No matter how many times we bid farewell to an old year and ring in a new year, the resolutions (or “intentions” as hipsters now refer to them) are always the same – to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, become better organized, have happy relationships and simply do better. And, every year, many of us fall tragically short of our goals. This issue, we’re not here to help you clear your clutter or find your soul mate, but we can help you along the way to healthier eating habits.

Many of us – me included – have struggled and continue to struggle with weight and making healthy choices. Although I’m not an academically trained expert on the subject of nutrition or weight loss, I’ve picked up a few things along the way, the principal one being that people trap themselves in a diet box when they set out to improve their eating habits. There are a ton more “thou shalt nots” than there are “thou shalts.” It sometimes feels that choices are reduced to a rotating menu of broiled or baked proteins, steamed veggies, and the ever-present salads, which can result in what seem like colorless, So, along with encouraging everyone to eat more healthfully this year, we spoke with several local chefs who have given us entrees with international influences – Mexican, Jamaican, French and Indian – to help stimulate your taste buds and cause you to look forward to your next healthy meal.

Mexican Bowl

Sea Salt Healthy Kitchen

Chef Alan Ramirez

At Sea Salt Healthy Kitchen, Chef Alan Ramirez specializes in well-being bowls, with one of the most popular being the Mexican bowl. In a previous article in Coastal Illustrated, Ramirez mentioned how important it was to eat the most colorful foods you can find because they contain more nutrients. Other recommendations include eating locally sourced vegetables grown in season as frequently as possible, and to avoid processed foods when you can.

Ramirez disclosed the ingredients for the Mexican bowl and provided the recipe for the black beans, which form the core of the dish.

Ingredients for Mexican bowl

• Brown rice • Quinoa • Black beans

• Corn pico • Grilled squash • Avocado

Ingredients for black beans

• 2 cups of black beans • 1/4 red onion • 4 cloves of garlic

• ½ bunch cilantro • ½ bunch epazote • 1 japapeño

• 3 quarts water • 2 Tbsp. sea salt

Preparation | Soak the beans overnight, drain the water and place them in a medium-size pot, Add the remaining ingredients (aromatics) whole or sliced. Add water. Bring everything in the pot to a boil; once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat and cook for 40 minutes until nice and soft. Let rest for about 20 minutes. Lastly, place beans in a serving bowl, add remaining ingredients and serve with fresh greens and pepitas.

Veggie Delight

Island Jerk

Co-owner Bernie Genron

If you long for a taste of the islands, you don’t need to give up healthy cuisine. Bernie Genron, co-owner of Island Jerk in Brunswick, has several options that will satisfy your hunger without making the numbers on the scale skyrocket. Her brown stew comes in several incarnations, including a vegetarian option, for which she gave us the recipe.

Ingredients for veggie delight

• 1 cup carrots, fresh, sliced

• 1 cup rutabaga, cubed

• 1 cup butternut squash, cubed

• 1 cup chayote squash, cubed

• ¼ cup onions, sliced

• ¼ cup green peppers

• 1 tsp. garlic, minced

• 2-4 sprigs thyme, fresh

• ½ packet pumpkin soup mix

• ¼ stick margarine or butter

• Goya adobo to taste

Preparation | Add vegetables to large pot, cover with water and cook until fork tender. In a sauté pan, add butter, garlic, onions, peppers and thyme, and lightly sauté. Add ¼ cup water and pumpkin soup mix and bring to a simmer. Add sautéed ingredients to pot of chopped vegetables, blend and cook until thickened. Add adobo to taste. Note: If needed, add 1 tsp. cornstarch to thicken the soup.

Salad Niçoise

A Moveable Feast

Owner Tanya Sergey

French food has a reputation for being fattening because of the prevalence of butter and cream in the recipes. However, there are ways of slimming down a French recipe, and Tanya Sergey, owner of A Moveable Feast, has done just that with her Salad Niçoise.

“Classic Salad Niçoise typically includes things like steamed or roasted potatoes, green beans, Kalamata olives and Dijon dressing,” she said. “While I love this version, I was looking to create something lighter and more refreshing. It makes for a healthy lunch choice with its baby greens, grape tomatoes and hard-boiled egg.”

ingredients for salad niçoise

• 4-4oz. cans white albacore tuna in water, thoroughly drained.

• 1 Tbsp. finely diced red onion • 1 Tbsp. finely diced flat Italian parsley

• 1 tsp. finely chopped capers • ½ cup citrus vinaigrette

• Salt and pepper to taste • 6 grape tomatoes, sliced in halves

• 4 cups baby greens, arugula or any other lettuce you prefer

• 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced in halves

ingredients for citrus vinaigrette

This simple and elegant dressing comes together quickly in less than five minutes. Remember to use canola oil and not olive oil. All parts are equal.

• 1/3 freshly squeezed lemon juice at room temperature • 1/3 honey

• 1/3 canola oil • Smashed garlic cloves • Heavy salt and pepper

Dressing Preparation | Throw all ingredients into a bowl or jar. •Whisk or shake vigorously until well-blended. Will keep for a week in an airtight container. Remember to shake again before use.

Salad Preparation | In a medium sized bowl, mix the drained tuna, red onion, parsley and capers. Add the citrus vinaigrette and continue to mix with a spatula or fork until well-incorporated. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Split the greens between two large salad bowls. Sprinkle with citrus vinaigrette. Divide the tomatoes and eggs between the bowls. Divide the tuna between the bowls and place on top of the greens. Enjoy!

“Our white albacore tuna salad is made with Italian parsley, light red onion and capers. We pack a lot of flavor into our salad and use our house-made citrus vinaigrette to round it off."

-Tanya Sergey

Roasted Turmeric Chicken

Chef Johnny Carino

Sometimes, especially when you’re trying to eat healthier, you miss the flavors of Asia. Because those diets are relatively high in carbohydrates (rice, in particular), many people avoid them, but there are ways to bring the flavors of those faraway lands into dishes you should eat, and as in the case of Chef Johnny Carino’s Turmeric Chicken, there are benefits beyond the good nutrition.

Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family and native to Southeast Asia. Traditionally, it was sought after for conditions such as arthritis, digestive problems, respiratory infections, allergies, and other maladies. Turmeric is a major ingredient in curry powder.

Carino’s dish, which is made with organic chicken breast, is high in both protein and flavor. He roasts the chicken with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.

“For this dish in particular, I have made it gluten-free and have added fresh spaghetti squash with extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil,” he said. “This is a healthy dish (and) other side items would include roasted baby potatoes and any type of sautéed fresh vegetables.”

Carino said this is one of the dishes he serves in his prepared meal business. “It’s under 450 calories. If fits most of the lifestyle choices such as gluten-free, diabetic, Paleo, Whole 30 and Atkins,” he explained, adding that the spice’s health benefits are well-documented. He’s a believer in its attributes. “Turmeric is something I use in my food daily,” he said. “ … I cook for my dog Scooby-Doo; I sprinkle it in his food as he has joint pain in his hip. I can tell a difference very quickly; the benefits are amazing.”

Ingredients for roasted turmeric chicken

• 4 each chicken breast • 2 Tbsp. turmeric • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder • 1 Tbsp. onion powder

• Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste • 1/8 c extra virgin olive oil • 2 garlic cloves, shaved

Preparation | Rub the olive oil into the chicken. Add all the spices to a bowl and mix well. Rub the seasoning into the oiled chicken, mix well. Refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours. The more it marinates, the more flavor. Preheat the oven at 375 degrees. Place a sauté pan onto medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the chicken breast to the hot pan and allow to cook three minutes undisturbed. Flip the chicken and cook in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for five minutes. Note: You can slice thinly and served with sautéed vegetables and roasted baby potatoes.

Sue Ullrich

Southeast Georgia Health System

Diabetes program coordinator

Sue Ullrich, diabetes program coordinator at Southeast Georgia Health System, has some great tips to get off to a healthy start in the New Year.

Make a plan | Identify what changes you want to make to live a healthier lifestyle.

Set small achievable goal | Write down your goals. Setting small, specific goals helps you identify how successfully you meet those goals.

Move more | Find ways to increase your activity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week (30 minutes five days a week). Just starting out? Try a 10-15 minute walk and gradually increase your activity as you are able to tolerate it.

Eat healthier | Increase your vegetable intake and cut back on other portion sizes. Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. Focus more on choosing whole grain foods and less on processed foods.

Get enough sleep | Get on a regular sleep schedule and avoid caffeine later in the day. Being active during the day can help you sleep better at night.

Take time for yourself | Set aside 10 minutes a day just for you. Meditate, write in a journal, do stretching exercises, read a book. You are important, so don’t forget to take care of yourself.