You don't have to wait until midnight on News Year's Eve to resolve to eat more healthfully in the coming year. You can get a head start on a lighter new year with healthful, low-fat, low-calorie meals that are colorful, full-flavored and satisfying.

By combining different vegetables in interesting ways, you can enjoy a variety of colors, textures and flavors. You are also maximizing the health-protective substances offered only by plant-based foods - and get that full feeling with minimum calories.

Monounsaturated fats such as canola, olive, sesame and walnut oils are flavorful but far more healthful than animal fats. There are other ways to add extra flavor as well - herbs, spices and other seasonings add more flavor to any dish.

For good health and good weight, the American Institute of Cancer Research recommends a one-third/two-thirds proportion - modest but adequate portions (one-third or less) of animal meats on the plate, and generous portions (two-thirds or more) of a variety of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.

But remember that size matters, too. The most healthful, low-calorie dishes won't protect your health and weight if you eat super-sized quantities.

How you cook foods affects their health properties. Carcinogens are produced when meats are cooked at high temperatures, whether fried, roasted, broiled, or grilled. But high-temperatures - roasting, broiling and grilling - brings out vegetables' natural sweetness and creates a rich, complex flavor. Cooking vegetables in large quantities of water, however, leaches out flavor, as well as nutrients.

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This hearty but low-fat vegetable soup is a great way to kick-off that New Year resolution to eat more healthfully.

Toasty Oatmeal Vegetable Soup

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Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic (to taste),finely minced
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 carrot, diagonally cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 6 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, toast raw oatmeal, stirring constantly, until oatmeal is lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. (Oatmeal burns easily, so watch carefully.) Immediately transfer oatmeal to a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In large pot, heat oil until hot. Add onion, reduce heat to medium and, stirring frequently, saute onion until soft and pale gold. Add garlic and continue sauteing a few minutes more. Do not allow onion or garlic to burn. Add vegetables and broth. Bring soup to a boil. reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes. Add oatmeal. Simmer 2 minutes more, or until oatmeal is tender. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
100 calories,
3 g. total fat,
Less than 1 g. saturated fat,
14 g. carbohydrate,
5 g. protein,
2 g. dietary fiber,
589 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Bread/Starch, 1 Lean-Meat


AICR