Happy New Year! I really enjoyed this holiday season. The company Christmas party, a few family Christmas parties, my son Jake’s sweet 16 birthday party and my son Sam was home from college. We dined in style and had cookies and eggnog throughout winter break. Schencken was made and enjoyed. As expected, I gained about six pounds. It is just polite to indulge during the holiday season, right?

Here we are, Jan. 4, 2020, the start of a new year and a new decade. Time to focus on our goals for 2020. My goals are very simple this year. First, get back on track with the dieting that I began before the holidays and reach my target weight by spring break. Second, and of equal importance, to eat good, quality, wholesome and healthy foods throughout the year. Cooking these foods properly is part of this goal and controlling portion size is the other part.

I started a diet in October 2019 and it was a very good thing, as it showed me that with good decisions and proper cooking methods, weight can be lost without too much stress. I also learned just how much a few weeks of ignoring the diet can cost you in pounds. Lesson learned and time to eat well while losing weight. Ten pounds lost, five pounds found.

I found that dieting is as simple as counting total caloric intake daily and making sure that the calories you eat are from good foods, not junk foods. The app I am using breaks the food groups down into red, yellow and green groups. It assumes you will eat from all three groups and actually encourages it but stresses eating as much from the green groups as you like, while limiting intake from the red groups. It is fine to indulge from time to time; just know how that fits into your daily calorie limit. Mine is around 1,600 calories. This varies for everyone, so you may need some help finding yours. Lots of info is available online.

It is easy to guess most of the green items. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are the least calorie dense and contain the highest concentration of healthy nutrients. These items should be the bulk of what you eat in quantity but will make up about 30 percent of your total calories. This is a good thing because dieting can make you crave things and feel generally hungry. When that happens, eat a fruit or veggie. You get a full, satiated feeling with little caloric intake. One of my happy discoveries was that a baked potato is a green item. Salt and pepper added, yes! Butter and sour cream added, maybe not.

Next is the yellow group of foods. Foods in this group have more calories per serving and should be eaten in moderate portions. These are lean meats, legumes and low-fat dairy. Avocados, eggs, beans, milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. Sirloin steak, flank steak and lean ground beef are even in this group, as are grilled chicken and salmon (my go-to foods). Protein powders also fall in this group for you instant meal folks. Foods from the yellow food group should make up about 45 percent of your daily caloric intake.

And finally, the red food group. Red does not mean bad, it just means these foods are calorie-dense so be very careful how much you consume. Red foods should make up about 25 percent of your daily calories. Some examples of foods in this group are bacon, sausage, full-fat cheeses, snacks like pretzels and popcorn, oils, seeds (I was disappointed to find pumpkin seeds on this list around Halloween), nuts and full-fat milk.

How you cook your food is half the battle in losing weight. I always preach eating things in their most whole state, especially fruits and vegetables, but creating tasty dishes without adding the calories of oils, butter and sauces is where most of us struggle. Fortunately for me, I am a big fan of grilling food, which adds flavor without the calories and even allows some of the fat to render off. This is a good method. You can also sauté things like onions, mushrooms and peppers (all green foods) in a non-stick skillet with minimal oil for a healthy omelet. Then there are the new methods like the Instant Pot and air fryers that I see many people trying. I plan to write columns on these in 2020.

Eat well and stay healthy, my friends!

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