Saturday, June 30, 2012

Smart Chefs Stay Slim by Allison Adato

Eating healthy and staying slim are not things all chefs are known for. But Allison Adato, in her book Smart Chefs Stay Slim, set out to find out what slender chefs ate and did to stay healthy. This book was our Kitchen Reader pick for June, chosen by Aileen of 300 Threads.

Adato makes a good argument for listening to fit chefs about eating. Chefs won't eat boring or tasteless food, she asserts, so healthy eating chefs are bound to have some tasty ideas. Also, chefs are extremely busy, so their eating tips will be good for anyone who wants or needs to eat conveniently. And chefs are faced with temptations of unhealthy food daily - so how do they deal with the pressure to eat everything they see? I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It turned out to be well written and full of usable, insightful ideas.

The overarching idea I took away from the book was that cooking and eating at home is a key part of making healthy choices. Eating out means bigger portions, more drinking alcohol, more dinner courses, and regularly eating dessert. Eating in means you control your own food. I don't know about you, but I rarely have the time or energy to make three course meals. One tasty main dish is the norm in my house; sometimes I throw in an extra side dish, always vegetables. Adato says that eating in is often hindered by planning, lack of energy, or laziness. So she gives good ideas for making it easier.
  • Start with good ingredients. Chefs say that cooking = ingredients + execution. Choose fresh, delicious ingredients when shopping; simple cooking is all that is necessary to make them into tasty meals.
  • "Be your own prep cook." On weekends, make a stock or sauces for later in the week. On an ordinary night, when you chop the onion for dinner, chop a second one for the next night's dinner.
  • Season your food with salt, a bit more generously than you do now. If you eat all unprocessed foods, then you can probably stand to eat a bit of salt and chefs know that it makes food taste great. Using salt on fish or meat helps it form the crisp edges when seared.
  • Eat the foods you really love. Don't waste time eating things you don't really like.
  • The third and fourth bites of a dish are always the best and the last bites are not a pleasurable as the first. So stop eating while you are still enjoying the food. As a corollary, there is no point continuing to eat if the first few bites weren’t wonderful.
  • Eating with friends and family is fun and one of life's great joys. But if you’re still eating after twenty minutes, it is probably not about hunger anymore. Enjoy the atmosphere, but don’t eat out of boredom or duty.
Overall, I was really pleased that we read Smart Chefs Stay Slim this month. Please pop over to the Kitchen Reader to see what the other members thought of the book.

What healthy eating tips do you have to share?

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