After weeks of holiday overindulging, January is officially “Be Good to Your Body Month.” You’ll see a million articles focused on what to eat and how to exercise featured in almost every publication and website this month.

Thank goodness, because I need the constant reminders. After all, it’s hard to make a sharp turn away from all the end-of-the-year sweets and other decadent foods that seem to form a never-ending conga line into my home and eventually my mouth.

Simple carbs can be habit-forming, and reading a few articles on kicking them, while helpful, is not enough to move the needle on my family’s eating patterns. I need to get into the kitchen and get rid of all the leftover goodies that have been loitering in my pantry and refrigerator for the past couple of months.

I’m tossing the last of the cookies, candies and crackers. (Crackers, for me, are a serious gateway food. One cracker can lead to many, many other questionable dietary decisions.) I know myself and my family well enough to understand that if it’s in the house, we’re likely to eat it.

As I’m giving my pantry and refrigerator this healthy makeover, I’ll be keeping one guiding principle in mind — seek and destroy the foods that are packed with empty calories. In other words, I’ll be tossing items that deliver lots of calories without much nutrition.

How does one identify these culinary culprits? It’s pretty easy. Look for things salty, fried, fatty and/or sugary. A quick glance at the nutritional information label should make it pretty clear what should stay and what should go. Hint: Most processed foods will fall under one or more of the preceding categories.

I can already hear the “this is too extreme” protests, and I get it. I’m usually in the “everything in moderation” camp, too. But I know that, for me, a clean start and a clean refrigerator and pantry feels good.

Of course, I can’t just take away. If I’m going to cook for my family, and if they’re going to have something in the house to snack on, I’ve also got to replace all those bad things with better things. So in come the whole-grain foods, nuts, fruits and veggies.

Having said all of this, I also know that if I’m going to stick to any kind of a healthy diet, the food has to taste good, not just to me, but to my entire family. After all, we’re in this together. Fortunately, healthful meals are not that hard to accomplish.

Take this Korean Beef and Vegetable Rice Bowl. Brown rice is the foundation for a small portion of flavorful strips of lean beef, intermingled with a large portion of colorful stir-fried veggies. The result is a seriously satisfying and healthful meal, and a great start to the new year.

 

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.