Starting the year off right

Published 2:23 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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Whew, I sure have been tempted over the last couple of months by rich foods, like Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, homemade rolls, noodles, and pumpkin pie!  And then we were into the Christmas season with parties, cookies, sweets, and more cookies, and well, you get the picture. We no sooner pushed ourselves from the Christmas dinner table, and it was the New Year.


While I LOVE the holidays and all the treats they bring, the season challenges my eating habits more than usual, and I need to be more careful as we have rolled into the new year not to make my occasional treat a habit. And I suspect that I am not alone.

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Most of us love having a good night out at our favorite restaurant. It’s a time to relax, enjoy, and savor. But studies also show that some restaurant meals contain higher amounts of fat, total fat, sodium, and overall calories than home-cooked meals. And for someone like me who has food allergies, the consequences of not fully knowing the ingredients in your meal could land me in St. Luke’s Emergency Department (which recently happened). So, while our region has excellent restaurants, grills, and pizzerias that we all love and enjoy, there’s also something to say about a healthy home-cooked meal.


The nutritional difference: As you may suspect, homemade meals generally have fewer fats, sugars, and sodium than a Big Mac, fries, and soda. Meals we choose at restaurants are often high in salt, calories, and cholesterol. But when you’re the chef, you can be mindful and control the ingredients—having full access to substitute ingredients from regular to organic items, using sugar-free sweeteners, lower-sodium alternatives, wholesome grains, healthy green vegetables, and quality proteins. You also have the option to prepare your food with organic oils aiding in cholesterol control. When you choose healthy fats while cooking, it benefits your heart health. Conversely, when eating out, we often think less about the contents of what we are eating and choose what sounds most delicious. Train yourself to inspect ingredients when you dine out so that you are choosing the healthier options most of the time. 


Portion control: Some restaurants serve larger dishes which can lead to overeating. At home, we may cook a three-ounce portion of meat instead of ordering the twelve-ounce steak in a restaurant. And rather than being tempted by sugar-filled desserts that we see on the menu or at the next table, at home, it’s easier to skip them altogether. Now, I am not advocating that you ignore enjoying our local eateries, but perhaps that you box up half of your meal for later when you dine in!


Stimulate your brain: Seniors may discover more powerful cognitive benefits from regular time in the kitchen. For example, learning a new recipe and challenging yourself to bake from memory can stave off cognitive decline. What’s more, cooking can be a fun hobby to develop. With a group or on your own, home cooking fills your need to eat, and it can also boost your health by keeping you mentally and physically active.


2023 diet resolution:  Keep it simple and enjoy healthy more often, whether at home or dining out! The suggestions below will boost your health in many ways!


  • Use smaller dinner plates
  • Try to skip processed foods (at least every other day)
  • Eat one fruit and or vegetable every day
  • Drink herbal tea to detox
  • Make one meal a day protein rich
  • Take a fifteen-minute walk each day 


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