More farmers' market veggies are in my future in 2011. Photo: Donna Turner Ruhlman

Happy New Year! As much as I love the holiday season, each year I look forward to January so I can reboot and get focused on what I want to accomplish in the next year. For me, it’s time to put down the eggnog, put away the elastic-waist sweat pants and get down to business.

With the 2011 staring me in the face, I’ve found that divulging my New Year’s resolution is one way to keep me on track. So I’ll confess to you: in 2011 I want to build on the progress that I made in 2010– not by measuring success by what the scale reads, but by living healthier.

Last year, I managed to cut the diet soda addiction out of my life. It sounds like a little thing, but I had an unhealthy consumption of three diet sodas a day and it was a necessary “baby step” for me. Today, I don’t miss the sodium or the bloat that comes from soda or the long-term health risks associated with artificial sweeteners. In 2011, I’m ready to take on bigger goals. That means eating cleaner, eating more locally, and as much as it pains me to say it– eating out less.

I have the good fortune of being in contact with some of the best sources in town when it comes to good food and fitness. Here are some of the insider tips I’d like to pass along to help you reach your health goals in 2011.

Eating cleaner: In a nutshell, eating clean is eating whole, natural foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. It also means staying away man-made sugar, bad fats and preservatives. Generally, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, then it’s processed and not clean. Eating clean has gotten a whole lot easier since Events by Amore owner Linda Caivano-Baldwin launched a new line of ready-to-heat meals called Amore Now- Healthy Lifestyle To Go. Low-fat, low-calorie and low-salt food never tasted so good. With entrees like Pear & Lemon-Thyme Chicken, Balti Caribbean Chicken and Bangkok Dressed Salmon, I can attest that you don’t feel like you are sacrificing by eating Linda’s clean food. And, priced at $5.95 to $8.95, it’s not prohibitively expensive. Bonus!

Eating locally: I want to eat more locally because it is a win on so many fronts. Selfishly, fresh food just tastes better. But I’m also concerned about my carbon footprint. Eating locally allows me to feel guilt-free about what I’m eating while supporting local small businesses. On Fridays, I like to head to the farmer’s market in Downtown Tampa for locally-grown fruits and veggies. But on an everyday basis, grocers like Central Café & Organics (St. Petersburg) and Nature’s Food Patch (Clearwater) are also good options for locally grown produce. I’m also considering stocking up twice a month on ethically-raised and hormone-free chicken and pork from Twenty-Four Rivers LLC in Plant City.

Eating out: While I’m going to try and cook at home more this year to control what my family eats, sometimes I know I’m going have to eat out. Everyone needs a break from the kitchen and has social obligations that takes them out of the house during dinnertime. I’ve realized that there’s no reason that eating out has to be a license to binge or derail good progress I’ve made in the week leading up the dinner out. Sometimes, being strategic about where I go can keeps me on track.

Maybe I’m meeting friends for a drink? Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant has a new “Skinny Sangria” on the menu. At only 100 calories, it’s packed with the flavor and fun of regular sangria, with half the sugar.  I can couple skinny sangria with a grilled seafood tapa selection and manage to be healthy and still fabulously social. Even better, Tapas Tuesdays allows me to do this on the cheap– that’s when Ceviche offers $4 tapas selections as well as $4 sangria!

What are some of your New Year’s resolutions and are there any restaurants or dishes that you seek out to stay on track?

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2011!

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  1. Denise @ Creative Kitchen on Sunday 2, 2011

    I love the fresh start too!! But boy, that eggnog sure is good!!! I had gotten the good stuff at Whole Foods…YUM! I restarted my “clean” eating a couple days ago, and already the bloat is gone…yay! Also started back on the exercise. It’s amazing how much better you feel just after a couple of days.

  2. Zest Foodie on Sunday 2, 2011

    Hi Denise- I’ve been traveling most of the holiday season- can’t wait to get back on track! If I’m not careful I will be on a one-way trip to tubby town! Thanks for reading and happy new years!