How chefs stay svelte

by SARA on May 4, 2011

Brussels sprouts before roastingA doctor I once interviewed told me that sometimes, when trying to come up with solutions to a problem, it helps to look at extreme cases. If you find something that works in those, you’re likely onto a trick that can be applied in the real world.

Take this tip to the kitchen, what group stands out? Chefs. They’re not just cooking one meal, but sometimes hundreds. (I recently interviewed Tom Colicchio on a night when he and his team had to prepare 500 individual dishes. I still find this baffling.) All the while, they’re surrounded by temptation, and it’s actually part of their job to taste that bounty to make sure it’s fresh and the flavors are right.

Still, if you think about it, a whole lot of chefs are in pretty decent shape these days. Ergo, a few weeks back, I asked eight well-known chefs for their best stay-healthy cooking tip. I’ve got to say, I was pretty impressed with their suggestions. You can find the full story with quotes and recipes on iVillage.com. Here, my personal favorites:

Mike Isabella from Top Chef All Stars says he uses grapeseed oil instead of butter. It’s got just two grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, as opposed to butter–which has seven. He also (conservatively) sprinkles satiety-inducing nuts on salads.

White House pastry chef Bill Yosses looks for high quality ingredients. The more natural flavor something has, he reasons, the less of it you have to use. (Click here for the chocolate mousse recipe he makes for the Obamas.)

Award-winning chef Richard Sandoval makes sure he doesn’t overdo it on his famous Latin fare by remembering that every bite and taste adds up. For Sandoval, that means counting his time cooking–and sampling food–as one meal. For people like us, that might mean skipping a midday snack if you’re going to prepare a big meal.

Angelo Sosa, another Top Chef All Stars alum, is a sucker for spices. “I’m a fanatic about cooking with spicy food when I’m trying to eat healthier,” he told me. “It adds so much more flavor to your dish. You not only don’t miss the sugar, and fat, but rediscover how tasty vegetables and grains can be with just a dash of diced jalapeño.” There’s some science to this one, too. Studies have shown that capcasin, the compound that gives peppers their heat, may actually boost metabolism.

I’ll wrap up with one from Robert Irvine, who hosts Restaurant Impossible and The Worst Cooks in America on the Food Network. If you’re trying to cook with less butter and oil, Irvine suggests adding a squeeze or two of citrus to your dish. They’ll add some bright, nuanced flavor to what you’re cooking, without turning it into a whole other dish.

These ideas, of course, just got me hungry for more. Got a technique you find helpful? Let us know in the comments.

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{ 1 comment }

Lauren Slayton May 4, 2011 at 11:00 am

These are great tips I’m also always so intrigued when chefs slim down. They have such an advantage being able to create the most delicious health dishes. I like the spice tip above. I also think that when you do take tastes while cooking sometimes you don’t really eat the meal. This happens to me a lot.

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