Happy New Year to you! Over the past several months, I have introduced you to simpler, leaner meals. I’m going to continue on that path because my goal is to get people healthier in 2020.

First of all, I’ll start the year out with some valuable tips.

1. Shop the perimeter of your supermarket and stay away from the processed foods. It’s OK to buy frozen as long as it’s fruits, vegetables, and lean meats or fish.

2. Be very cautious about keto diets. In fact, check with your primary care provider before you plan on starting one. They aren’t as healthy as they appear to be.

3. I cannot stress enough the need to hydrate. Make sure you are getting plenty of liquid, preferably water, during the course of the day. It is vital to your bodily functions. Soups, decaffeinated teas or coffees, water, but no sodas or high-energy drinks, and limit your alcohol because alcohol can dehydrate you.

4. And speaking of tea, try having a cup or two of decaffeinated green tea every afternoon. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that have powerful effects on the body. These include improved brain function, fat loss, a lower risk of cancer and many other impressive benefits, like improving your blood flow and lowering your cholesterol.

5. This is the year to quit all tobacco — stop smoking! If you could only see what the chemicals in the cigarettes are doing to your lungs, you would quit in a minute. I cannot stress enough the need to stop smoking — and chewing tobacco is a known carcinogen. It is like playing Russian roulette with your health. Please, for your sake and the sake of those around you, get help to quit.

Lastly, I have to leave you with a good soup recipe for this cold January weather. Enjoy!

LENTIL SOUPIngredients

1 large onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c. green lentils

1 (14.5-oz.) can diced or crushed tomatoes

2 tsp. fresh thyme or 1 ¼ dried thyme

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

4 c. baby spinach

Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Directions

To a large heavy pot, add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, lentils, and tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes until onion is translucent. Add thyme, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Pour broth over and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then cover, lower the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. If using an Instant Pot, place all ingredients (except spinach) in the pot and set it to Manual, Highfor 18 minutes. Once finished, set valve to quick release.

Whichever method you are using, remove lid and stir in spinach. Serve with Parmesan.

(Candy Work is a certified physician assistant and registered dietitian. She has been practicing at the Olean Medical Group since 2015.)

Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is jeckstrom@oleantimesherald.com.)

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