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New Year Nutrition
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2015 is here! And if you are like me, you enjoy your family traditions surrounding this holiday.

New Year’s Day is an interesting holiday to observe. It is celebrated all over the world and in literally thousands of different ways, a majority of which involve food that represent specific things from the year past or for the year to come. Roughly one in three Americans set some sort of New Year’s resolution and some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are about losing weight and eating a healthier diet.

So… we celebrate the start of a new year with interesting food traditions and resolutions about food habits we want to change. That is very telling.

Here in the South, and in Georgia particularly, the traditional New Year’s meal usually includes black eyed peas and greens of some kind. Each represents the desires for the coming year.

Black eyed peas represent luck. I wonder why? Perhaps it has to do with how they are grown. They are a Southern warm weather crop. Most places in America call them cow peas and grow them as animal feed in a crop rotation. We must consider ourselves very lucky here in Georgia to be able to grow these delectable little peas and actually enjoy eating them.

Greens represent money. Okay, that one I get a little more. At least greens are, in fact, green like money. It can be different greens but, in this area, the green of choice is collards. By January 1, we have usually had a frost or two that turns the collards a little sweeter. And having a little more money for the coming year is a little sweeter as well. Or perhaps collards are our choice because that is what the grocery store has stocked.

Both the greens and the peas are cooked with pork of some sort – hog jowl being the popular one in this area and, if you are like me and waited until the last minute to purchase hog jowl, you know just how popular it really is (after searching two stores and finding only a few left at the third one, I felt very lucky indeed).

In any case, our New Year’s dinner table includes black eyed peas and greens. And whether you like them or not, you eat them. My aunt, in fact, is known for only eating greens on New Year’s Day. But hey, one day a year is still one day of a meal of “super” food.

“Super foods” are not cape wearing food crusaders. Instead, this is a hip way to describe foods deemed as extremely healthy and good for you. Collard greens are an excellent source for all the recommended B Vitamins. Black eyed peas are loaded with some of the hard-to-get vitamins such as magnesium and Vitamin K. Both are high in calcium and iron (which is known to perk up your mood, which might be very welcome in the middle of winter). Low in calories and high in antioxidants, these foods pack nutritional punch on multiple levels.

Our traditional New Year’s Day meal is tasty and chock full of the wisdom that comes from fresh cooking. No matter how much hog jowl you put in there, you are still eating greens and peas, both of which are “super” good for you.
What if, instead of making New Year’s resolutions for losing weight, the resolution is for eating at least one home-cooked meal a week. Perhaps explore other variations of greens and/or beans. Have you ever tried kale? Cabbage? Crowder peas? Zipper peas? If you are stuck on how to cook these, ask someone in your family who might know. Or explore a regional cookbook for some great new or classic ideas. Or check out the Food Network for their take on Southern cooking or international cuisine. In today’s modern age, we can find our food wisdom from multiple sources.
Wouldn’t it be grand to have a New Year’s Day meal every week? Consider how wealthy and lucky we would feel all year long!

Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.