5 ways to eat healthier this winter

It is extremely hard to maintain any kind of diet any time of the year, but especially during the winter. Your body needs the carbohydrates and if you deprive it (along with the sunshine), you will find yourself in not so optimal mood. Therefore, I recommend making slight modifications to your daily meals, making them healthier so that you can still accomplish your new year’s resolution of staying fit or losing those extra pounds gained over the holidays.

Here are 5 easy steps you can take to enjoy a hearty meal while staying focused on a healthy diet.

Roasted vegetables with mayo-pesto dressing

Switch to whole grain – Whole wheat and whole grain bread, pasta, Bulgar, couscous, quinoa, wild rice – are all good choices that give you the comfort of carbohydrates without the extra starch and sugar found in white flour. Whenever you have an option, get the whole grain version of the starch.

Soup it – Soups and stews are great ways of filling up without eating a lot of calories. Soups made with vegetables and broths are comforting on a cold wintry night. Avoid adding cream and use skim milk or sour cream to make a cream based soup. Believe it or not pretty much any dish you love can be made into a soup – think chicken curry and rice soup, shrimp red curry soup. Let your imagination flow!

Keep it together – I find that most casserole recipes are loaded with cheese, bread crumbs, creams, etc. that don’t have much nutritional value. If you decide to make casserole dinners for your family, try vegetarian options such as layered veggies with low fat cottage cheese, veg lasagna with little cheese, and rice and spinach casserole.

Roast or grill – It’s hard to be motivated to start the outdoor grill when it’s 30F outside. A good alternative is to roast in the oven. My favorite make-ahead recipe is sliced mixed veggies (eggplant, zucchini, squash, onion, carrots, turnips), seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil and grilled in the oven till crispy. You can use it on top of salads, in sandwiches, wraps or as a side.

Get veg – Generally speaking, a vegetarian diet will give you more nutrients, keep you fuller longer and have fewer calories than a carnivorous meal plan. Now, don’t go on loading on cheese and pasta to say you are eating vegetarian! I mean whole grains, lentils, fresh fruits, cooked vegetables and little dairy. They say that your body takes up to a week to absorb meat, whereas vegetarian food passes through within 24 hours. So, it may also be a good way to cleanse yourself in the new year.

 

Tipping on a budget

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In these financially demanding times, it can sometimes get difficult to pay for the services we normally would. Moreover, you want to compensate the service provider by tipping him/ her adequately. All of these costs add up quickly.

I want to share a story with you on tipping when on budget. When my grandparents first visited US from India in the 1960’s they were allowed to bring only $80 cash per person with them and credit cards did not exist at the time (at least not in India). My grandmother brought tons of souvenirs and gifts with her to give away as tips. She would leave a pair of earrings (artificial costing less than 25 cents) or a scarf for the waitress after a meal and the waitress would be so grateful. She would think that a queen has just left her a tip! Sometimes, my grandmother would take off the (inexpensive) jewels she was wearing and leave them behind…How classy! Her suitcase was full of goodies like these that she would use whenever a tipping need existed. America wasn’t exposed to ethnic wear back then so it they were much appreciated exotic gifts.

Fifty years later, I seem to carry some of her habits. Just the other day, I gave away two tickets to a comedy show (which I got for free) to my Barista at Starbucks. (I did ask him before if he would like them). Also, I brought back very unique key chains from Morocco during my last visit (with designs of good luck, ethnic shoes, blessings, etc.) which I have given as tips and thank you gestures too. During Christmas, it can get very expensive to give cash to service providers, so I usually go on a baking spree. I make biscotti, apricot breads and plum or fruit cakes for my hairdresser, manicurist, mail delivery lady, massage therapist, etc. They seem to appreciate it a lot. 

It’s a funny story but by no means am I propagating substituting cash for goods to your service providers. They work hard too and deserve to be paid for it. But if the cash value of your gift is more than what you can afford to pay then, I believe it’s ok to do once in a while. Just make sure you are genuinely thanking them.