The fail-proof way to transform your health in 2011 by making small (and easy) changes

Wouldn't it be great to make 2011 your healthiest year ever? Well, with these quick healthy meals, it‘s much easier than you think.

For breakfast, eggs give you a lot of bang for your buck. They‘re filled with protein and lots of essential nutrients, like sulfur. Just be sure to cook them with the yolk intact. This preserves all the nutrients of the egg. Plus, when you heat the egg yolk and then expose it to air, the cholesterol turns toxic. But when the yolk stays intact, you don‘t have this problem.

Another quick healthy meal for breakfast is a nice hot bowl of oatmeal. Make the oatmeal the night before in a crockpot or let the oats simmer on the stove-top while you‘re getting a shower. Just add two cups of water to one cup of steel-cut oats. These oats are far superior, nutritionally speaking, to quick oats, or even rolled oats. If you need a little sweetness, try adding a teaspoon of raw honey and vanilla. Sometimes, I‘ll add a ripe banana or sprinkle it with blueberries.

And I know...sometimes, you just wake up craving pancakes. And that‘s okay! Just make them with whole wheat flour. Not only are they healthier, whole wheat pancakes taste better than sticky white pancakes...and they‘re much more filling. You‘ll find the whole wheat pancake mix in the baking section in many grocery stores nowadays. If one store doesn't carry it, try another and stock up.

To make the pancakes even heartier, stir in a scoop of wheat germ, plain yogurt, or protein powder to the batter. The kids or grand kids won‘t even taste the difference!

And what‘s a pancake without syrup, right? Well, syrup is fine on occasion. Just leave Mrs. Butterworth on the shelf and choose real maple syrup instead. And just use a touch. You can also top your hot cakes with fruit juice, raw honey, or real butter. Apple butter is good too. Just skip the margarine. Don‘t buy anything in a tub, unless it‘s whipped real butter. It‘s lighter than stick butter...but still make with good old-fashioned sweet cream. The key here is to read all labels carefully!

Make lunch a snap with lots of protein

Finding a quick healthy meal for lunch is probably the easiest. That‘s because, if you ask me, there‘s nothing tastier than a turkey sandwich piled high with lettuce, tomato, and onion. Just make sure you use 100 percent whole wheat bread (again, check the label).

Also, you‘ll want to choose lunchmeat that‘s free from nitrates. Nitrates are preservatives added to lunchmeats and hot dogs to extend their shelf life. But many mainstream grocery stores now carry nitrate-free lunchmeat that you can have sliced behind the deli counter. The biggest problem is that it‘s expensive. Plus, it goes bad faster because it doesn't contain preservatives. So, only buy what you can use in one week.

Also, Hormel carries a line of pre-packaged nitrate-free lunchmeat. You can stock up on this when it goes on sale and throw it in the freezer. Just take it out and thaw it when you‘re ready to use it.

Plan ahead for healthy dinners

It can be tricky planning a quick healthy meal for dinner day after day, week after week. But here‘s what I've learned from experience: Variety is the key.

So go to your local public library and check out some interesting cookbooks. Try a few Indian, Moroccan, or Asian-inspired cookbooks. Take them home and make copies of your favorite recipes. Write them on recipe cards and keep the ingredients on hand so you can have a few quick healthy meal options in the evening.

I've also found that I can throw just about anything in a wok (chicken, steak, peppers, or broccoli), add a little ground ginger, and it will taste amazing. A good rice cooker or steamer is also essential. Just be sure to use short-grain brown rice.

Pastas are fine for dinner too. Just make sure you choose pastas made from 100 percent whole wheat, brown rice, or artichoke flour. You‘ll also want to add a hefty serving of protein with any pasta dish. This will help to lower your meal‘s glycemic index.

And the best news is, you can...

Go ahead, have a few snacks...

You are really going to enjoy your snacks in 2011...and popcorn is an excellent choice! Buy the kernels and pop them yourself on the stove. Sprinkle your popped corn with cayenne pepper, dill powder, or garlic powder. You can also use a little butter or olive oil to make the spices stick to the popped corn.

But whatever you do...

Avoid the temptation to buy the microwave popcorn. The "butter" flavoring is far from real butter. Plus, a chemical called PFOA (also known as C8) lines many popcorn bags. It‘s used to keep the popcorn from sticking to the bag. (As a side note, PFOA is also used to make Teflon. So avoid these types of non-stick pans. Instead, always cook with stainless steel.)

Why is PFOA so bad? Well, in 2005, an advisory panel to the EPA found that PFOA is a "likely carcinogen" that causes cancer in rats and mice. They stopped short of calling it a hazard to humans. But I‘d avoid it all together and pop your corn the old-fashioned way.

Other snacks you can feel good about include:

  • Fruits & veggies
  • Cheese & whole wheat crackers
  • Cinnamon toast with raw honey and whole-grain bread
  • Organic fruit juice popsicles
  • Nuts
  • Granola with almond or oat milk
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter (natural, of course)

This is the way the human race was designed to eat...lots of fruits and veggies...meat and fish...very little sugar...and no refined flour or processed foods. It may take a little time, but I think you‘ll find your groove within a few weeks. Before long, you‘ll notice your palate start to change. A little bit of sugar will suddenly seem "too sweet." But if you have a "junk" day once in a while, don‘t sweat it. Just start over the next day.

Here‘s to making 2011 your healthiest year ever with these quick healthy meals!