QUINCY - Cheryl Loatsch readily admits she's not a January resolution person.
"It's a very difficult time of the year for anybody to make a decision to start a new way of eating, start a new exercise program or get back to an exercise program they've not been doing for a long, long time," she said. "I think that the majority of people set themselves up to fail."
A better approach, she said, is helping people decide what will actually fit in their lifestyle to be as healthy as possible.
"Once they catch that bug to become healthier and see that they feel better -- there is that hump that you have to get over -- and that doesn't necessarily mean with the scale," said Loatsch, owner of Cheryl Loatsch Studio and its Sunrise Bakery and Cafe. "It means how they feel. Do they have more energy? Are they sleeping better? Can they physically do things easier, not necessarily exercise, but can they vacuum easier, go up and down the steps easier, haul the laundry?"
Along the way, daily food choices come into play, and Loatsch emphasizes the same philosophy she started with in her business.
"After 40-plus years of doing this, we're right back to the best thing you can do for yourself is to eat right and stay active," she said.
Two "eat right" favorite recipes featured in the café are Beef and Broccoli Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Chicken with Bruschetta. Both combine lean protein and vegetables with big flavor in a manageable portion size.
Putting in a kitchen to teach cooking classes led to the café, which initially offered just juice and muffins.
"When Mom and I were teaching classes, at the end of class, people would ask if they could buy what we'd made that day," Loatsch said. "Then we started teaching classes where people brought the ingredients so they could take home what they had just cooked."
As people asked for more food options, Loatsch began offering weekly menus by request featuring regular and gluten-free entrees, salads, soups, side dishes and bakery items – and she helps people set up weekly nutrition plans to eat well and do "good things" for themselves by eating a varied menu.
"What you end up with is moderation, which is the hardest thing for us to practice. When you talk about moderation, you have to put the fats back on the table again as far as being an option, but they have to be good fats," she said.
"When we ask older adults what has kept them able to meet life's challenges, nine times out of 10, their answer is going to be moderation. They didn't specifically cut all of this or that, but they ate and drank and indulged moderately and occasionally."
Just as important is staying active in even simple ways.
"If you go outside and play with the kids, you probably don't need to take a walk that day, or if you put boots on and walk around, that's like walking around with a pound or two of weights in the winter," she said. "If we use what's around us, that goes a long way toward making us healthier."
Beef and Broccoli Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes (approximately 10 to 12 ounces each)
¾ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 ½ cups chopped red or multi-colored bell peppers
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli
Rub sweet potatoes with a small amount of olive oil. Pierce several times with a fork. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, checking for tenderness, or microwave, rotating every two minutes until fork tender. (Cooking times may vary with the size of potato and the method of cooking.)
Add a small amount of olive oil to coat the bottom of a skillet. Brown the ground beef, adding salt and pepper to taste; set aside when done. In a separate skillet, add remaining olive oil to coat pan. Add onion and bell peppers; cook for five minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic, and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in chili powder, salt, cumin and ground red pepper. Add the ground beef to this mixture, and stir together.
Steam broccoli, and stir into beef mixture. Partially split sweet potatoes lengthwise. Fluff the inside of the potato with a fork. Top potatoes evenly with beef mixture.
Grilled Chicken with Bruschetta
4 (five-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 avocados, chopped
3 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup part skim mozzarella cheese, optional
Combine onion, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper; set aside.
Place chopped tomatoes in a large bowl. Cover with garlic, basil and onion-oil-vinegar mixture. Add additional salt and pepper if needed. Gently fold in chopped avocado. Set aside for 20 minutes or overnight.
Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill chicken 3 to 5 minutes on each side. When done, set aside on a platter, and top with the bruschetta mixture. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve.