New Year’s Resolution: Lighten up!

After (over)indulging for the holidays, now is a good time to go with lighter foods

By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times


Bok Choy soup – Kick off the new year with lightened up dishes like Chinese style bok choy chicken soup. Photo courtesy of Marlene Baird.

If you’re anything like me and have been indulging yourself with rich food while ignoring exercise during the holidays, then you probably also have set goals for the new year to eat more healthful food.  Of course, this is easier said than done.

But it is possible to take the chill out of the long winter season while avoiding comforting foods that include butter, milk, heavy cream and refined carbohydrates, ingredients that pile on pounds that can stick around long past the winter thaw.

Now’s the time to consider different foods that are light and far less guilty than the decadence of what we were eating during the holiday season.   Lentils, tofu and vegan dishes all spring to mind, but feel more like penance than a fresh New Year regime.  Many of us think that “lighter” and “healthier” means less flavor and texture, but that needn’t be the case — food can be both light and delicious.

How about starting the day off with a fruit smoothie that provides vitamin C and a kick of freshly squeezed orange juice?   Follow that with a light lunch and a dinner featuring protein, vegetables and healthy carbs.  Now that doesn’t sound so bad does it?

Kick-start the New Year resolutions by making a detoxifying Chinese chicken soup.  My food writing friend, Marlene Baird suggests this recipe.


1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cubed

1 white onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 medium carrots, diced

3 cups fresh bok choy, roughly chopped

5 cups chicken stock

¼ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt, to taste with truffles

⅛ teaspoon Freshly ground pepper

1 Tablespoon flat-leaf parsley



In a large stock pot, over medium-high heat add oil.  Saute the garlic about 2 minutes.  Add onion and carrots, and stir for 5 minutes until translucent.   Add cubed chicken and let cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in bok choy and mix well.  Add in chicken stock, parsley, salt and pepper.  Mix and let simmer for 15 minutes.



Meyer Lemon Chicken – Lighter dishes can still be delicious. Photo courtesy of Susan Palmer.

For dinner, try Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs, Fennel and Sweet Potatoes from Susan Palmer.


1 fennel bulb

2 medium jeweled yams/sweet potatoes

1lb skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

1 Meyer lemon, quartered

kosher salt and black pepper

4-5 springs fresh thyme

vegetable oil



Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Remove the stalks from the fennel bulb. Cut the bottom root end and standing straight up cut the fennel in half. Cut out the tough inner core layer and then slice the fennel into ½ inch slices. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Scrub the sweet potatoes and cut into a 1 inch dice and add to the baking sheet with the fennel.  Season with kosher salt, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil and toss. Add the thyme sprigs.  Roast for 25 minutes.

Pat the chicken thighs dry and generously season both sides with salt and pepper.

Remove the vegetables from the oven, toss with a spatula and add the chicken thighs and quartered Meyer lemon.  Roast for another 30-35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, the skin is crisp and the fennel and sweet potatoes are browned and caramelized.  Serve immediately with a wedge of Meyer lemon to squeeze on top of the chicken.

We all know we’re going to break our New Year’s resolutions but try starting out the year with dishes that are healthy AND delicious.

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