Let’s Talk Food: New Year’s Resolutions

In the new year of 2020, we all want to make resolutions for a better, healthier life. We should make achievable and realistic goals so we can accomplish them.

Eating healthy is reasonable and there are many programs that advocate this lifestyle, such as Ornish, Mayo Clinic, and Blue Zones that we could follow.


Dr. Ornish Diet Plan

The Ornish plan is low-fat, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and focused on plant-based ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Ornish’s approach to nutrition “is all about feeling good, experiencing a joy of living, not a fear of dying. When you eat this way, you will lose weight and gain health. What’s sustainable is pleasure and feeling good, so relish in this delicious and nutritious way of eating!”

“Ornish Lifestyle Medicine has been scientifically proven to reverse the progression or even reverse coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and high blood pressure as well as slow, stop or even reverse the progression of early stage prostate cancer in a series of randomized controlled trials published in peer-reviewed journals.”

Eating mostly plant-based proteins means egg whites, tofu, tempeh, beans, legumes, non-fat yogurt, and non-fat cheese.

Calories are not restricted unless you are trying to lose weight. Eating small frequent meals spread throughout the day will help you to avoid hunger and keep energy levels constant.

Sugar is not encouraged but you can use maple sugar, agave, honey, white or brown sugar to no more than 2 servings per day.

Alcohol is allowed in limited amounts, but not encouraged. If you do have a drink, it should be no more than 1.5 ounces liquor, 4 ounces wine or 12 ounces beer.

Regarding fat, no more than 10% of calories should come from fat. Eating no fats, oils, avocados, coconut and olives helps to achieve the goals of the Ornish Lifestyle diet.

Nuts are allowed in small amounts, but no more than 10% of calories and because most nuts contain a lot of fat, the amount is very limited, like 5 almonds, 3 pecan halves, 3 cashews, 6 peanuts, or 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds.

Use of sodium is in moderation and the foods prepared are encouraged to be flavored with spices, herbs and other natural flavor enhancers.

Green tea, up to 2 cups is allowed to improve cardiovascular health.

Son Dean and I are trained certified Ornish chefs and have been working on this lifestyle diet for the Hilo Medical Center for the past two years. One of our favorite recipes is this lasagna recipe.

Thankfully, we are given flexibility by the Ornish chef Dennis, and have tried to adapt most of the recipes to make them tasty.

Ornish Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

Serves 20

1-1/3 cups roasted garlic puree

4 pounds mushrooms, sliced to 1/4-inch thick slices

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Three 25.5 ounces bottles low-fat pasta sauce (less than 3 grams of fat per serving)

For spinach-tofu filling:

4 pounds frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed by hand to remove excess water

3 pounds (three 14 ounce packages) firm tofu, well drained, pressed, removing as much water as possible

2/3 cup nutritional yeast

3 ounces fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, 1 cup packed

1 ounce fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped, 1/2 cup packed

2-1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Three 10-ounce boxes brown rice or whole wheat lasagna noodles

1 quart tomatoes, halved, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 quart flat leaf parsley(optional) coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water, two-thirds full, to a low simmer. Cover and hold until the fillings are ready. It’s important for the texture of the baked lasagna not to cook the pasta until the fillings are fully prepared.

To prepare mushrooms, saute them in a dry pan with salt until all their liquid has been released and reduced out. Divide mushrooms into two equal portions, and set aside.

In a blender, process the pasta sauce with 1-1/2 cups water to thin and smooth out its consistency, and set aside.

While the mushrooms are cooking, prepare spinach-tofu filling. Crumble tofu and combine in a large bowl with athe garlic puree, spinach, nutritional yeast, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne. Add the mushrooms to the spinach-tofu mixture, mix well. Divide the spinach-tofu filling into 4 equal portions.

Add the lasagna noodles to the simmering pot of water, Boil as instructions on box. Drain pasta, cover with cold water to stop cooking, then drain again. Lay the noodles on each layer to keep them from sticking together.

Cover the bottom of two 9-inch by 13-inch pans with 3/4 cup each thinned marinara sauce. Lay the noodles per layer over sauce, side by side across the width of the pan. Next, spread evenly 1/4 of the spinach-tofu-mushroom on top of the pasta layers. Repeat process three times. Spready remaining 2-1/2 cups sauce on top of the lasagna.

Bake the lasagna, covered with foil tented so that the foil doesn’t come in contact with the pasta sauce, for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and finish baking to an internal temperature of 160-170 degrees F, 15 to 20 minutes. After baking, allow the lasagna to rest for 10 minutes before using a serrated knife into 24 (3-inch by 3-inch) servings. There will be remaining marinara sauce. Garnish each portion with 1 tablespoon sauce, if desired.

Each portion is 260 calories with 5 grams of fat, 44 grams of total carbohydrate, 9 grams of dietary fiber, and 18 grams of protein.

Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet is a long-term weight management program designed to help you reshape your lifestyle by adopting healthy new habits and breaking unhealthy old ones. “The goal is to make simple, pleasurable changes that will result in a healthy weight that you can maintain for the rest of your life.”

Blue Zones Diet Plan

In the Blue Zones program, 95% should be plant-based. In addition, you should stop eating when you are 80% full. You should eat half a cup of beans daily as part of your plant-based diet.

Eat your largest meal at breakfast and your smallest at dinner. Snack on a handful of nuts daily.

Cook the majority of your meals at home, unless you have a certified Blue Zones restaurant with a dish that is Blue Zones approved.

Which one of these plans can you live with for the rest of your life? Which diet plan is workable for you? Eating healthy has been proven to make a difference for the rest of your lives.


May you all have a happy and healthy 2020!

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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