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LJWorld.com weblogs Eat Your Vegetables

New Year's goals have you hungry? Here's help

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Salad of mixed greens, curry tofu, picked red onions, raw red onions, peas, olives, marinated mushrooms, roasted veggies, carrots, raisins and balsamic dressing.

Salad of mixed greens, curry tofu, picked red onions, raw red onions, peas, olives, marinated mushrooms, roasted veggies, carrots, raisins and balsamic dressing. by Sarah Henning

If you started 2013 with the goal of eating better/more vegetables/more fruits/less junk/less processed food/less food in general, chances are that by now you've either settled in or seen your resolve take a nosedive.

It's impossible to tell on Jan. 1 which way the proverbial cookie might crumble (i.e. into the trash, or into your mouth), but you can always improve on what you've already done, even if all that qualifies is scampering backward into your old habits after a brief foray into "healthy eating."

And if you've survived this month with your healthy goals going strong, you may still have nagging thoughts about how you can keep it up. Maybe you've had a hard time converting your family, and thus, have been eating totally separate meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or maybe you're just fine at home, but when you're out on the town or at a party, your resolve crumbles (like said cookie). Or maybe you just can't get through the day without feeling hungry and wonder if it has to be that way forever.

Nope, no it doesn't. See, the thing is, no matter where you are in your journey to health, you should be in it for the long run. You've got this body and you need to take care of it, not abuse it with food or with suffering while feeling hungry/leftover/stressed over the vat of chips and salsa on the table.

We're talking about a lifestyle here. Like, for life. If you do it right, it should become second nature, not total torture.

And, being a lifestyle, it's probably good to know some tips and tricks, no?

Okay, so here's one that I've used the past few years and has saved me a lot of grief: I have a salad every day for lunch.

Yes, pretty much every single day. It's very rare for me to have something other than a salad and it usually means I'm not in control of the menu.

And, no, I'm not starving an hour later. And I'm not looking longingly at my co-workers' lunches. And I'm not eating the same old thing over and over again like some sad little animatron.

There's actually an art to making a salad that will fill you up and leave you feeling good about your work day: It's all about HEFT.

If you started your healthy eating regime at the beginning of January wondering how the heck anybody eats only salad for a meal, chances are the salad you're picturing is one of those tiny "dinner" salads made from iceberg lettuce, a sad tomato and croutons.

Let me tell you, that is not a dinner salad. And it's certainly not a lunch salad either. And, yes, if you eat something that small and lacking in nutrients, you will be hungry. For sure. And you'll probably wreck your good intentions with an especially expensive trip to the vending machine.

So, here's exactly how I have a salad every day without going hungry or crazy or succumbing to the vending machine:

This lunch salad includes mixed greens, roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash), marinated mushrooms, hummus, Italian peppers. olives, red onion and baked tofu.

This lunch salad includes mixed greens, roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash), marinated mushrooms, hummus, Italian peppers. olives, red onion and baked tofu. by Sarah Henning

Step 1: Store salad greens in the work fridge.

On Mondays, I will usually bring a 5-ounce tub of mixed greens or baby spinach, put my initials on the outside and keep it in the fridge at work. That way, I always have my salad base right there and waiting. I don't put anything else in there with them, so that they stay fresher longer. Just the greens, by themselves. And the 5-ounce tub is a good size not to be too obtrusive in a normal-size fridge. (If you only have a mini-fridge in the office, you might have to adjust these recommendations.)

Step 2: Make sure to have hearty toppings

Either brought from home or store-bought, make sure to have a large amount (as is almost as big a container as your salad greens) of salad toppings to use during the week. To keep your salads from being weak, make sure to include one of each of the following items:

Protein: I usually pick one type of bean (garbanzo, black or kidney) and then maybe a bit of tofu to supplement. On the salad at the top of the page, you can see I've used curried tofu as my protein of choice. If you eat meat, you could buy some shredded chicken, tuna or turkey for your salad.

Vegetables: This time of year, I usually either make or buy roasted vegetables to include in my daily salads. I like to mix up a variety, so it's not like I feel like I'm eating the same thing all the time. Top favorites right now: roasted squash, roasted yams, roasted carrots, roasted zucchini or yellow squash. I also like to always add red onion to my salads, and often peas or beets.

Something savory and something sweet: To get by without a lot of added flavor from dressing, I like to always include a few items with a lot of flavor to my salads. Often this means adding kalamata olives (savory) and pickled red onions (sweet). I'll also usually add black pepper, maybe nutritional yeast (which has a cheesy flavor) and raisins or apple juice-sweetened cranberries for some extra kick. Oh, and I've also really loved marinated mushrooms on my salads these days. They add a lot of flavor with little effort.

Step 3: Pick your dressing

Here's where you can easily change the flavor of your salad from day to day. Depending on my mood, I like to use hummus, salsa (pineapple/mango salsa fresca is especially good) or guac as my salad toppers. If I have enough roasted veggies on there, I can just kind of mash everything together and get a lot of texture for very little "dressing." If this isn't your cup of tea, you could just keep one or two salad dressings in the work fridge and alternate them, depending on your mood. The point is: Have something ready, and have an alternate so you aren't sick of it by day three.

Tips to make this easier:

Store a large salad bowl and fork in your desk at work. (You may want to bring this along with your salad greens the first time you try this method, naturally.) I say "large" because, remember, this is a meal. It's not supposed to be a puny salad. You want it to fill you up.

Buy some or all of the ingredients on Mondays. I take a trip to the store on my lunchbreak during my first workday of the week and stock up on items from the salad bar/hot bar. It's expensive, but if you break it down over five meals, it's actually not too bad.

Don't beat yourself up if you don't have salad for lunch. Honestly, I make sure to have salad for lunch not only because I like salad, but because that way I'm not as pressured to make sure I have one at dinner. I usually do, but sometimes I can't, or it's too cold, or I just want something else. And I don't feel guilty, because I've already gotten in a large serving of vegetables in the middle of the day.

So, there you have it. It's really not hard to make a salad for lunch every day. You can make it hearty, healthy and different, every day, just by varying toppings and doing a little planning at the beginning of the week.

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