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Michele Marchetti: Seven Tips for Your January Detox

by on January 10, 2012 11:00 PM

With the exception of some Trader Joe's Candy Cane Sandwich Cookies and two pieces from a one-pound box of California See’s chocolate, the holiday sweets have finally left our house. They’ve been kicked off the cover of my food magazines, too, replaced by avocado smoothies and root vegetables salads.

It’s the season of diet fads, calorie counting, and food cleanses. My own winter eating plan isn’t so restrictive. I cut back on sugar, and in the words of food writer and activist Michael Pollan, eat more real food: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, etc.

That might mean making my own granola bars instead of buying them, or attempting the beet salad that will never look as good as the one on the cover of the magazine. As much as possible, I also try to eat food that’s grown, produced or sold by area businesses.

Here are some of my own tips for a locally inspired January Detox. My approach doesn’t demonize dining out or dessert. In fact, it even leaves room for the occasional slice of chocolate cake.

Make Your Own. Spring Creek Homesteading, an area nonprofit that supports “local self-sufficiency,” organizes do-it-yourself workshops on everything from making your own granola and pasta to cooking winter soups.

Hit the Indoor Farmer’s Market. The State College winter indoor market opens Friday, Jan. 13, at the Municipal Building on South Allen Street. Two other indoor market options: Old Gregg School in Spring Mills, Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Boalsburg Fire Hall on Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. Pick up some Gemelli Bakers bread or Alaskan sockeye salmon from local business Wild for Salmon.

Load up on Honey: When I want a sugar fix I hit the honey jar. Since we moved to central Pennsylvania, I’ve stopped buying honey at the grocery store. With 1,700 registered beekeepers in the state of Pennsylvania, it’s easy to find a local honey provider, whether you’re picking a jar up at the farmer’s market or Meyer Dairy. The bonus: According to Penn State’s own researchers, honey may provide more effective relief to a coughing kid than many over-the-counter cold medications.

Learn to Love the Root: A trip to California in the winter will make a central Pennsylvania local foodie mad with envy. We’re getting turnips and beets, while California eaters are feasting on oranges, dates and strawberries. Still, I’ve learned to embrace the gnarly vegetables that are dug out of the cold Pennsylvania ground every fall and winter. If you’re a year-long member of a Community Supported Agriculture program, an open mind is a must. I add raw shredded turnips to salad, bake with beets, and beat them into submission with two ingredients I’ll never give up: butter and sea salt.

Seek Comfort, Not Empty Calories: When dining out, stick with salads, soup and stews. My idea of healthy winter comfort food: Otto’s beer (there are antioxidants in that brew) paired with its hearty chili. Warning: The heat level varies, so if you don’t like spicy food, ask for a taste first.  

Meal Swap: I salute home cooks who manage to whip up dinner seven days a week. For most of us, though, that scenario isn’t realistic. An alternative: My friend Carolyne swaps meals with two neighborhood families. On her designated night she prepares a vegetarian meal, packs it in Pyrex dishes, and delivers it to her friends' doorsteps. “In return,” she says, “we enjoy two nights of delicious meals without the planning, cooking and clean up. It's been a great way to try new foods and to get creative in the kitchen.”

Eat Dessert: I lean toward the European, everything-in-moderation eating model, which leaves room for dessert.  The Chocolate Cake Reading Series at Ion, a cool gallery on 209 West Calder Way with local and regional art, has turned dessert into an event: a reading by a local writer paired with chocolate cake that’s typically provided by a local baker, such as Karla Altenburg-Caldwell of Karla's Café.

Indulging in that chocolate cake is easy to justify, since you’re feeding your mind and the local economy, too.

Michele Marchetti is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of Prior to moving to State College, she spent more than 10 years writing for national magazines. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report, Runner's World, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Yoga Life and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter at or contact her at [email protected]
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