Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
January is a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning. Once the holiday decorations are safely stored for another year and I’ve had a little time to clean and organize, I look forward to the mental quiet that January brings. Snow softly falling, social gatherings dwindling, and time to focus on new goals and ideas. Predictably, my eating is part of this process, and I confess to being something of a cliché with regards to my diet in January. I make large batches of vegetable soup and re-think my relationship with bread. I fight for a parking space in the crowded gym lot, looking to shed holiday weight gained during last month’s hedonistic days of festive occasions.
I’ve tried a number of things to get on track during January, mostly with success. Now rather than look at January as a time to “re-do” weight loss, I simply view it as part of the process I’ve developed in keeping myself healthy. I gain a bit in December and then get locked down in January. It seems to work. While some years I’ve kept carbs off the menu and other years have involved complicated calorie counting, one thing seems to remain constant in all my January regimens: salad.
Say what you want, but salad seems to fit nearly every diet plan. It gives you a whopping dose of veggies, provides fiber to keep you full and, if you do it right, it tastes good. The main challenge with salad? Dressing. Some commercial dressings are practically pure sugar, while others are so chemical laden that it’s tough to judge whether or not they can be counted as actual food. Dressing from scratch, however, is entirely different. With just a few ingredients, simple greens can be transformed into a tasty meal.
Given that I’ve tried just about every way of eating under the sun, I have several tricks up my sleeve when it comes to salad. I have even been through phases where salad dressing was forbidden, leaving me to eat my greens and veggies naked, with only salt and pepper to flavor them. I do like the flavor of vegetables, but this approach seldom works for me simply because it’s just too austere. For the next best thing, a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar adds flavor and interest, while maintaining fat-free status. I actually like this, but if I eat a dressing without any oil, I tend to get hungry almost immediately after eating.
For me, the perfect dressing includes a little fat, a little acid (in the form of vinegar, lemon juice or other tart fruit juice), a little seasoning (salt, pepper, herbs and spices) and sometimes a tiny bit of sweetener (honey or maple syrup). These elements can be varied almost infinitely and keep me coming back for more. I’m now in the habit of eating salad for lunch nearly every day and again for dinner when I’m looking to shed pounds.
When it’s cold outside, I add a small side of soup to warm me up. I keep lean protein (like chicken breast or leftover pot roast from last night’s dinner) chopped and ready to eat for ease of preparation. Steamed or roasted veggies like cauliflower, broccoli or even tomatoes add a richness of flavor and variation in texture that makes a salad more interesting.
So mix up a batch of this pomegranate dressing, and grab a knife from the chopping block. Prep a bunch of goodness to store in the fridge, and when it’s time to eat, you can dig into not only a great meal, but better health and a trimmer physique. It’s a great way to ring in the new year right.
1/2 cup pomegranate juice (can be purchased bottled or juiced from 1-2 large pomegranates)
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons honey (optional)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and shake well. Store in the fridge for up to three weeks.