really helped with accountability and with being a very competitive person, the challenges really motivated me to keep going. It’s also always nice to know you’re not in it alone. So, if you can join a group or just have a buddy to take with you on your health journey, I highly recommend it.

One healthy and clean alternative to pasta that I really do enjoy are zucchini noodles. They really are tasty and easy to make. Don’t scrunch up your nose at them until you give them a try! Just grab a spiralizer at the grocery or department store and you’ll be all set.

Zucchini noodles with avocado pesto

(From www.eat-yourself-skinny.com)

Serves 8

6 large zucchini, spiralized

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 ripe avocados

1 cup fresh basil leaves

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoon olive oil

Cracked black pepper, to taste

Spiralize your zucchini and set aside on paper towels so that any excess water is soaked up.

In a food processor, add avocados, basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice and sea salt and pulse until finely chopped. Then with the motor still running, add olive oil in a slow stream until emulsified and creamy.

Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat then add zucchini noodles, cooking for about 1-2 minutes until tender.

Add zucchini noodles to a large bowl and toss with avocado pesto. Season with cracked pepper and parmesan.

And another healthier, clean version of a not-so-good-for-you food — sweet potato fries in place of regular french fries. I am a french fry-aholic but I do really love sweet potato fries too! And baking your fries is a much healthier way to make them than the deep fryer. I guess they wouldn’t be “fries” then — do we call them “bakes?” I know, that was a bad joke.

Sweet and spicy sweet potato fries

(From www.eat-yourself-skinny.com)

Serves: 4 Servings

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into fries

2 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Sea salt

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into fries and place them in a large bowl. Soak them in cold water for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and line two baking sheets with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, set aside. Drain sweet potatoes, pat dry and add to a large plastic sealable bag. Add in cornstarch and shake until lightly dusted making sure there are no clumps.

Transfer sweet potatoes to a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, tossing well. In small bowl, whisk together garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, chipotle chili powder and brown sugar and slowly sprinkle over the sweet potatoes.

Spread sweet potatoes into a single layer on both baking sheets, making sure they aren’t touching each other, and bake for 15 minutes. Using a spatula, toss sweet potatoes around on the sheet and spread back out into a single layer. Bake an additional 15 minutes until golden brown.

Pull fries out of the oven and sprinkle with sea salt.

Happy New Year and I wish good luck to you all in your new year health goals!

Stellfox is the Lifestyle and Education editor at the Sun-Gazette.

Her award-winning column is published on the second Wednesday of the month in the Food section.

She can be reached at jstellfox@sungazette.com.

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