EATING LOCAL - Consider year-round resolutions for mind, body, soul and spirit

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The coming of a new year gives us a fresh start, a chance to make positive changes in our lives and to begin new habits for the future.

I'm not usually one for making New Year's resolutions. I've tried it in years past but didn't keep up with them and gave up. Maybe it's the format - writing down a list of changes to be made - or maybe it's knowing that a lot of people start but never finish their resolutions. Either way, the old way didn't work for me.

So I've decided to look at resolutions in a whole new way. Rather than restrictive changes I feel guilted into making, I would like to focus on positive things I can do to make me a better me.

Although making healthy dietary changes and exercising more are important New Year's resolutions, I believe there is more to it than the physical. There is also the emotional, including staying connected to friends and family, spending more quality time with loved ones, and being an active community member.

During the holidays we reconnect with our family and friends and share with them how much we care through gifts, heartfelt cards or spending time together. But once a year is just not enough. I don't want to wait a whole year before I write another card to my cousin in Aberdeen or my friends in far off locations around the world.

Even if it's just a little hello letter every other month or a recent picture of the kids, I aspire to stay more connected to those important people in my life.

Though I see my kids almost every day of the year, it doesn't mean we spend a lot of quality time together. With my busy work schedule and the kids' extracurricular activities, we don't get much more than a greeting at breakfast and quick chat at dinner. On the weekends, they have playdates, activities and TV to catch up on.

The holidays gave us a chance to spend some time together, crafting gifts to give, decorating the house and chatting on long car rides to and from Grandma's home. We had so much fun, I want to make it a regular thing. I aspire to organize projects for us to do together, play more games together, and take more weekend trips.

Living in a small community, it's easy to see the positive changes one person can make.

Volunteering in my children's school, I opened the minds of kids who thought they didn't like vegetables. Being an active community member, a person can improve the lives of others by simply giving their time or sharing a passion. Volunteer, write resolutions with a friend and support each other along the way, or be a listening ear to someone going through a tough time. I aspire to volunteer once a month in the coming year.

When talking about New Year's resolutions, food is always part of the conversation.

Although food and healthy eating is always on my brain, it is all the more applicable this year since my aunt is recovering from heart surgery, along with her diabetes treatment. Watching her struggle, I helped my family organize a food plan for her as she recovers. After years of eating packaged processed foods with way too much unhealthy fats and sodium, her body can no longer handle even small amounts of either.

In contrast, my dad and his wife eat only foods they grow and cook themselves. They are visibly healthy, strong and vibrant.

Healthful eating isn't rocket science. Eat less packaged, processed foods. Cook from scratch. Eat whole grains as much as possible. Vary protein sources, making sure to include fish and legumes at least once a week. Include at least one vegetable in every meal, making sure to eat a variety of colors. Limit sodium and avoid hydrogenated fats. With these simple tips, we can all lead healthier vibrant lives. I aspire to cook a different vegetable every day of the week and have one meatless meal a week.

Along with healthier eating, exercise is almost always on the New Year's resolution list.

I admit, I am not a big fan of organized sports or exercise regimes. I tried for a few years and "exercise more" is always on my to-do list. But like most folks, it gets put on the back burner when other things come up.

I tried running - on a track, around the park, through the neighborhood - but none of them suited me. I tried going to the gym but without someone at my side pushing me along the way, I didn't get much of a workout. I've done aerobics classes, kickboxing, zumba, but can always find a reason to stay home with something else "more important" to do. Then I found yoga and stuck with it for awhile. It's so easy to find an excuse not to go.

But as I see myself aging and my body creaking when I move, I realize I'm not getting any younger and the time is now to take care of myself. Healthful eating alone will not do the trick. A healthy body and mind needs movement. Getting up early for a yoga workout is not on the top of my list of fun activities, but I do feel stronger, healthier, and more clear-minded when I start my day that way. I aspire to get to the gym for yoga at least three times a week in the next year.

Consider making some New Year's resolutions this year. There is always something we can become better at, even if it's just smiling more or calling your dad more often. Time keeps moving on and there's no better time than the present to be the best you you can be. Cheers to a Happy New Year! Let's make this the best one yet!

Melissa Davis, a local chef with a bachelor's degree in nutrition, specializes in natural foods. She can be reached at jadenluna@gmail.com.
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