Happy New Year! Don’t worry, even though I’m always on a healthy bent doesn’t mean I’m going to be a buzzkill. January can already be dreary enough. While there are endless lists out there filled with deprivation over the next 12 months, I like to encourage people to make positive choices that are delicious, fun and just-so-happen-to-be-good-for-you.

I’m always amused to see what comes out as the hot, new trends in food and health. Kale, coconut oil and chia seeds are so yesteryear. (But they are still a major part of your diet, right?) “Superfoods” from tropical climates are always at the top of the list, and in 2017 it seems the dragon fruit is the bomb. Dragon fruit (Pitaya) is an unusual-looking (spiky) anti-aging fruit that is high in vitamin C and helps with digestion (which we could all use about now). It is commonly used in fruit smoothie bowls loaded with nutrients. But for most of us, cold dishes aren’t exactly how we like to start winter mornings so I’ll most likely try it later this summer.

One other food item of note is avocado oil. Avocado oil has many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and helping relieve arthritis and psoriasis. It also has a high smoke point that is great for cooking and its taste is quite mild.

Above all else, daily habits reign supreme with regards to our health. Of course my focus is on food, but there are many ways to tweak how we buy it, process it and consume it. Here are a few edits you might consider:

Focus on CAN, not CAN’T. Remember the deprivation I mentioned earlier? A surefire way to failure when it comes to diet. Allow yourself unlimited fruits and vegetables. Really! The virtual aspect of it is psychologically powerful. Plus, it’s better to eat 800 calories of healthy food than 600 calories of junk. Your energy, weight and satisfaction will benefit most.

Get on the chew, chew train. Maybe not the most romantic tip of the day, but vital for maximizing digestion and nutrient absorption. Eat smaller bites and take time to enjoy your food. This is another way to ensure weight control.

Substitute potatoes, flour and rice with cauliflower. It’s a low-carb, grain-free, Paleo, nutrient-rich alternative for regular rice and regular pizza crust. Packaged premade versions of cauliflower rice are now found in grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but it’s so easy to do it yourself.

Simply take raw florets and put into food processor. Whirl until grain-like and use to make pizza crust, or many versions of ‘rice’ dishes. With just 25 calories per half-cup of cauliflower rice, compared with about 140 calories per half-cup of cooked white rice, you can see why diet and health-conscious people are loving this.

Drink water before meals. Endless studies show this to be effective in filling your stomach prior to consuming food. We are then less likely to eat more at dinner, which again helps with weight management.

Don the apron and eat at home. For every restaurant meal you replace with one that is home-cooked, you can save an average of 200 calories, 400 milligrams of sodium AND your bank account. Added bonus: sharpening your IQ while catching the latest on Jeopardy. (Oops, not supposed to watch TV during dinner.)

Lastly, but possibly one of the most important tips: get more sleep. Stress is the ultimate toxin and wreaks havoc on our system. Many people I know are sick right now because they’ve been running ragged for months. Once they sense a little down time, their bodies have other plans which may be in the form of the flu, bronchitis or strep throat. Sleep cannot be undervalued. Losing just 30 minutes each week can lead to long term weight gain and serious heart conditions. It’s that time of year to catch up on our z’s…movies…books…peace of mind.

Shiitake, Spinach and Goat Cheese Scramble

Makes 4 Servings

Did I mention comfort foods? More of them, please! And eggs would be my choice—breakfast, lunch or dinner. For an extra-creamy scramble, make sure to turn the heat down and stir the eggs constantly.

2 Tbsp. butter

1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

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1 cup chopped spinach

8 farm-fresh eggs

2 Tbsp. milk

½ cup fresh goat cheese

Sea salt and black pepper

Heat 1 Tbsp. butter in large skillet over medium heat. Once bubbling (but not brown) add mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Remove and rest on a plate.

In same pan, sauté the spinach until heated all the way through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Strain any excess liquid.

Combine eggs and milk in large bowl. Season with salt and whisk thoroughly. Add remaining butter to the pan and pour in eggs. Cook on low heat and stir gently while creating delicate curds. Continue for about 5 minutes, then add mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese. Cook about 7 minutes longer. Season with black pepper and serve.

Karen Schuppert is anxious – but not stressed – to know what you’d like to see this year in this column. Please email her at karen@karenschuppert.com

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