THE KITCHEN DIVA: Small changes build healthy eating habits

When it comes to one's daily meal routine, change can sometimes be challenging.

A new year brings about a desire for change, so let's start with your health! When it comes to our daily meal routine, change can sometimes be challenging. Studies have shown that it takes from two to eight months to form a new habit. You can create a positive eating "habit" by making small changes over time, like eliminating sugary drinks and high-sodium foods.

Consider making healthy changes that reflect your personal preferences, culture and traditions. Think of each change as a "win" as you build good habits and find solutions that reflect your new healthy eating style. Use the tips below courtesy of My Plate (www.choosemyplate.gov/start-small-changes) to find little victories that work for you!

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

Focus on whole fruits more often than drinking 100% juice. Snack on fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits instead of cookies, brownies or other sugar-sweetened treats. Offer whole fruits without saturated fat, sodium or added sugars as dessert.

Vary your veggies to include green, red and orange choices. Add fresh, frozen or canned vegetables to salads, side dishes and recipes. Prepare your vegetables without sauces, gravies or glazes to lower the amount of sodium, saturated fat and added sugars.

Make half your grains whole grains

Choose whole-grain foods more often than refined grains. Make at least half the amount of grains you eat each day whole grains. Find high fiber, whole-grain foods by reading the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list. Some common whole grains include oatmeal, whole-wheat flour and popcorn.

Move to low-fat and fat-free dairy

Choose low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. Buy low-fat or fat-free cheese more often than regular cheese. Regular cream cheese, butter and cream are not in the dairy food group because they have little or no calcium. They also are high in saturated fat.

Vary your protein routine

Mix up protein foods to include seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, soy, eggs, lean meats and poultry. Select seafood twice a week, including fish and shellfish. Add beans or peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, and soy in main dishes and snacks.

When planning your daily meals, try healthy new ways to prepare family favorites. This recipe for Greek Pork Chops With Veggie Rice incorporates fresh fruit and juices into savory dishes and mixes grains and vegetables.

GREEK PORK CHOPS WITH VEGGIE RICE

1 pound pork cutlets (or 4 boneless pork chops)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

4 (1/4-inch-thick) orange slices

1. Make a marinade for the pork by combining 1 tablespoon of the oil, the orange juice, soy sauce, oregano and garlic in a glass bowl or re-sealable plastic bag; mix well. Cover bowl, if using, and refrigerate the pork chops for at least 4 hours or overnight.

2. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and discard the marinade. Sprinkle pork chops with the salt and the black and red pepper.

3. Place a large skillet on the stove over high heat. When hot, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the pork chops to the pan, waiting about 30 seconds between each addition.

4. Cook about 3 minutes on each side until crispy. Set pork chops aside on a plate and add the orange slices to the pan; cook on each side about 30 seconds. Serve pork chops over a bed of Mixed Veggie Rice and top with the orange slices. Serves 4.

MIXED VEGGIE RICE

If using leftover, already cooked vegetables, add them to the hot cooked rice immediately, cover and let them come up to temperature for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups water (or 1 cup water and 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth)

2 cups frozen mixed vegetables or 2 cups fresh, diced vegetables.

1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil. Add in the rice, onion, garlic, oregano and the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to toast the rice.

2. Pour in the water and/or the broth. Stir and bring the rice to a boil. Add the vegetables; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover pot with a tight-fitting lid. Do not remove lid during the cooking process!

3. After 15 minutes, cut off the heat and let the rice sit, covered, for another 5 minutes to steam. Fluff rice and vegetables with a fork and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children's author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is "The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook." Her website is www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.  (c) 2020 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis

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