So New Year’s Eve’s promises of increased health and self-improvement are being replaced slowly and one by one by (tiny little) pints of Ben and Jerry’s. Unfortunately, the honeymoon excitement of New Year’s is settling into the marriage of bleak mid-January, with its occasional and natural dips and turns from the straight and narrow.

It seems that New Year’s diet trends always range from radically extreme to small lifestyle adjustments.

January is a great time to consider a wide range of health and body-conscious programs and diets. But what’s the good of a diet or a resolution if you can’t stick to it?

Many are turning away from rigid and sometimes ridiculous diets and diet-restrictions. We don’t want a diet that makes us feel bad. That makes sense, right? Many, instead of trying (and probably failing) restrictive diet regimens are making lifestyle changes that benefit not only physical and mental well-being, but communities.

Everyone wants to make practical, helpful changes and choices that benefit not only ourselves, but our environment. That’s how Ben and Jerry’s went from a small-ish business to an empire with popular offerings that don’t just taste great—they are trying to save the Rainforests. They don’t even use hormones in their milk or cream....

There’s a growing local trend of the hip and well-educated consumer interested not only in small businesses, but in locally-sourced, high quality, sustainable, and healthful foods and products. Current trends ranging from vegan-friendly restaurant fare to locally grown, grass-fed beef are becoming more and more easily available and in higher demand every day. In and around Lexington, farmers, business people, stores, and markets are gearing up for this year’s trends, offering products to local consumers with a holistic and sustainable focus.

New Year’s resolutions have never been so practical, beneficial, and convenient. Check out some of this year’s trends and offerings helping to cultivate a healthy new year’s attitude that we can hope to be able to sustain until next year and the next.

This is what’s fresh in 2005, along with predictions for trends for 2005.

Start Simple: Drink More (local) Water
Everyone’s seen the commercials and news specials telling consumers to drink more water in 2005, and telling them to buy brand X water whether it’s because it’s flavored, sparkling, or locally-sourced.

Bottled water has become one of the fastest-growing trends of the past few years, moving from a mostly elite luxury of treadmill runners and stationary bicyclists to being almost a necessity to many people. You can’t go very far without seeing someone with their pet bottle of water in hand or at least a bright-blue and glowing bottled-water machine asking for a one-dollar bill.

There are hundreds of different brands of water to choose from, but a growing local trend is the support of local springs for water-consumption needs. And it’s a reality: everyone needs water for survival. It’s also a reality that everyone wants good-tasting, fresh water at a good price.

Lexington is surrounded by limestone deposits and deep springs purely because of its geographical location: caves and sinkholes mean springs and undisturbed water sources. About thirty minutes away from Lexington in Wilmore, Kentucky, Highbridge Spring Water Company has been bottling and selling water for years to Lexington and all of central Kentucky. It also sells in other states. Highbridge Spring is a family owned and operated business known for the crisp water drawn from nearby limestone deposits.

Another well-known spring in the area, Climax Spring in Orlando, Kentucky has a less-known extra feature. They sell their water (coming from a very deep and clear spring in eastern Kentucky) locally in bottles, but they also have more to offer. At the base of the breath-taking waterfall above the spring (on the picture on bottles of Climax Spring water) there is a place you can pull your car over where you can pull a chain to fill your 5-gallon water bottles with spring water fresh from the depths of the spring treated with no chemicals, radiation, or processes and for absolutely free.

This is the freshest water you can get, full of minerals and a refreshing taste.

Doyle Water is another locally based company offering delivery and service.

Stay Simple—Eat More Seasonally/Support Local Farmers
A very practical and far-reaching New Year’s resolution this year could be to “buy more locally.” This is easy enough in this area. Lexington is surrounded by farms and has a very strong local Farmer’s Market scene. But it may seem to be easier said than done.

Sometimes buying locally is more expensive and local produce may be harder to find. The effort is a huge step, however, towards a stronger community and a closer relationship with our ingredients and diets. Imagine for a second all of the benefits to a healthy, locally-sourced diet:

Produce grown locally is much fresher, providing bodies with more vitamins and minerals and tongues and taste buds with more intense flavors and crisper textures. Make your resolution to be happier since meals would be more satisfying and tasty. Or make your new year’s goal to be more environmentally conscious because locally grown produce takes much less material and physical energy to get to you. It goes directly from the soil to a cardboard box to your fruit or vegetable basket sometimes in a matter of hours from the Lexington Farmer’s Market or other local produce markets. Our bodies benefit from seasonal produce because it ensures that we get a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the year due to the differing seasonal availability of locally grown produce.

Choosing local produce from Farmer’s Markets or local grocery stores becomes a fun addition to mundane grocery shopping and meal cooking.

It forces you to get out of routine patterns of diets and meal plans and work with what you have. It brings the focus to the ingredients. The goal becomes finding the freshest, most exciting produce the seasons and the farmers have to offer. The thrill of shopping locally is often in the hunt.

Change Flavors
Gourmet salt? It may sound crazy, but everyone from cutting-edge chefs to nutritionalists to home cooks are praising a wide variety of aromatic and exotic salts for both their health benefits and their taste. There are hundreds of varieties of salts available from all over the world. Recently Celtic sea salt has made a name for itself in new diet trends such as the Maker’s Diet and in the book Nourishing Traditions. For those who are looking for an all-natural and traditional diet to follow in the new year, these diet trends offer a healthy alternative to many unrealistic diet regimens.

These diets praise Celtic sea salt because unlike normal table salt which has been highly processed with heat and chemicals, Celtic Sea Salt is sun-dried, providing many more of the essential minerals contained in salt in its unrefined form such as organic iodine and magnesium and making it much easier for the body to process.

Many professional chefs use this salt as well as such varieties as gray salt, Hawaiian salt, coarse Kosher salt (perfect for everyday), and too many other smoked and flavored salts to name.

These chefs use the salts for their taste and texture and because it takes much less to season their dishes.

Also the wide variety of different kinds of salts enhance different meals or dishes depending on the flavor and mood of the meal. With their different textures, subtleties, and aromas these varieties of salt provide a healthful, environmentally-friendly ingredient for savvy consumers.

You can also try homemade, locally-produced herb mixes like those available from Herb’n Renewal at Farmers’ Market as a healthy, flavorful option.

Eat Healthier Animals
Many conscientious consumers are becoming very aware of the questionable quality and safety of the meat that is on the market. Every scare from salmonella to Mad Cow Disease to the mere possibility that the cows that we eat might be eating other cows has led meat-eaters to be more scrupulous in their meat purchasing.

New businesses at the local, national and even international levels are beginning to offer well fed and cared for beef, chicken, pork, and seafood to discriminating customers. A variety from shrimp to bison is being offered at a local level at grocery stores and directly from the source.

The Good Foods Market, a local community-owned cooperative has a wide and evolving variety of local meats. Happy Hollow Pig Farms offers pork chops and bacon to local consumers. At Bluegrass Grass-Fed Beef Farms in Paris, Kentucky many different cuts of beef are available. Everything from tilapia and shrimp from changing local sources are found at the Kentucky Bison Co. out of Goshen, Kentucky, which offers bison burgers in the deli and frozen department at Good Foods Market (and also used in their hot bar at the Café). Many of these companies also offer these products directly to customers.

Wild Oats in Lexington Green also has a wide array of healthy options.

You can also try a local butcher like Critchfield in Zandale, and always ask about the source of meat and produce when you visit the mainstream grocery chains like Kroger and Meijer’s.

Eat No Animals
Another growing trend in many communities is vegetarian/ veganism. The more familiar vegetarianism is a simple turn away from eating the once living flesh of animal. Hold the pork chops please! For the truly dedicated animal rights activist, to whom the use of any product made from or by an animal is akin to eating your cat, veganism is the next logical step. Vegans studiously eliminate all forms of human/ animal tyranny from their diets. This includes avoiding products such as honey, dairy, refined sugar (bleached with animal bones), and eggs. There is a strong activist nature behind most of those who choose to go vegan, though there are as many reasons to choose this lifestyle as there are vegans. These reasons can be health-related, environmentally-conscious, or just karmic-ly inclined.

Local activist and Vegan Randi explains her reasons for becoming vegan quite simply as, “The animals and the Earth! It’s mostly just about how terribly that the animals we eat are treated.”

For those who are interested in a meat-free lifestyle choice for whatever reasons, there has usually been a very limited level of local community awareness and/ or support to be found. “When I first became vegan, it was hard for me to find restaurants or recipes. I just had to find out what was out there for vegans,” Randi said on the difficulty of choosing a vegan lifestyle.

One restaurant that has been historically veg-friendly and has offered a strong vegan/ vegetarian-friendly menu is Alfalfa’s Restaurant across the street from the Central Public Library. They offer seasonal menus with vegan, vegetarian, and fish/ chicken entrees, salads, and appetizers as well as a wide variety of desserts. Randi discovered, “once I found out what was out there for vegans, it was easy for me to eat well.”

Scarborough Fare also features veggie-friendly fare in its deli case, as Hettie Carriero (formerly of the now-defunct Everybody’s) can usually be found hard at work in that Romany kitchen.

And nearly all ethnic offerings (Thai, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and so on) have vegetarian menu options. Most local fine-dining establishments also offer something on their menus for the vegetarians among their clientele—and may be willing to substitute items to suit your needs. Just ask the server (graciously and politely).

There are also many cookbooks, websites, and other resources now available for those that choose an animal-free diet. Some of the most popular and user-friendly cookbooks on the market are a series of Moosewood cookbooks. Started by Mollie Katzen and continued by a group of people calling themselves the Moosewood Collective, the cookbooks offer a wide variety of vegetarian, vegan, and fish dishes. Katzen and her contemporaries are trying to make choosing healthful, meatless foods easy and cooking them fun and stress-free. Choosing to become a Vegan is hard enough.

People learning to cook vegan need all the help they can get—the Moosewood cookbooks are a great place to start.

Live it, don’t Die-t
Whatever resolutions you want to accomplish, whatever “-isms” you choose to conquer this new year’s season, take to heart the attitude of the animal that rules the coming Chinese New Year: the rooster. This animal is well-disciplined and always speaks its mind. Have strong opinions in the new year, but don’t get down on yourself if unrealistic goals aren’t met.

Remember to keep in mind that discipline is just remembering what you want. And making sure that what you want translates to the good of the community just makes accomplishing your goals and getting what you want easier.

Not that there’s anything wrong with eating Ben and Jerry’s. n