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7 Tips to cook and eat lighter after the holidays

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Discover how to lighten up and eat healthier for the new year

T'was the season for parties, and that means there's a chance that holiday indulgences added up… to extra pounds. Forge ahead into the new year with some surefire tips for lightening things up in the kitchen and even beyond.

1. First things first: Be sure to eat breakfast

Discover how to lighten up and eat healthier for the new year

Running out the door without eating breakfast, with just your coffee in hand, might seem like a good way to cut calories, but it's not. Eating early in the day helps give your metabolism a boost, which helps produce enzymes to metabolize fat to lose weight.

Try this recipe for oatmeal-raisin cookie dough overnight oats. It might sound like dessert, but it's full of good-for-you ingredients and tastes great too.

2. Select a satisfying and healthy smoothie

Discover how to lighten up and eat healthier for the new year

It can be tempting to run to the corner juice or smoothie shop and grab (what you think is) a healthy drink to keep you full. Truth is, many smoothies and juices are full of sugars and fat (and sometimes who knows what else). When opting for a smoothie or juice, be sure to check the ingredients and choose those made with yogurt, nondairy milks and fresh or frozen fruit. Keep the calories and fat on the lower end, and be sure to include healthy ingredients that include protein and fiber.

Follow these tips to learn how to make a healthy smoothie, and consider this recipe for mixed berry, banana and nut oatmeal smoothie.

3. Reach for a few healthy snacks

Discover how to lighten up and eat healthier for the new year

Picking a healthy snack doesn't have to be difficult, but you should know how to choose wisely (not just the type of snack, but portions too). Check out these options for healthy snacks that will satisfy you. If you'd like to make your own crunchy, healthy snacks, check out these recipes for three homemade veggie chips.

4. Fill up on fiber

Discover how to lighten up and eat healthier for the new year

Foods that are high in fiber have a list of benefits (like potentially reducing your risk for certain diseases and obesity). They also help you feel full faster and keep you satisfied longer. That's a good thing when it comes to eating more than you need or want. Pick whole grains, legumes (which includes beans), fruits and veggies for your fill of fiber. If you need extra help, check out these three tips to help you sneak fiber into your diet. And when you're ready for a tasty and filling meal, try this recipe for slow cooker three-bean butternut squash chili.

5. Go meatless… at least once a week

Discover how to lighten up and eat healthier for the new year

There are many benefits to cutting back on meat. Just ask the folks at the Meatless Monday Campaign. According to the organization, "going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. And going meatless once a week can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water."

What a great way to really make an impact! You won't miss the meat in this delightful vegetarian green Thai curry.

6. Spice things up in the kitchen

Discover how to lighten up and eat healthier for the new year

When your food is seasoned well, you won't have to include ingredients that include fat, salt or sugar for flavor. Not only do seasonings and spices taste great, but they have health benefits too. Read about these seven super spices for super health. When mealtime rolls around, try this recipe for spicy chicken curry-stuffed pitas with creamy yogurt sauce.

7. Drink up… water, that is

Discover how to lighten up and eat healthier for the new year

Water is great for keeping you hydrated… duh! But it's also good for your skin, your kidneys and, ahem, for keeping your bowels working properly. Water can also help you feel full, and that can keep your calorie intake down. Water doesn't have to be boring. Give this recipe for cucumber lemon mint-infused water a try. Yum!

More healthy eating recipes

Easy ways to sneak fruit and vegetables into your diet
Top 10 simple healthy recipe swaps
6 Ways to get more fiber into your diet

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