Healthy Eating in the New Year

By Deb Kemps

Time to stray away from all the fad diets that only offer minimal results in the short term and can be harmful in the long term. Eating a mainly plant based whole foods diet is beneficial to everyone and can be very satisfying.  I spoke with Erika Nigh, a personal fitness trainer and  owner of Transformation Station, who has tried Atkins, low fat, low calorie, Weight Watchers, Paleo (Caveman), Ketogenic diet, raw Vegan, vegetarian, among others. Erika said while everyone’s body is different and has different needs, focusing on real whole foods (mainly vegetables and fruits) and removing processed foods has proven to provide the most overall health benefits. You cannot only lose weight from eating this way, but also lower blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and blood sugar.

Nigh shared this, “Try this for a couple of weeks; for breakfast, try a slice of Ezekial bread toasted with either cashew butter and banana, or smashed avocado and a tomato slice. For lunch, eat a big salad, preferably meatless but add any combination of avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, beans and vinaigrette dressing. For dinner, build your plate with 3/4 raw or steamed vegetables (these can be in a salad) and the remaining 1/4 with legumes (beans), a meat alternative or local-caught fish. Try to incorporate Meatless Monday as a family; there are so many more options available now than 10 years ago.”

Here’s Erika Nigh’s favorite quick dinner, Zoodle spaghetti with meatless meatballs.

1 bag of frozen meatless meatballs

2 large (or 4 smaller) zucchinis (spiralize) or already spiralized zucchini in the produce section from Publix

2 cloves garlic

1 med white onion

1 pkg organic spinach

1 pkg portabello mushrooms (sliced or 2-3 caps), preferably organic

1 pkg Follow your Heart vegan or regular grated parmesan

1 jar Newman’s Own Pasta Sauce

olive oil

optional: handful of fresh basil and crushed red pepper for topping


In a non-stick frying pan add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and coat pan.  Start cooking frozen meatballs on medium heat, flip and stir while preparing other ingredients until meatballs are browned on all sides.

In a 2-quart pot on medium heat, sauté with 1 tbsp. olive oil, two garlic cloves chopped or crushed, diced onion, diced mushrooms until cooked.  Then add spinach for about 5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted.  Add 1 jar of Newman’s Own Pasta Sauce and one can of tomato paste. Stir until combined. Reduce to low heat. 

Take the spiraled zucchini and, using little to no oil, sauté them in a separate non-stick frying pan for a few minutes to soften. Drain excess liquid and add to the veggie loaded sauce!

Top with a pinch of crushed red pepper, chopped fresh basil and Follow Your Heart vegan parm!