New Year, New Diet: 20-Day Prep Plan! (And my salad equation)

20-day prep plan for starting a new diet

Are you thinking about starting a new diet — excuse me — a new way of eating at the beginning of the new year? Good for you!

applauding minions

 

Why not stack the odds for success in your favor? Instead of just diving in unprepared on January 1, use these last three weeks of December to gird your loins for battle! I’m here to help.

Every day, I’ll be posting an activity or two that will help you mentally or physically prepare for a fresh start on January 1. The weekday assignments will usually be pretty light; the Saturday and Sunday assignments will involve a little more time. But this is time that will pay forward to bring you greater success next month.

And since we’re starting on Saturday, we’re going to dive right into it! Your assignment for today: make a grocery list then do some shopping.

Get groceries for healthy salads

One of the things that can make or break your efforts to stick to healthy eating is knowing a few easy meals that you can throw together based on things that you always have on hand.

Salads are an easy meal, and can be a healthy choice that fits into almost any diet plan — as long as the dressing isn’t full of sugar, corn syrup, and other sugary things.

Here’s my equation for creating a delicious salad:

Greens + onions + something sweet and tangy + something crunchy and maybe salty + cheese (optional) + protein (optional) + dressing, including some healthy fat!

Your greens can be spinach, romaine, kale, mixed baby greens, or any combination. Iceberg lettuce contains few nutrients, though, so you’re better off with something else.

Onions can be white, yellow, green or red, or they may be blended into the dressing. If you’re concerned about onions overpowering your salad, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes or so, then drain them before adding to the salad.

Sweet and tangy is usually fruit, but can also be vegetable. Tomatoes are popular, as are craisins or other dried fruit. Consider other possibilities: fresh berries such as blueberries or sliced strawberries; diced apple or pear; or chunks of mango, orange, tangerine, or grapefruit. Diced cooked sweet potato is another nice option.

Avoid relying on croutons for your crunchy item. Nuts are gluten-free, low carb, and higher in nutrition. Skip anything candied or sugared; use raw or toasted pecans, walnuts, cashews, pepitas, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, almonds slivered or sliced… You get the idea! Crisp/crunchy veggies also work well: celery, jicama, cabbage. Crispy bacon is another solid option. Cuz bacon makes everything better! And a few crumbles of real, good quality bacon is not a diet breaker.

If you’re not avoiding dairy, cheese makes a nice addition to many salads. Popular choices include feta, blue cheese, and goat cheese. Parmesan and cheddar are appropriate for certain salads. Anything is possible, though. Except Velveeta. Please: never Velveeta!

If you’re going to make your salad a meal, some thinly-sliced, already-cooked meats will bring the protein you need. Chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, tuna, leftover salmon or crabcakes are all fair game! Eggs are another possibility: hard-boiled and chopped, or fried and laid on top! (Just look up #putaneggonit on Instagram!)

We’ll talk more in the coming days about the error of low-fat thinking, but for now, please just trust me on this: your salad needs fat! Lack of fat is one of the things that will make you hungry again in an hour or two. (Sugar is the other.) So replacing those low-fat, sugar-filled, store-bought dressings with healthy, whole-food, homemade dressings is going to make a huge difference in the frequency and strength of your cravings.

While there’s great controversy about which fats are healthy and which are not, pretty much everyone agrees on these: olive oil and avocados. Bacon, cheese, eggs, and nuts are other possibilities, but more controversial.

So make sure you have a good quality 100% extra virgin olive oil on your grocery list. (My favorite everyday brand: California Olive Ranch. Because it’s made in America, I figure it’s fresher, which is important. You can get it at Dillon’s and World Market. Possibly other places, but I know those two for certain.)

Oh, and this is not a hard-and-fast rulebook (except for the low-sugar, some-fat rule); just a few parameters to get you started. There are no salad police!

Not sure how to combine these? Study some online restaurant menus for inspiration, or search for salads on allrecipes.com, or your other favorite food blog.

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

antipasto salad

Sugar-free salad dressings

sugar-free poppy seed dressingI have several sugar-free salad dressing recipes on this site. Peruse these and pick out two or three you’d like to try:

Now make a grocery list of salad and dressing ingredients based on what you’d like to try, and hit the store! (If Creamy Italian is one of your picks, go ahead and make it today; it tastes better when the ingredients have had several hours to mellow and blend.)

Want to follow along for the rest of the countdown? You can do that by…

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20-day prep plan for starting a new diet

Jana

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