CookingLight diet CookingLight diet

Hit reset and kick-start your healthiest New Year yet with this clean meal plan featuring whole grains, tons of produce, and no added sugar.

Jamie Vespa, MS, RD
March 12, 2018

The hustle of the holidays is behind you, and the New Year thrills with the promise of a fresh start. Whether you overindulged during the holidays or not, you may be entering the New Year with the goal to lose weight, exercise more, or simply restore healthy habits that fell by the wayside amid the holiday feasts and cookie exchanges.

New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here with the Cooking Light Diet.

Rather than getting bogged down in a lofty list of health resolutions, an overly restricted diet, a nutrient-deplete cleanse, or an exercise regimen you can't commit to, reconnect with the basics. Try consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; less added sugar, meat, and refined grains; minimal alcohol; and plenty of water. Our detox lays the groundwork in an easy-to-follow meal plan that delivers on both taste and nutrition. Each day supplies 51/2 cups of fruits and vegetables (experts recommend 4 to 5 cups per day for adults) and 100% of your daily fiber needs (a well-known natural slimming aid) to help you feel full for under 1,500 calories, an amount that most people will lose weight on. You'll also notice a heavy emphasis on plant-based meals, which research shows are correlated with improved diet quality compared to traditional, calorie-restricted diet approaches. Other studies also suggest that a more plant-based diet can help thwart weight gain.

Think of this detox as your reset as you enter the New Year—a way to tune up your diet by building a foundation you can sustain. Ready to get started?

Plan Ahead

We kept our menus simple to cut down on food waste and keep your costs to a minimum. Here's what you need to get cooking—all for less than $70. Download our 3-Day Detox Shopping List.

Make Ahead: Parslied Brown Rice Pilaf

Fresh parsley is pleasantly verdant and pairs wonderfully with zippy lemon zest and nutty brown rice. We opt for brown rice because, compared to white, it is higher in fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron and magnesium. Plus, new research shows that eating whole grains like brown rice daily reduces colorectal cancer risk, and the more you eat, the lower your risk. Leftovers will keep for three to five days.

Greg DuPree

Make Ahead: Green Goddess Avocado Sauce

Avocados are nutrition heavy-hitters, boasting nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. The fruit is also rich in fiber, heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and plant sterols, which can help lower cholesterol. When blended into a bright, herbaceous sauce, they breathe life into humble rice dishes and make salads sing. Enjoy as either a dressing or dip.

Greg DuPree

 

Day 1 Menu

Breakfast: Citrus Sunrise Smoothie

This recipe calls for frozen fruit, letting you reap the nutritional benefits of out-of-season fruit like mango. Just one serving of this smoothie offers 100% of your daily goal for vitamin C and over 25% of your daily calcium needs in a low-calorie package.

Greg DuPree

A.M. Snack

2 hard-boiled large eggs

Lunch: Lemon Chicken Citrus Bowls

Because there's no center stage in a bowl, a smaller portion of meat travels far, putting more emphasis on the vegetables, whole grains, and fruit.

Greg DuPree

P.M. Snack

1 medium apple and 1 Tbsp. peanut butter mixed with 2 Tbsp. plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt

Dinner: Chickpea and Kale Curry

This meatless main offers plenty of protein thanks to quinoa and chickpeas, and it boasts 40% of your daily fiber goal. Bonus: This recipe is a twofer; it makes enough for dinner tonight and a second full serving to freeze for another day.

Greg DuPree

TOTAL CALORIES: 1,499
TOTAL FIBER: 26g

 

Day 2 Menu

Breakfast: Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with 6-Minute Egg

New research shows that eating eggs with raw vegetables like tomatoes increases your absorption of carotenoids—antioxidants that may ward off heart disease.

Greg DuPree

A.M. Snack

1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup thawed frozen mango, and 1 Tbsp. walnuts

Lunch: Chickpea Spinach Salad

This 10-minute salad is a nutritional powerhouse, brimming with antioxidants from the oranges, heart-healthy fats from the walnuts and avocado, and folate and vitamin A from the spinach. We skip the croutons and add toasted walnuts for a healthier crunch.

Greg DuPree

P.M. Snack

1/2 cup baby carrots, 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, and 2 Tbsp. Green Goddess Avocado Sauce

Dinner: Slow Cooker Creamy Lentil Soup

Chickpeas are the secret ingredient to supreme creaminess. They become silky smooth when blended and sneak in an extra 3g of fiber per serving. Bonus: Leftovers freeze beautifully.

Greg DuPree

TOTAL CALORIES: 1,464
TOTAL FIBER: 43g

 

Day 3 Menu

Breakfast: Southwestern Sweet Potato and Egg Hash

Hashes are a great way to incorporate vegetables into the first meal of the day. Give the potatoes a head start by microwaving them until just shy of tender, and then finish them off in the skillet for that coveted crispy texture. Use the leftover black beans to boost protein and fiber in salads, soups, or grain bowls.

Greg DuPree

A.M. Snack

1/2 cup navel or blood orange wedges with 10 walnut halves

Lunch: Slow Cooker Creamy Lentil Soup

Greg DuPree

P.M. Snack

1/2 cup baby carrots, 1/2 cup bell pepper slices, and 2 Tbsp. Green Goddess Avocado Sauce

Dinner: Pan-Seared Shrimp with Walnut and Herb Gremolata

Fresh herbs and lemon make a bright, tasty topper for succulent shrimp. Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of protein for fewer calories than most meats. Paired with spinach and rice pilaf, this weeknight-friendly main comes together in just 15 minutes.

Greg DuPree

TOTAL CALORIES: 1,425
TOTAL FIBER: 37g