Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Savor Foods with the Slim Set

JCT Kitchen in Atlanta

They’re slim. They’re trim and they love to dine. How do they do it? Well, it turns out that fit folks really are different from their bulge-challenged friends. Sure, there are genetic physiological differences in all of us that predetermine our metabolic rates and the way our bodies store fat. But, it’s the power of mind (read: willpower and motivation) that keeps those skinny people skinny. Dr. John Foreyt, professor of psychiatry and behavioral Sciences Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says studies have identified what makes them different, “They are eternally vigilant with daily or weekly weighing, they monitor calorie intake and they’re highly active exercising at least 60 minutes a day.” And according to Dr. Jim Hill’s research from the National Weight Control Registry (a database of more than 5,000 people who've lost more than 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year) their exercise of choice is not marathon running- it’s walking but walking enough to burn 400 calories a day, “The good news is small changes for all of us, things that take very little time and effort, like walking an extra 2,000 steps a day about 15 minutes can burn 100 calories.”
What else does the slim set do to maintain their weight? Here’s a menu of healthy behaviors.

They Eat Until Satisfied Not Stuffed - Try putting your fork down halfway through a meal and ask yourself using a 1 to 10 scale, how full are you? Take a sip of water and think about it some more. Talk to your dining companions. You’ll give yourself time to gauge how hungry you really are and by eating slowly it allows the stomach time to trigger the brain’s sensation of fullness.

They Eat More Fruit and Vegetables - Bet you’re not surprised by this one! According to a 2006 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association healthy weight women eat one more serving of fruit and eat more fiber and less fat per day than overweight people. And even though many people associate weight loss with high protein intake, the statistics from the successful dieters in the National Weight Control Registry don’t support the eat-all-the-steak-you-want diet. Their diets were on average 20% protein, 24% fat and 56% carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the best source of healthy carbs.

They Have a Plan and Stick to It - 78% of successful dieters in National Weight Control Registry ate breakfast every day. And- sorry to tell you this- they consistently monitor their food intake. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine conducted by Dr. Rena Wing of Brown University, folks who lost weight and kept it off continued to be careful about consumption of lower calorie menu options and moderated their fat intake.

So how does all of this work in the real world? Here’s an example of putting these slim strategies to work at a place you might not think would fit into lifelong fitness. But it does! JCT Kitchen, an Atlanta restaurant famous for “Southern Farmstead Cooking” serves up some of the city’s best fried chicken and baked macaroni and cheese.
But look more closely at Executive Chef Ford Fry’s menu of seasonal fresh and local ingredients and you’ll find plenty of healthy choices. His Sunday Suppers menu offers nine vegetables and the meal starts with a salad of mixed lettuces and vegetables fresh from the Westside Farm Stand. The Meat & 3 suppers are a great way to enjoy a just-right portion of protein surrounded by the vegetables you’re supposed to be eating. I’d get the Roast Chicken with natural jus, collard greens or pole beans and sliced tomatoes drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil. I’d also hope that someone at the table orders the baked macaroni with Benton’s ham and cheddar so I could have a bite!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Yummy Terms and Fatty Truths

Menu descriptions of dishes are written to entice diners to say, "That sounds good!"
I can't wait to try the grilled tenderloin of beef with crispy potato-leek cake, caviar and red wine reduction on the menu at Dogwood restaurant in Atlanta. The grilled cobia with summer vegetable cous cous and charred pepper vinaigrette sounds awesome, too.
And since many chefs today — including Shane Touhy of Dogwood - reveal just about every ingredient and cooking method in menu descriptions, it's easier to read between the lines to find the food facts you need to help decode the nutrition content.
In general, red-flag words for dishes high in fat and calories include cream, butter, fried, sauteed and cheese sauce. Green lights for choices lower in fat and calories include grilled, broiled, primavera, salsa and broth.
So, first look at how the dish is prepared. Is it deep-fat fried or charbroiled? Does it come with a butter sauce or a fresh fruit salsa? Is it a broth-based soup or made with heavy cream? OK, these are some of the obvious clues. Now you're ready for some advanced menu sleuthing.
What if the word "fried" is nowhere to be seen? "Crispy" can be a code word for fried. And "silky sauce" a sign that butter is lurking. Even "poached" isn't always the light way to go. Some chefs actually poach seafood in butter or oil, not the usual water-based broths.
That doesn't mean you can't enjoy the occasional tempura-battered fried shrimp or side of creamed spinach. It just means that when you see them on the menu, you know it's time to take pause. You can choose to either limit portions, or limit the number of times you order these higher fat choices.
Even "grilled" or "broiled" aren't always innocent because the chicken or fish can be slathered in oil or butter while it's on the fire. Make sure to request that your item be broiled "dry" or "lightly brushed with oil." The server is your conduit to the kitchen.
While restaurants such as Applebee's offer menu selections from Weight Watchers that are clearly marked with calorie counts, lighter choices are not always highlighted.
Healthy dishes such as gazpacho, poached salmon and pasta primavera have become part of mainstream dining. And you don't have to settle for less fun, because now chefs borrow interesting ingredients from Asian and Mediterranean cuisines to add bold flavors to dishes without adding additional fats. So, thanks to globe-trotting chefs these lighter dishes taste better than ever!