10 “Lucky” Foods to Kick off the New Year


The new year brings thoughts of hope and an opportunity to focus on fresh goals, including healthy eating. Celebrate the end of 2020 (finally!) and the start of 2021 by eating a variety of good luck foods on January 1 and throughout the year!

Many cultures around the world believe the key to a happy, healthy, financially-secure year begins with eating lucky foods. A little extra good fortune in 2021 would certainly be welcome, and what better way to get that than by trying some of these lucky and healthy foods for the new year? Keep reading for 10 lucky foods and the meaning behind them for New Year’s and beyond in 2021. Yes, even cake!

  • Beans

Because beans swell as they cook, they symbolize prosperity and growth. In the South, a meal of black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread is often served on New Year’s Day for good luck in the year ahead.

Fiber and other compounds found in dried peas and beans support the growth of health-promoting gut bacteria. A high fiber diet has also been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. Try Beans and Greens Soup and Honey Cornbread Muffins– perfect for New Year’s Day!

  • Greens

The color of money! Collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, cabbage and kale represent paper money. Supposedly, the more greens you eat, the more fortune you will have!

Carotenoids found in these vegetables boost the body’s antioxidant defenses. Strong defenses can help stop free radicals from damaging DNA that can lead to cancer. Try Autumn Wonder Salad – Brussels Sprout Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

  • Pork

Did you know that pigs move forward when they eat? Fowl such as chickens and turkeys scratch backward, and cows stand still while eating. But pigs dig forward with their snout. This represents forward movement or progress as opposed to moving backward or staying in the same place in the New Year!

Tip: Put a small amount of pork or ham in your beans for added flavor.

  • Fish

Fish are lucky in three ways: 1). Their scales resemble coins; 2). They travel in schools, which represents prosperity; and 3). They swim forward, symbolizing progress. In some countries, the fish is served whole (head and tail), symbolizing the end of one year and beginning of another.

Fish is a high-protein, low-fat food that provides a host of health benefits. White-fleshed fish is lower in fat than any other source of animal protein, and oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, or the “good” fats. Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain cardiovascular health and may reduce inflammation. Since the human body can’t make significant amounts of these essential nutrients, fish are an important part of the diet.

  • Noodles

Long strands of noodles symbolize longevity. Try eating one long noodle in one piece without chewing or breaking the noodle for a good, long life! Try Immune-Boosting Chicken Noodle Soup – don’t skip the lemon juice and zest on top, it really enhances the flavor!

  • Rice and other grains

Rice, quinoa, barley, oats and other starches swell when cooked signifying abundance. Hoppin’ John, a dish of black-eyed peas and rice is often served on New Year’s, while rice pudding is served in Sweden and Finland as a lucky dessert. Try substituting quinoa or barley for rice for added nutrition and fiber in recipes. There are lots of great recipes to try, including: Asian Quinoa Slaw,  Hearty Beef and Barley Soup, Mexican Barley Stuffed Peppers,  Cherry Almond Rice Pudding

  • Grapes

In Spain and Mexico, 12 grapes are eaten as the clock strikes midnight to welcome the New Year. Each grape symbolizes good luck for the 12 months ahead. A sour grape may mean that month will be a rough one!

Grapes contain powerful antioxidants, including flavanols, resveratrol and anthocyanins (in red and purple grapes). A diet high in antioxidant-rich foods has been linked to a lower risk of cancer.

  • Pomegranate seeds

These symbolize fertility, life and abundance. The deep red color also signifies life (the heart) and health. Getting the seeds out of a pomegranate is a very messy endeavor! Save a little time and energy by purchasing containers of pomegranate seeds, readily available at the grocery store during the winter months. Try our November 2020 recipe for Warm Cauliflower Salad – Greens topped with roasted cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries.

  • Oranges

During the Chinese New Year, oranges, specifically mandarin oranges, represent luck, prosperity and a long life.

High in vitamin C, flavonoids and polyphenols, oranges provide antioxidant protection and immune support. Vitamin C in oranges can help strengthen the immune system by stimulating the production and function of white blood cells.

  • Round cake

Represents the year coming full circle. Round foods also symbolize coins. New Year’s cakes are often baked with a coin inside. If you get the coin, you will have extra good luck in the new year! We all want that!!


Forge is delighted to partner with Laura Rutledge, MA, RDN, CSO, a Registered Dietician Nutritionist who focuses on oncology nutrition for Cooking with Laura focuses on nutrition during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. For more information and recipes from Laura check out Nourishing Plate!
All images courtesy Laura Rutledge and Nourishing Plate.