New Year’s resolutions? May I suggest a gentler approach…

Feeling bombarded?

New Year, New You. Top 10 Exercises for the Perfect Body. Get Glowing! 30-Day Detox. Juicing! Cleansing! Weight Loss Challenge! Another program. Another promise, a whole list of techniques to learn, and a bunch of supplements to ingest. Blah blah blah.

Take a breath!

You don’t have to change everything. Try a gentler approach, and simply enhance your body’s natural ability to do what it does best.

Your body is designed to detox 24/7, already. Looking for a little post-holiday lift? You don’t need to plunge into the rigors of a draconian detox program. Instead, just support your body’s natural cleansing by upping your vegetable intake, especially dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, nature’s elegantly efficient vacuum cleaners. Wrap yourself around some nourishing, naturally cleansing  soups -- warming, satisfying, full of lots of veggies, and packed with all the nutrients in broth.   

Besides, going on a juice cleanse or raw food detox program is contra-indicated in the winter, when your body needs to be kept warm and cozy (think: hibernation). Don’t go overboard, or shock your body with cold in January, making yourself vulnerable to getting sick! Save intensive detoxification for spring and summer when nature’s seasonal superfoods will assist in the right way at the right time.

For now, up your veggie and soup intake. And be gentle with yourself.

Take a little time to reflect: if you are going to make shifts, how are you going to make them sustainable? Instead of just cleansing for 30 days and then… what?... Contemplate delicious, healthy, culinary changes to integrate into your life in such a way that soon it’s not even a thing anymore. Arduous tasks won’t stick; but a few easy tweaks to incorporate more vegetables into your week could actually make life easier. Bring a pretty, seasonal veg salad and soup for lunch to the office; include veg at breakfast; refresh with a steaming cup of broth in place of that extra cup of coffee. A gentle approach to winter nourishment.

And about that post-holiday food guilt.

Once you know where your reservation is, you CAN go off the reservation as long as you know your way back. Maybe you had a few too many cookies over the holidays? You don’t need somebody to dictate a new road for you. Go with simple things, like switching out coffee for mint, ginger or cinnamon tea to help reset your food flow… add more cruciferous and dark leafy greens… up your soup intake... Maybe I don’t need to eat as many sweet things right now, because I want to keep my immune system in shape. You’ve got this, right?

After eating more heavily after the holidays, and quite possibly cooking for a lot of people, maybe it’s time to go in your kitchen and be simpler.

May I suggest Dahl Fit for a Saint, from my book The Longevity Kitchen?

I think it’s a perfect cozy bowl. loaded with pungent, antioxidant, warming herbs and spices. It’s also vegetarian, which I for one welcome after the holiday season.

My first internship when I got out of culinary school was in the kitchen at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, where they had an entire wall filled with dozens and dozens of spices -- a jigsaw puzzle that I had to figure out. The way you knew you had earned your stripes in the kitchen was when the executive chef finally let you make their famous dahl. Wouldn’t you know, the very first time I made it, an honest-to-goodness Indian saint had come to visit. There are rules regarding saints, and at mealtime, the first and foremost is that no one can try the dahl before she does. I must have done something right, because she tasted, smiled, and kissed me gently on the forehead. I treasure that memory, and also appreciate the experience of making that dahl because it taught me that spices — which have phenomenal healing properties — can be the heart of a dish, rather than an add-on to enhance flavor. Here, the blending of spices is what really gives this dish its power, both nutritionally and on the palate.

Connecting the dots

In summation, my culinary Rx for the new year:

  1. Up your veggie intake, especially dark, leafy greens and broccoli.

  2. Up your use of warming and health-packed herbs and spices.

  3. Keep it simple in the kitchen, but interesting. Think: cozy bowl.

  4. Up your intake of warming teas such as ginger, turmeric or Commonweal’s Most Nourishing and Healing Tea.

And give yourself a break! You definitely don’t need to feel ashamed or less than perfect.

The old you is just fine! Hang on to your culinary compass and let it guide you in taking care of you, nourishing you.

Happy New Year, dear ones!