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Health Counselor Ali Shapiro Shares Tips for a Healthy New Year

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Ali Shapiro

As 2009 races towards its finish line, we are anxiously awaiting what the New Year brings. In lieu of most surprises, we often find a lengthy list of resolutions that have been waiting patiently to spring from the page into action. It’s safe to say that “be more healthy” and home repairs are shared on several lists. Luckily, the solution for both tasks begins by ridding your pantry and refrigerator of the old and stocking up on healthy staples. Consider it a kitchen renovation for your mind, body, soul and home.

Local health coach and counselor, Ali Shapiro, is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Beyond being featured in the Wall Street Journal, Daily Candy, Philadelphia Women’s Journal  and sharing her expert advice as a regular health contributor to the NBC 10! Show, Shapiro offers her words of wisdom via interactive, informative programs and teleclasess. One of the topics covered in her upcoming 10-week program, Stop Obsessing, Start Possessing: Making Food Your Ally, is focused on stocking up on must-have grocery staples. Shapiro notes that, "having basic food staples is like transforming your kitchen into your favorite take-out place, only better. It's faster and easier on your wallet and waistline. Plus, it provides extra nourishment that only home cooking can."

On the top of Shapiro’s list of staples is the favorite grain, brown rice. Fill your pantry with boxes of this grain in the raw, or pick up a container of the ready-made rice from your local grocery store. Shapiro adds that this versatile ingredient can be served simply as a side dish or made into a meal by adding salsa and another one of her staples, canned beans. Also, this savory grain can be transformed into a satisfyingly sweet breakfast cereal when adding coconut milk, dried fruits and nuts. Beyond the brown, Shapiro also encourages her clients to stock up on quinoa. For those of you not familiar with the product, quinoa is a grain that is chock full of protein and easy to digest.

Although Shapiro advises that fresh is best when it comes to vegetables, she likes to fill her freezer with frozen veggies that can be ready to eat in a flash on her busiest days. Frozen spinach tops her list, as it can be cooked alone or added to dishes like morning omelets made with another recommended staples, eggs. Shapiro strongly advises that when purchasing frozen vegetables, make sure to check out the country of origin listed on the package to see if the location lives up to its organic label. She prefers to spend a few more cents to ensure that her frozen spinach was grown in California, as opposed to a country known for poor air quality and, in turn, unhealthy soil.

Ali M. ShapiroTo spice up your go-to meals, Shapiro suggests keeping bags of nuts on hand to spruce up a salad or breakfast cereal. If you’re having trouble choosing from the array of options in the aisle, then grab a bag of almonds and walnuts, which are both easy to digest. A few other flavorful staples that Shapiro encourages one to add to the mix, are coconut milk, vegetable bouillon cubes, and long-lasting fridge essentials, onion and garlic. Keep a variety of dried herbs and spices in your pantry to add a creative touch to each dish, or buy a premixed bottle, such as Shapiro’s favorite, Herbamare, an organic herb seasoning salt.

To indulge your sweet tooth during these chilly months make sure to keep some instant hot chocolate in your kitchen at all times. Shapiro always chooses a chocolate mix made of 70% Cacao to blend with warm almond milk. If you’re looking for another way to quench your thirst this winter, brew a flavorful herbal tea and add some seltzer water for a bubbly sip. Consider cutting your alcohol intake in half by adding seltzer water to a little wine for a merry spritzer. And if you need a recipe for a festive drink, treat your guests to a fruity blend of seltzer water, juice (not from concentrate) with a lemon or lime lingering on the side of the glass.

Before you race out to your grocery store to stock up on Shapiro’s suggested staples, she recommends that you clean out your fridge and pantry to make room for your new additions. Take a closer look at the labels on your cereals, canned goods and marinades that might not be the best option for your waistline. Instead of trashing these unopened items, why not call up a few friends and agree on a weekend to gather and donate the packaged food to local food banks that have been struggling for food this year.

Above all, Shapiro urges you to take this nutritious process one step at a time. Imagine if you incorporated a new grocery staple or health conscious change each week. By the end of the year you will surely have experienced a healthy transformation.

As you buzz around during the busy holiday season, consider rewarding yourself and your home with the gift of a kitchen renovation from the inside out. And maybe this year you’ll be able to cross off a New Year’s resolution or two before the ball even drops.

For more information about Ali Shapiro, visit her website, blog and twitter page.