“I will be healthier in 2011.” Does this phrase describe you? Improving health is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. For some, this means getting more sleep, minimizing stress, getting more physical activity or eating differently.

When it comes to guidance on food and physical activity, the USDA’s food pyramid website is a wealth of resources. One of the key messages printed right on the graphic is the slogan “Steps to a healthier you.” This phrase aims to encourage consumers to make gradual improvements with daily small steps toward improving their diet and lifestyle.

“To be successful at achieving goals, it is important to make them manageable and realistic, which means focusing on one specific behavior at a time and possibly breaking that up into smaller steps,” says Gretchen Hofing, Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) soyfoods health educator and a registered dietitian based in Lenawee County. “When it comes to diet and lifestyle goals, this advice definitely applies,” she adds.

“With my special interest in soyfoods and knowledge that they contribute to current good health, including healthy weight management, as well as prevention of future disease, I’d challenge people interested in improving their health in 2011 to include soyfoods in their menus,” says Hofing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a health claim stating 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Research continues to point toward other health benefits as well, such as prevention of some cancers, alleviation of hot flash symptoms, dairy and peanut allergy management and possible osteoporosis prevention.

Take those small steps by trying one new soyfood each week for a month.

  • Week 1: Use soymilk in coffee; add to a smoothie, on cereal or in pancake or muffin batter.
  • Week 2: Try silken tofu pureed with seasonings and cheese and used as the base for a pasta sauce (thinned out with soymilk). Try pureed with dry ranch dressing mix or curry powder as a vegetable dip or baked potato topping. Puree with frozen fruit for a fruit or graham cracker dip or use in a cheesecake.
  • Week 3: Buy canned black or tan soybeans or frozen green soybeans (edamame). Use them in place of other beans. Add to salads, soups or casseroles.
  • Week 4: Buy soynuts and eat them on their own as a snack; crush them and use as a crunchy coating for fish or chicken. Add to salads, ice cream sundaes or cookies.

Purchasing and consuming soyfoods is a great way to support your health and Michigan agriculture. The Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee represents soybean producers in the state and funds soybean research and educational efforts.