New Year's Meatless Monday: Traditional New Year's Dishes and Healthy Resolutions

Start the new year right by serving traditional foods believed to bring luck and make healthy resolutions.

Growing up, I spent New Year’s Day with familia in Florida. My grandfather insisted we eat black-eyed peas to bring good luck.


Cultures across the globe practice variations of this New Year's custom. Whether or not you believe in the superstition, share the tradition with friends and family and serve these vegetarian New Year’s foods at your Nuevo Año gathering:

Vegetarian Traditional New Year's Foods

  • Black eyed peas and collard greens: A tradition which originated in the U.S. South, black-eyed peas bring luck and collard greens, whose green leaves symbolize money, represent good fortune to come. These foods are also a smart choice for your health, as both beans and greens are high in protein.
  • 12 Grapes: Eat a grape at each of the 12 strokes of midnight or one each minute for the last 12 minutes of the year. This tradition started in Spain and is practiced across Latin America. Keep this habit up all year: grapes are a healthy snack.
  • Lentils: These small beans look like coins and are eaten on January 1st in many cultures to bring prosperity. In Brazil, lentil soup and lentils with rice are New Year's favorites.
  • Buñuelos: In Mexico these crispy cinnamon sugar cookies are a popular Nuevo Año treat. Be sure to enjoy all desserts in moderation.
  • Ponche: If you are serving spirits, this hot tequila-infused fruit punch is a Mexican favorite.


New Year's is not only a great occasion to celebrate with friends and family, it is a perfect time for personal reflection and setting goals for the upcoming year. Nothing is more important than your health. Set resolutions for 2014 to keep your body healthy.

I’m striving to stick to these healthy habits all year:

Natalie's 5 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Eat leafy greens: Leafy green plants like spinach, lettuce, and kale are calorie for calorie, probably the most concentrated source of nutrients you can eat. I plan to eat a salad or green smoothie each day to increase my energy levels. Not sure how to prepare your greens? I’ve got you covered. I share recipes for salads in Meatless Monday: Massaged Kale Salad Recipe and Breast Cancer Awareness Month Meatless Monday: Cancer-Fighting Salad Recipe and green smoothies in Nutrition: ¡Go Green for your Health!.
  2. Drink more water: Drinking agua helps your body function and keeps you from overeating throughout the day. To reach my goal of 8 glasses a day, I plan to flavor my H20 with citrus or make agua de fruta, as I recommend in Nutrition: 5 Easy Ways to Add More Water to Your Diet.
  3. Make smart dessert choices: I have a sweet tooth and like to finish each meal with dessert. This year I will choose healthier desserts like fruit salads, make smart substitutions like eating frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, and eat unhealthy treats in moderation, as I recommend in Meatless Monday: Latino Holiday Desserts.
  4. Be aware of what you eat: The easiest way to consume too many calories is not paying attention to what and how much you consume. I will stick to easy habits like eating slowly and never eating in front of the TV or while on the go.
  5. Exercise regularly: Keeping your body healthy requires both a balanced diet and regular physical activity. I incorporate activities I love into my routine, like biking to work and taking salsa lessons. Working out doesn’t have to feel like work! Click here for more of my fitness suggestions.

This New Year’s week celebrate the good times you have had in 2013. But with both feet pointed ahead, plan to make 2014 a great year. With delicious foods fabled to bring luck and healthy resolutions that are easy to stick with, you are off to a great start!

Happy New Year!

¿Need Meatless Monday inspiration? Click here to read more of my recipes.

The Wise Latina Club's Natalie Wagner FierroA teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

What are your resolutions to stay healthy in 2014?