TAHOE/TRUCKEE — If your New Year brings with it goals of diet and exercise, you are not alone; losing weight is the number one New Year's resolution. However, without proper planning and the right tools, it is easy to get of track and lose focus. To help get your 2012 off to a healthy and successful start, consider the following:• Make a plan. Taking a few minutes to prepare a weekly meal plan is crucial to dieting and healthy eating success. A weekly meal plan will help keep you organized and on track. Knowing what you are cooking for dinner ahead of time prevents hasty stops for take-out at the end of a busy day or dependence on sodium laden convenience foods. You'll also find meal planning makes grocery shopping less painful; making it easier to pass up unhealthy temptations at the store and ensure that you have everything you need when you're ready to cook.• Use your time wisely. When preparing your weekly meal plan, choose meals that can be doubled. Cook a few days a week, when your schedule allows, and freeze the extras. Having a freezer full of ready-made healthy meals will save you, and your diet, the next time you are simply too tired to cook or forget to meal plan. Some healthy foods that freeze well are turkey burger patties, soup, chili, and lean meats frozen in a marinade.• Make dinner enjoyable. You are more likely to enjoy a meal if it is visually appealing. Spend a little time on the presentation and set the table. Eat with your family and give yourself the opportunity to enjoy your dinner without distractions. You are less likely to overeat if you eat slowly and enjoy every bite.• Gather your tools. Use non-stick pans for cooking to eliminate the need for cooking oils; if oil is needed, use cooking sprays. For even healthier cooking options, steam, bake, boil, microwave, or grill your foods. For easier grilling during the winter months, invest in an indoor grill pan.— Chef Heather Hunsaker currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.
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