It’s never too late to craft a plan that will help you recover from the wintertime temptation of too much comfort food — not to mention the enduring weight gain from the holiday food table. Here are some thoughts on the subject, followed by a recipe for massaged kale salad that is guaranteed to leave your belly happy and full of fiber.

1. Treat your stomach space like the most valuable of real estate, like Victorians treated virginity. Don’t just give it away to the first hors d’oeuvres tray that floats by. It’s easy to surrender to filling your belly with whatever is within arm’s reach. Just don’t. If there is nothing good to eat then don’t eat. Take a breather. Something more worthy of your belly will be around soon enough.

2. The day after a feast, wait until lunchtime to eat breakfast. Some people worry that skipping breakfast leads to more eating later in the day to compensate, which can supposedly cause weight gain. But the most recent evidence (not to mention the anecdotal experiences of vocal breakfast-skippers) suggests that response is rare. In any case, during the holidays you already know you are going to eat more later in the day, so skipping breakfast to compensate for the gluttony to come makes sense. And after a night of feasting, you might just sleep in till about lunchtime anyway.

3. Up the activity. I don’t mean to imply that you can exercise away the excess, because unless you’re an endurance athlete, your workouts probably won’t compensate for the level of gluttony typical of the holidays. But exercise is always good for you and will help you build some discipline that you can put to work at the holiday trough. And if you’re skipping breakfast, you do have that time slot available…

4. Pre-party with green plant fiber. If you show up with a belly that has something in it, you won’t be that guy crowding the food table before its time to eat. Arriving at a lavish buffet with fiber in your belly has other benefits too. Greens are generally a good digestive aid that will help move along all the custard puffs, pumpkin pies and cookies that might tempt you. So start the evening with bowl or two of this massaged kale salad. And maybe bring some to the potluck if you think the other guests might want some tasty fibers in their lives.

The action of physically squeezing the leaves in salt and lemon juice softens them, almost like a light sauté would, and makes them a joy to eat. Just remember that like many salads, this one isn’t low on calories. But at least the calories come from fat, which like fiber sates the belly and takes the edge off hunger. That is why calories from salad are better for you than eggnog calories.

Massaged Kale Salad

In this recipe, you use your hands to knead the kale with salt and lemon or lime juice. This action breaks the cell walls, leaving the kale soft, pliable, and easier to eat. My kale of choice is the long and narrow-leafed Lacinato kale, which also goes by the names Dino kale, black kale, and Tuscan kale. Curly green kale is a good second choice.

Serves 4

  • 6 cups kale, center ribs removed, chopped crosswise to about ½-inch slices
  • 4 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed (garlic lovers can multiply as necessary)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or crumbled feta

Place the kale, lime and salt in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze handfuls of kale as hard as you can, over and over, for about a minute. Add the rest of the ingredients, toss together and serve.


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