The beginning of a new year is a traffic jam of good intentions, isn’t it? We are bumper to bumper gonna lose weight, join the gym, stop procrastinating, find a better job, and call my mother more. And then… traffic thins out. Where do all those Victory-Is-Mine-Volvos and Just-Do-it-Jeeps go?

My guess is we grip that steering wheel just a little too hard. We refuse to consider an alternate route if the road dead-ends. Ungratefully forget to admire the passing landscape, drift off into boredom and burn out the radiator before we hit the state line. We simply set our course and believe that anything less than what we’ve agreed to (It’s interesting that this agreement is solely with ourselves, yet devoid of any opportunity for negotiation.) is FAILURE.

A prime example of a good new year’s intention destined to go wrong is the pledge to clean up our diets—to eat healthier, perhaps less, and lose weight, divert disease or both. It’s all well and good until we sit down to that first plate of steamed kale, wearing only a thin sheath of lemon juice, and a plain brown rice cake for bling. Mmmmm. I can see the car attempting an illegal U-turn, and we haven’t had the first bite.

We are stuck in the “either-or lane.” Either the food tastes great and is not permitted or it’s so healthy it’s inedible. But nothing could be further from the truth—if you have the right recipe, seek out fresh, quality ingredients and know a little about nutrition. And I’ll prove it to you.

Salad. No, turn the car back around, and give me a minute.

salad dressing ingredients

Using top-quality, safe ingredients will ensure both flavor and benefit.

Salad is the ultimate good-intention food—it’s easy to prepare, flexible to suit a variety of tastes and whatever’s in your frig, satisfying with fewer calories and can be very, very yummy. So here’s a recipe to get your engine started, my favorite-for-years Lemon Vinaigrette with flax seed and hemp seed oils and my top picks for creating a winning salad combo.

It should be noted that all ingredients in this post are assumed to be organic. When you are really cleaning up your diet, the most important ingredient of all is clean food.

[amd-yrecipe-recipe:10]

My Favorite Salad Combos

Winter is not the greatest time of the year for salad, but we not going to let that put the brakes on our good intentions. If you think about salad in terms of categories of food, you can see that the possibilities—almost any time of year—are endless:

salad with poached salmon

This week I enjoyed spinach, parsley, apple, avocado, carrots and poached salmon in my detox salad.

Greens

Greens are the most important ingredients in a good salad, to my way of thinking. Loaded with folic acid, calcium and a host of good-for-you antioxidants, top-quality, organic greens lay the foundation for a good salad and your clean-eating plan. Avoid iceberg and limit romaine and butter crunch (far fewer nutrients), but pile on any of the following: kale, chard, cabbage, arugula, radicchio, endive, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip leaves, beet greens, parsley—incredibly cleansing–spinach and leaf lettuce. For those sturdier greens, give them a good chop, and you’ll enjoy them more. Chewing on a big leaf of kale is really no fun.

In-season vegetables and fruits

For fall and winter, you may find (though maybe not locally) turnips and beets, red onions (a wonderful addition for fighting colds and other maladies) mushrooms, carrots, apples, oranges, grapefruits, pears, avocados (excellent for cardiovascular health and loaded with vitamin E), broccoli and cauliflower (kings of the crucifers). Well the list goes on, depending on the time of year and what is available in your neck of the woods, but you get the idea.

Protein

For vegans protein can mean soy, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. The best grain is really not a grain at all—it’s Quinoa—a superfood grass that the Aztecs worshipped. Get religion.

For meat-eaters like my husband, it’s humanely raised, organic lean beef, chicken, bison, or lamb.

For people sort of in the middle, like me, the choices include the vegan options above, plus poached wild salmon, baked wild cod and hard-boiled organic eggs from free-range chickens.

Note that how you prepare meat and fish does matter when you are really going for detox. There is a lot of negative information (and substantial proof) against grilling—especially charring–your food and high-fat frying it (regardless of the oil you use) on the stovetop. Poaching salmon is far easier than you would believe, and it tastes wonderful. See below for the how-to.

When I’m detoxing, I simply avoid some of the other salad goodies like cheese and dried sweetened cranberries, even though very healthy safe choices do exist. It doesn’t mean I will never eat cheese or sugary cranberries again (Ease up that grip on the steering wheel.), but taking a few weeks off from foods that make my body work really hard is a nice breather. And, keep in mind that the road ahead, paved with good intentions, does have roadside diners along the route. If you get off to splurge, there’s always an on-ramp to resume your trip to better health.

Hungry for more? FEAST Magazine ran a great detox salad recipe in their January issue. It’s a planned destination on my road trip to better heath.

To Poach Salmon

Remove your fillets from their wrapping, rinse and place in a sauce pan large enough to hold them. Cover with water and add a few lemon slices. Season with salt–a heaping teaspoon or two. Bring to a boil over high heat; then, immediately remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes–it’s kind of like cooking an egg. The key points to remember are plenty of water and not to overcook. At the end of 10 minutes, remove from the water and refrigerate until ready to serve. The skin will peel off nicely, no worries. You can add salt and pepper to taste. Freshly ground black pepper is especially nice.

Concerned about being green and still eating seafood? Check out Sea Watch, one of the most reliable resources for making green decisions about eating fish.