Recipes to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions

Health journey with notable weight loss can include delicious food.

The new year is a time that many people make resolutions or goals to lose weight, drink less, stop smoking, exercise more, or the kitchen sink catchall: get healthy.

Perhaps in our minds, we are erasing the mistakes of the past with pledges to improve our future. In late 2018, I looked at my life. I wasn’t happy in my own body. If you can’t be happy in your own body, where can you be? The dread of change was met with real life living. I had to lose weight and a lot of it. I had to get healthier. It was overwhelming, but I had to start.

People are often daunted by losing a big number of pounds. To prevent being paralyzed, my initial goal was to be healthy and strong. I started with small positive changes: eating healthier, being accountable with my intake and portion control, and moving my body. The pounds slowly started coming off. Subsequently, I’ve lost 70 pounds and have kept it off for more than a year.

Committed to losing weight and keeping it off, but not wanting to give up delicious food, I started trimming fat and sugar. I also began cooking smaller portions to eliminate lingering temptation on my countertop or in my fridge, especially with desserts and baked goods.

I am a French-trained Southern chef. Deprivation doesn’t work for me. I insist that food taste good. I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to create recipes that prove that you can eat healthy food that tastes good. I am living proof.

If a middle-aged, post-menopausal, French-trained Southern chef can lose 70 pounds, you can, too. I feel better than I have felt in my entire adult life, and my bloodwork is better than it was decades ago.

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Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

How can the story of my health journey help you achieve your own health goals?

Do not quit before you start. Progress is progress, no matter how small. Everyone wants a quick answer, but it just doesn’t work that way in a sustainable manner. I grew to be unhealthy because of years of bad choices. Becoming healthier doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.

In addition, remember that to rely solely on willpower to make lasting change is absolutely not sustainable. You’ve got to find what really works for you. Little things add up. Consistency is as important as cutting carbs, calories and cocktails.

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A key piece of my health journey has been my tending to my whole body, not just my weight. Happiness is not found in a plate, pour or pill. Especially with the pandemic, I was exceptionally aware that without vigilance, I would eat and drink my fears and feelings. Exercise is key to me for clarity and peace of mind. My daily morning walks along the Chattahoochee are as beneficial for my mental health as my physical health. The weight loss has been a bonus. My suggestion is for you to find something that works for you. You don’t have to start training for a marathon. Build extra steps into your day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking your car in a spot farthest from the grocery store. Little things add up.

A major part of my personal growth is understanding that good health is not a place, state of being or destination. Good health is a state of action and it’s all interconnected. Hopefully, it’s an action that involves you cooking healthy recipes like my Creamy Broccoli Parmesan Soup, Herb-Crusted Fish Fillets, Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Grapes, and Small-Batch Lemon Pudding Cakes. To eat food that’s delicious and good for you is a goal worth striving for.

Virginia Willis is an Atlanta-based Food Network Kitchen chef, James Beard Award-winning food writer and cookbook author. Follow her at


These good and good-for-you recipes are full of flavor with vibrant herbs and bold spices. They are packed with energy-lifting vitamins and minerals — and happen to be low in fat and calories. Say no to diets that tell you what you can’t have and say yes to what you can!

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Creamy Broccoli Parmesan Soup

This creamy scratch soup is made with real, recognizable ingredients as opposed to all those unpronounceable chemicals that appear on a can of store-bought soup. I prefer to use ultra-filtration fat-free milk, such as Hood Simply Smart or Fairlife brands, that removes some of the water and is creamier than the more traditional version.

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Herb-Crusted Fish Fillets

I make a point to eat seafood at least once a week. As a member of the Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Chef’s Advisory Board for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it’s very important to me to purchase only sustainable seafood. The task is made easy with the Wild Alaskan Company, a monthly membership that delivers wild-caught, sustainable seafood to my door.

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Grapes

Grapes aren’t just for snacking! I make it a point to eat at least two servings of fruits or vegetables at every meal — breakfast, lunch and dinner. This recipe delivers both servings in a single dish. I have always also loved Brussels sprouts. Of course, you don’t like them if the only way you’ve ever had them was cooked to stinky mush. Give this recipe a try.

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Small-Batch Lemon Pudding Cakes

Pudding cakes are a magical combination of smooth creamy pudding and moist, tender cake. It’s a perfect recipe to adapt to small-batch baking. Small-batch dessert recipes are extra important in my kitchen. I don’t like going without dessert, but it is necessary to remove any extra temptation!

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