grain wheelIf you’re like most, you’ve taken the New Year to mean a fresh start and the chance to make some self-improvements.  No doubt that high on that list is a resolution to eat healthier, lose weight and get in shape. The first week of this resolution never feels that bad; oatmeal in the morning, carrot sticks as a snack and sensible salads for lunch or dinner.

Inevitably, someone brings two dozen mouth-watering cupcakes into the office or you find yourself trying to rationalize having that fifth piece of pizza. The truth is, diets are tricky to make work and limiting the intake of something can leave you feeling deprived. It is for that reason that we make a rule not to diet, and instead, opt for keeping a balance all year long.

We’re both surrounded by food every day, and as food writers, we have to go out to eat often and we’ve found that a diet that includes everything in moderation, paired with going to the gym two to three times a week works for us. Before we get into giving advice, we’d like to preface it with the fact that we’re not dietitians, we’re just chefs that love food, who try to maintain a trim waste line. On that note, we’d like to share with you a couple of (painless) tricks we use to stay in shape throughout the year.

  1. Balance it out: if you have your eyes set on a big greasy double cheeseburger and a mound of fries, by all means, have at it and enjoy it. Just be prepared to balance your diet the next day and make up for it with meals centered around fresh fruits and vegetables
  2. Variety is the key: it’s easy to get bored with the same old meals. Keep things interesting and experiment with new fruits, vegetables and grains that you haven’t tried and cook them in different ways. For example, you may hate boiled Brussels Sprouts (and we can’t say we blame you) but roasting them in a little olive oil and salt is total game changer
  3. Focus on the grains: especially nowadays, there’s so many grains to choose from. Packed with fiber and other essential vitamins, it’s filing and meets a lot of nutritional needs and most can be made very similarly to how one would make rice. Some of our favorites include bulgur wheat, barley, quinoa and farro
  4. Instead of fats, use fresh herbs: It’s rare that we’ll cook using butter. Instead, we opt for olive oil and cook with lots of fresh herbs and spices to boost the flavors of our dishes, without adding unhealthy fats. Additionally, we’ll make our sauces richer and more luxurious by adding Greek yogurt to them instead of butter
  5. Everything in moderation: enjoy all of the foods that you like, just enjoy them moderately and watch your portion size. When dining out, either split a richer dish with a friend or take some home for the next day and limit your eating out to one to two times a week. When you eat at home, you control what goes into each dish.

Additionally, we find that keeping a stocked pantry with everything in plain site helps to keep things ready to use. By making even a couple of changes to your daily dietary routine, you should start to see a change. Throw in a couple of weekly trips to gym or even walks around the neighborhood and you’re well on your way to a healthier 2012.

Contributed by Chefs Richard Chudy and Katie Barszcz of The Skinny Beet.  A native Bostonian, Richard Chudy graduated from the Professional Chef’s Program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in 2007 and started a private chef business.  When he’s not busy in the kitchen, he runs Boston Burger Blog, his ongoing quest for the perfect burger in Boston.  Katie started her blog, The Small Boston Kitchen, in December of 2009 as a way to document her hours spent in the kitchen, as well as her eating adventures throughout the Greater Boston area.  In January 2011, Katie attended the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, where she received her Culinary Certificate. Katie co-owns a personal chef and catering business, The Skinny Beet