New Year's Resolutions, Dining Edition

It's that time of year again. Fresh as the snow falling outside your window. Full of promise and potential. Brand-spankin' new. With optimism for our personal growth at a high, we're inspired to think of at least a few ways we can improve ourselves and our lives. Either you've started a list of resolutions already, or you're going to wake up on Jan. 1, power through your hangover and crank out some lofty ambitions for the next 12 months.

They're always pretty much the same, though, aren't they? Do this more, that less. Stop this, start that. Achieve balance in all areas of life. Well, we're offering a fresh take on your recycled New Year's resolutions by giving you some new ways to accomplish them all — with amazing food and foodie ideas. Now that's something to look forward to, isn't it?

1. Learn how to cook

If your kitchen skills are nil, chances are you find the very prospect of cooking a daunting, time-intensive endeavor. But you don't have to go from zero to master chef in order to acquire some cooking competency (in fact, you never have to).

Why not make this resolution something fun and social, instead of cooking at home? The Bekins Cooking School (735 Washington Ave., Grand Haven, and 6275 28th St., Grand Rapids) offers a variety of one-time classes in January and February, from the more comprehensive Healthy Resolutions to cuisine-specific Sushi Rolls. Invite a friend along and you'll both benefit from a new experience that may inspire long after the class ends. Learn more at

2. Get healthy

We've all heard exercise is only one way of getting and staying healthy, but lifestyle and diet are just as, if not more, important. (Phew!)

Restaurants offer so many diet-friendly options that you never have to look far to keep your palate satisfied and your pants fitting. Healthy is no longer synonymous with hum-ho. Try these gourmet dishes made with good-for-you ingredients and you won't feel like you're missing out at breakfast, lunch or dinner.

A diverse assortment of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free offerings fill the menus at Kangaroo Kitchen & Catering (1007 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids). While there is some fare is on the heavier side, you won't have trouble finding dishes that are both satisfying and good for you. Catering options are extensive.

Catch The Organic Gypsy food truck in Kalamazoo for a seasonal, locally sourced, (mostly) organic and thoroughly delicious lunch on the go. Popping up at events and festivals in the area, The Organic Gypsy fare can also be catered, with select products available to order from their website. Among the unique menu items, you'll find sea palm fettuccine, saffron eggplant rice bake and zucchini bruschetta.

Although the entire menu at Harmony Brewing Company (1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids) may tempt, make your dinner here a little less guilt-inducing with the vegan pizza option. The Slide Whistle has house-made white cannellini bean sauce (replacing traditional red sauce), spinach, red onions and artichoke hearts. It's not too good to be true—it really is delicious.

3. Be more adventurous

The new year is a good time to break out of your culinary rut, and one way to put this resolution into action is by exploring the diverse ethnic restaurant scene West Michigan has to offer.

Take your takeout to the next level at Chinn Chinn (52885 N Main St., Mattawan), an Asian fusion restaurant that's sure to introduce you to some new dishes. They've got everything from fish tacos and Mongolian flatbread to tried-and-true favorites like pad thai and chow mein.

Ever tried Ethiopian cuisine? If you like the flavors and spices found in Indian dishes, and eating from communal plates with your hands sounds intriguing, you just might love it. Grand Rapids has two standout establishments, Gojo (421 Norwood Ave. SE, Grand Rapids) and Little Africa (956 E. Fulton St.).

4. Save money

If frugality is your new focus, you can stress a little less at the following places. With generous portions for $10 or less, you’re getting a lot of yummy bang for your buck.

El Rancho Mexican Restaurant (12659 Riley St., Suite 400, Holland) serves up daily dinner specials that won't leave you wanting more. Dig into dishes like Chili Verde and Nachos Deluxe, and remember to check out the weekly drink specials for discounted margaritas to complement your meal.

There are so many soup, salad, and sandwich options at Cherry Deli & Catering (834 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids), you might find yourself staring in disbelief at the extensive menus on the wall. On the plus side, this means you can come back often without suffering from lunchtime monotony. Combos are $8.50 (soup and salad), $9.25 (soup and half sandwich) and $10 (salad and half sandwich).

Order a few small plates at Shawarma King (1441 S. Drake Rd., Kalamazoo) and you'll be stuffed before you know it. Appetizers include falafel and grape leaves (meat or veggie) at 10 pieces each for just $6.50. Salads come in small, medium and large (from $4.50 to $8.50) depending on your appetite — and don't overlook the tasty bite-size shawarma sandwiches for around $3.