Happy New Year! I hope your Christmas and New Year’s celebrations were fun and memorable. Ours were, though we were sick through the whole thing. Not my favorite way to spend the holidays, but we are hopeful for full health in the New Year! Perhaps we got it all out of the way and will be able to avoid any further illness in 2012. How’s that for a plan?

The changing of the year, seeing the end of one and beginning of another always makes me excited (and a bit sad as the years seem to be going far too quickly). After all, it’s a chance to change and improve on what I wasn’t so successful with during the previous year. Am I alone in that feeling? It just feels like the chance to start out fresh. What could be better?

I did a bit of looking on line about “New Year’s Resolutions” and the top resolutions that are made by most of us revolve around health, diet, relationships and finances. Any of those on your list? Perhaps you don’t make resolutions?

Personally, I gave up on “resolutions” a long time ago. Why resolve to do some great thing and set myself up for failure? After all, from what I’ve read today less than half of us stick with those “resolutions” anyway. One report I heard on the radio said that by the end of January one-third of us will give up. By the end of the year, seventy-five percent of us will have given up on our resolutions all together!

So, how do I handle the whole resolution issue? At the end of the year, or towards the end of the year, I start looking at my life and areas that have room for improvement. Usually there are plenty of areas that need at least a little improvement, but most often I find that I’d like a complete overhaul. How about you?

I’d rather set some goals for myself, small goals that are not only possible to reach but will have the most impact on my life. Many of those goals include health and well being, things like drinking more water, eating less sugar, eating more whole grains and more lean protein. I might decide to try and walk a couple of miles a week , or at the very least be more active on a daily basis. Anyone can do that, right? It’s the finding the time part that I struggle with.

Sometimes a goal can be as simple as trying a new recipe each month or a couple a month. While considering my job, that may not seem like something I’d need to do, but I get stuck in a rut in my day to day cooking just like you do. Finding new and different ways to serve chicken or beef for instance is often hard when I find myself in one of those familiar ruts.

Perhaps I need to spice up my side dishes. I’ve said it before, this is a struggling point for me. Something other than the same old baked potatoes or steamed rice.

Another thought that comes to mind is a way to save my grocery budget in the new year and also keep things healthy. I don’t want to just fill my family up with empty carbs and starches, and on a gluten-free diet that is difficult at times.

Just the other day I was talking with a friend that was struggling with the whole budget aspect of eating gluten-free. The best advice that I could give was to try to not “replace” all of the gluten in her diet. Let’s face it, gluten-free flour options are far from inexpensive and most are starch laden and not the best choice for you health wise.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a bread loving girl and I know there are times when only a piece of bread will do. Perhaps you are having a bowl of tomato soup. What goes better with that steaming bowl of soup than a grilled cheese sandwich? In all my years of cooking I have yet to find a bread-less grilled cheese sandwich, have you?

All kidding aside, when we are trying to eat foods that our body needs and balance our budgets there are much better and less expensive alternatives to the typical gluten-replacement diet. Try just avoiding dishes that would normally contain gluten. Eating more fruits and vegetables every day is always best, regardless of your “gluten” needs.

If you have a craving for pasta, or you’ve got spaghetti on the menu for tonight, try slicing up some zucchini and steaming it in place of noodles. Sure, you are “replacing” the pasta, but in my mind if the replacement is better for you than the original it’s the best choice all around. Just as you had to change your thinking when switching to a gluten-free diet, sometimes it’s necessary to change your thinking a bit more in order to improve your overall health and well being.

Bottom line, don’t set goals for yourself in this New Year that will be set aside in a few weeks and forgotten. Goals are good things, often healthy things, sometimes even life changing! Just try to make subtle changes to your daily life at first. Improve one part of your daily life each week. Practice that improvement, they say it takes a full month to have an activity become a habit, give yourself some time but be purposeful in your choices and actions. Weigh your choices and try to make the best choices given your resources and options, while keeping your final goal set firmly in your mind.

Small changes, over time, can snowball into big changes if given the chance! Have a wonderful start to this new year with baby steps each day or week, towards your final goal….whatever that may be!

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