Meijer Healthy Living: Kicking off a healthy New Year


Most cultures around the world celebrate the New Year by enjoying foods that are thought to bring health, wealth or long life.  

Surprisingly, many of these food traditions are healthy options also. 

Check out these New Year's food traditions from around the world.

Fish, with shiny scales resemble silver or money.  And since fish swim in schools, they symbolize abundance. Fish are typically low-calorie and eating fish can help promote a healthy body weight.  Fish are also an excellent source of lean protein, essential minerals, and healthy fats. 

Soba noodles, long noodles: Noodles symbolize long life.  But, according to Japanese custom, don't break the noodle in your mouth since it is considered bad luck.  Whole grain noodles are a good source of fiber and energy producing healthy carbohydrates.

Eating greens, the color of money, may bring money and prosperity for the New Year.  Greens are very low calorie and are packed with nutrients such as energy boosting B-vitamins, iron for healthy blood, and antioxidants that help to defend against agents that cause aging and chronic disease.

In many cultures fruit symbolizes health, wealth and vitality. 

Display a good luck fruit basket on your kitchen table with these healthy treats: 

Pomegranate:  In Greece and Turkey - Symbolizes good health (red color for the heart) and abundance because of its many seeds (the Greeks smash a pomegranate at their front door on New Year's  - the more seeds, the more luck!)

Grapes:  Symbolic for good luck.  Many Spanish and Latin cultures eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each stroke of the clock representing each month of the year.  If a grape is sweet, then it will be a good month; if it is sour—not so good. 

Citrus is enjoyed during Chinese New Year; Tangerines represent good luck, and oranges represent wealth. 

Apples are associated with peace, good health and harmony.  The apple also resembles the shape of the heart and with its soluble fibers and phytochemicals, eating apples helps to promote heart health including healthy blood pressure.

Beans – they're good for your heart and might be good for your wallet too.  Since some beans resemble coins, beans symbolize prosperity in many cultures. But the type of legume traditionally consumed for the New Year depends on where you live.  Southern favorites often include black-eyed peas in the form of Hoppin' John (black-eyed peas with rice, chopped onion and sliced bacon) or Texas Caviar, a salsa style dish made with black-eyed peas, tomatoes green peppers, cilantro and jalapenos.   Beans are an inexpensive source of protein, vitamins and fiber which supports gut health. 

What to Not Eat? 

Some Asian cultures believe that both Lobster and Crab are bad luck, since these shellfish walk backwards – symbolizing your luck or life going backwards.   Others believe that eating chicken or other fowl may cause your good luck and prosperity to fly away.

Salmon with Soba Noodles and Greens

Serves 4

2 Tbsp. Meijer vegetable oil

3/4 to 1 lbs. skinless salmon

2 tsp. minced garlic

3 Tbsp. McCormick sesame seeds

6 cups (about 5 ounces) Earthbound Farm® Organic flat leaf spinach or baby kale

1/2 cup Meijer black beans, rinsed and drained

2 Tbsp. Meijer soy sauce

1 tsp. sugar

1?2 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)

1 tsp. minced ginger (or 1/4 tsp. McCormick ground ginger)

8 ounces buckwheat (soba) noodles or whole grain spaghetti

1/4 cup diced green onion


1.       Cook noodles according to package directions, reserve and set aside about 1/3 cup pasta water and then drain noodles, keep warm.

2.       Meanwhile, add vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Lightly season salmon with salt and pepper, and cook in skillet (turning once) until browned on both sides; about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove salmon from pan and cut in bite-size pieces.

3.       Reduce skillet heat to medium-low and add garlic and sesame seeds, cook stirring constantly to brown (about 1 minute).  Add spinach (or kale) and cook 1-2 minutes.  Add soy sauce, ginger, sugar, beans, sesame oil, and 2 Tbsp. water and cook until the spinach is just wilted, about 3 minutes.

4.       Add salmon and noodles to pan with spinach (kale) mixture.  Gently mix to combine well and continue heating 2-3 minutes, to warm through.  If mixture appears dry, add some or all of reserved pasta cooking water to skillet.  Garnish with sliced green onion if desired.