Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Keeping up with the latest trend: HEALTHY EATING!

Ok, let's be honest here....is there really anybody out there who is NOT currently either A) Trying to lose weight, B) Trying to get back in shape, C) Trying to maintain a healthy weight, or D) All of the above?  I promise you, out of every cooking class I've taught or every pre-made meal I've prepared, about 85% of them have been geared towards "Healthy Eating."  I teach Healthy Cooking Demonstrations at WestWind Technologies every other Thursday.  I am doing a 5-hour Healthy Cooking Demo for General Electrics in Decatur this week.  Most of my pre-made meal clients demand healthy, low-cal meals.  People nowadays are really opening their eyes to eating better in general, and as a food-service provider, I have to keep up. 

Here are a few painless ways to EAT BETTER:

1- Switch up your "fats".

Ditch the butter and reach for the Olive Oil.  In lots of cases, melted butter is just a means to cook a dish and prevent it from sticking to the pan and drying out.  An easy fix is to substitute some form of Olive Oil in its place and save yourself a boat load of calories, while gaining tons of Vitamins and micronutrients.  If you really want the flavor of butter in your dish, use only 1 Tablespoon and supplement the rest with Olive Oil.  Here is a great article about all the many benefits of using Olive Oil.

2- Befriend your spice cabinet.

You heard me.  Spices are an IDIOT-PROOF way to add exponential amounts of flavor without adding fat or calories.  Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning, Cajun Seasoning, Italian Seasoning, Garlic Salt, Onion Powder, Curry Powder, Nutmeg, Allspice, Cayenne Pepper, Seasoned Pepper, Lemon Pepper, OH MY GOODNESS there are so many delicious ways to flavor a dish without using sour cream or cheese.  Sure, sodium is something to be conscious of that is often hitching a ride along in the spice jars, so try to pick spice mixes which do not have Salt listed in the first 5 ingredients. 

3- Use Acid.

No pun intended. :)  Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Orange Juice add tons of flavor to chicken, seafood, lamb, salads, salsas, and so forth without adding a lot of fat or calories.  Marinate your next chicken breast in Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning, fresh Garlic, chopped Rosemary, and the juice of a Lemon (for no longer than 30 minutes) then throw it on the grill.  Your taste buds will jump for joy, and so will your waistline.  Squeeze a lime over a piece of grilled or baked fish, or marinate a steak in Orange Juice and Steak Seasoning for a bright new flavor.  Eating healthy doesn't mean eating BLAND!

4- Keep the Vampires Away.

USE FRESH GARLIC.  I've said it before, and I'm saying it again.  Stop using the jarred stuff from the grocery store and grab a fresh bulb.  10 seconds more of work to peel the skin and mince or press the garlic is well worth the incredible aromatic flavor that fresh garlic infuses into any dish.  Saute diced onion and garlic in Olive Oil, toss in a handful of fresh Spinach, season with Salt, Pepper, and a pinch of crushed Red Pepper flakes, and Voila!  Yummy, super healthy side dish.

5- Buy or grow your own Herbs.

There is absolutely nothing in the world like fresh Herbs.  I'm talking about Cilantro, Parsley, Basil, Rosemary, Dill, Tarragon, Mint, Chives, Thyme, Sage, etc.  They are dirt cheap at the grocery store and add oh-so-much freshness and flavor to just about anything.  Saute one Shallot and 4 cloves of fresh garlic in Olive Oil until it begins to smell very aromatic.  Toss in 1 pound of peeled and deveined shrimp.  Once the shrimp begin to turn pink, add in the juice of a lemon and about 1/4 cup of White Wine.  Saute until the shrimp are completely pink, then sprinkle in a handful of chopped Parsley and chopped Cilantro.  Toss with cooked Whole Wheat Pasta and serve.  Life-changing.

6- Use your grill once in a while. 

I know "grilled chicken" is the cliche for cardboard, tasteless, diet-food...but have you really tried it?  Marinate any piece of chicken, fish, steak, or pork and throw it on a screaming hot grill.  Once it is cooked through, remove it to a plate and cover tightly with aluminum foil and let it REST to retain its juices.  Once you and your grill get to know each other better, your "diet-food" will start to taste like Heaven.  Whether it's a charcoal grill, propane grill, infrared grill, or just a plug-in countertop grill....the black char that you get from throwing your food on a red-hot grill adds tons of flavor and produces foods with an incredible juicy texture.  Instead of boiling your asparagus to death, marinate it in Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper and grill it until tender.  The same works for Zucchini, Squash, Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, and on and on and on. 

7- Go Whole Wheat!

It's kind of like Diet Soda...once you get used to it, you'll never go back.  Switch to Whole Wheat or Whole Grain whenever possible......sandwich bread, pasta, rice, crackers, bagels, etc.   Not only are Whole Grains a healthier alternative to White Grains, they are even known to prevent certain kinds of cancers.  Here is a great article about all the amazing health benefits of Whole Grains.

8- Slow it down a bit.

Want to know why people overseas are so much thinner than us?  Because they eat SLOWLY.   What am I talking about?   What does eating slow have to do with anything?  It takes roughly 20 minutes for our stomach to signal our brain that it is full.  This is why often times you end up feeling so incredibly full that you could burst after a meal, and you aren't even really sure how it got to that point.  Try this:  After every bite of food, put your fork/knife/spoon down.  Take a long, slow swig of water/wine/tea/whatever you are drinking with your meal.  Start a conversation with whomever you are dining with (or just talk to yourself or your pet if you are dining alone) and then resume eating.  If you take this brief pause between every bite you put in your mouth, it is a proven fact that you will eat less, because eating slower gives your stomach time to get the "I'M FULL!" message to your brain. 

9- Discover other ways to eat your fruit.

It's a sad fact that most of us don't get anywhere near the daily recommended serving of fruit that we should.  I'm guilty as charged, because quite frankly, I think fruit is kind of boring.  But there are other ways to eat fruit besides just in a lonely little bowl.  Cut up fresh Watermelon, toss it together with Spring Mix, Red Onions, and a sprinkle of crumbled Goat Cheese.  Drizzle with Balsamic Reduction or your favorite fruity Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Yum!  Or mix a Tablespoon of Caesar Dressing with 1/4 cup of Orange Juice, drizzle over a salad of chopped Romaine lettuce, mandarin orange wedges, cherry tomatoes, and shredded Parmesan cheese.  Dice 2 ripe mangos and mix with chopped Cilantro, a sprinkle of Cumin, diced Red Onion and Red Bell Pepper, and the juice of a Lime- serve over any grilled protein. Do I really need to get into all the health benefits of eating fresh fruit?

10- Have some soup.

No matter what kind it is, soup is very filling.  You can make a delicious soup with just about any vegetable, a bit of olive oil, chicken or vegetable broth, and a little bit of seasoning.  Tomato Basil, roasted Butternut Squash, Wild Mushroom, Asparagus, Spinach, roasted Leeks, etc.  If you see some vegetables at the store that are just crying out to you, go home and "google" __fill-in-the-blank__ Soup and I'm positive there is a delicious recipe out there that is easy and healthy.  Or....just ask The Chef Next Door!

Give any or all of these tips a try, and hopefully you will notice a significant change in the way you look and feel!  Happy cooking/eating.


The Chef Next Door


  1. I was afraid of fresh garlic at first. Now I use it practically every day! It's a "superfood", too, so I'm glad you included it in your list. :)

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