Diet-to-Go is rolling out a new feature -- "7 Questions with..." -- and this week's premier guest is The Svelte Gourmet, a.k.a. Jenny Fox from Charleston, South Carolina.
The Svelte Gourmet caught my attention while I was compiling our weekly Diet Blog Carnival round-up of interesting and educational Internet features. Jenny's columns consistently appeared in our "best of" round-up so I decided to extend an offer for her to appear in this inaugural question-and-answer series.
"7 Questions with..." will feature top names in the fields of food, diet, nutrition, fitness and motivation, so be sure to come back regularly.. and to tell your health-minded friends about the new and improved Diet-to-Go blog.
Back to matters at hand -- The Svelte Gourmet (that's Jenny pictured at right). I chose to interview Jenny because I was intrigued by her approach as "your personal trainer in the kitchen."
While Diet-to-Go will serve you delicious, perfectly portioned meals to help you get healthier and lose weight, the Svelte Gourmet can teach you to cook healthy meals once you reach your goal weight.
DTG: The Svelte Gourmet is your "personal trainer in the kitchen" -- what does that mean and why do I need a personal trainer in my kitchen?
SG: The Svelte Gourmet's mission is to help people understand what they should be eating for optimal health, both inside and out, and how to make it taste great! Through my "personal training" lessons, The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook, and my blog, I show people how to turn healthy ingredients into culinary masterpieces.
Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry, and with good reason. Millions of people are overweight and facing obesity-related health problems. It's not just about looking good in a bathing suit. It's about managing heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and a host of other weight-related diseases.
One doesn't have to look very far to find the next diet gimmick that promises to help you shed those pounds. However, in order to lose weight and keep it off, it takes a lifestyle change - eating right and exercising, not just for a week or a month, but forever.
Sounds daunting, I know, but it doesn't have to be. As your "personal trainer in the kitchen, I teach you lifestyle lessons that will help you and your families lose the weight and keep it off.
DTG: What fuels your passion for eating healthy and for educating others to do the same?
SG: Like millions of people, I tried diet after diet, only to lose weight and gain it back. I knew that I had to make a change for good, but I thought that meant that I would have to give up my favorites - pizza, burgers and sweets. What I realized is that it is possible to still have these things in my life, regularly!
I love to cook and experiment, so I've found ways to take the fat and calories out, and keep the flavor. In fact, many have said that my recipes actually taste better than the more fattening foods they were used to!
I've put together the collection of recipes that helped me to lose weight and keep it off. I've taken the guesswork out of it - my recipes are simple, fast and use ingredients you can find at any grocery store.
Even better, you and your families and dinner guests get to enjoy tasty meals night after night, often without even realizing that they're healthy!
Once I realized that a lifestyle change was simple, it became my mission to show others how to make the change in their lives.
DTG: Why do you think there are so many overweight and out-of-shape Americans?
SG: There are many reasons, but I think two of the biggest are convenience and the "bigger is better" mentality.
Our society is so focused on convenience that our entire lives can be managed from the computer. We don't have to leave the office chair to work, shop, socialize or even order food. And the portions of food to which we've become accustomed are enormous - often 4-5 times the amount we should be eating for a meal.
Our food comes ready to eat and handed to us through the car window "super sized." Our bodies have gotten used to a sedentary, convenient, all-you-can eat lifestyle. And we're getting bigger and bigger.
DTG: Changing bad habits and starting a healthy lifestyle can be a daunting task. What are three simple steps I can make today to improve my health and my weight?
SG: First, get moving! You don't need a gym membership or a house full of fancy exercise machines. Take a walk, ride your bike, chase the dog or the kids... just get out of the chair!
Second, start cooking! The first step is recognizing that it doesn't take hours to make healthy food from scratch. In fact, it can often be faster than thawing and heating a frozen, processed dinner or ordering a pizza. I can get you started with delicious recipes that are fast, easy AND healthy.
Third, set small, attainable goals! Start with a commitment to yourself for today. "I will make dinner tonight." "I will walk around the block." Once you see how easy it is to do those things once, you'll realize how easy it is to also do them tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
DTG: You say you are not a dietitian or nutritionist -- so why should I trust your tips and advice?
SG: For years, nutritionists, dietitians and trainers have been giving me the basic formula for eating more healthfully - lean proteins, whole grains, lots of vegetables, heart-healthy fats and proper portion sizes. I've taken this information and put it into easy to follow recipes that have been reviewed by health and fitness professionals.
DTG: How can a busy mom find the time to shop and cook healthy meals for herself and her family -- and how can she get her kids to eat more healthily?
SG: My recipes, tips and tricks are for the "every day" cook. They are designed to be fast and convenient, but still healthy and delicious. You won't have to run all over town to specialty markets and health food stores, because my recipes use a clever mix of ingredients that you can find at most grocery stores.
Also, most of The Svelte Gourmet recipes come together in 30 minutes or less. Even I don't like spending all day in the kitchen! I've also designed many of the recipes - like The Svelte Gourmet chili, lasagna and pizza -- to work well as leftovers.
It's extremely easy to freeze leftovers or double a recipe so you can feed your family more than once with minimal effort.
Many of The Svelte Gourmet recipes are foods that kids love already - pizza, spaghetti, burgers and chicken. However, I've found that getting picky kids to eat more healthfully is a matter of involvement. When the kids help cook, they tend to eat more.
Cooking together provides great bonding time, it teaches the kids healthy eating habits early in life, and they take pride in the finished product. Your readers can find a lot of tips and tricks for getting kids to eat more healthfully at www.thesveltegourmet.com.
DTG: Finally Jenny, what are the 5 worst foods that the majority of us tend to have in our fridge/pantry -- and what should we replace them with?
SG: No. 1 is the "white foods" such as white bread, white flour, white rice and white pasta. These foods are often stripped of their fiber and nutrition and they break down quickly in your body, resulting in spikes to your blood sugar that leave you craving more. Replace with whole-grain products like whole wheat bread, brown or basmati rice, and whole grain pasta. Whole grain foods take your body longer to digest, meaning you'll stay fuller longer without spikes to your blood sugar.
2. Mayonnaise or sour-cream-based foods. I've found that substituting plain yogurt for mayonnaise or sour cream in recipes affords you a lot of flavor with minimal calories and fat! Even full-fat yogurt has a fraction of the fat of mayonnaise. A cup of plain yogurt has around 150 calories, compared with 180 calories in only 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise! Try it in your dip or salad dressing recipes, or even in soups as a replacement for heavy cream.
3. Fatty proteins. Replace the ground beef with ground chicken or turkey breast. Instead of pork chops, try pork tenderloin. Instead of a ribeye, try a nice, lean sirloin. Replace the drumstick and wings with a juicy chicken breast (yes, it's possible!). Lean proteins make a world of difference in your diet, and they can still be very flavorful with the right seasonings and cooking methods!
4. Bags of fried, processed snack foods. It's a pretty safe assumption that anything with day-glow orange "cheese" powder isn't good for you. Same goes for fried potato chips and butter-laden popcorn. Instead, try crunchy veggies with your new yogurt dip, air-popped popcorn with parmesan cheese and garlic, or fresh fruit salad with nuts.
5. Packaged baked goods. I know it's easy to grab a box of iced cupcakes or store-bought cookies, but please don't. I'm not saying you need to swear off baked goods forever, but when you do crave them, bake them yourself. You'll savor them more, and they'll taste a lot better! Consider healthy substitutions like whole grain flour, honey instead of sugar, and dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
Thanks to you Jenny for providing so much food for thought. We hope to see you back here in a future installment of "7 Questions with..."
Meanwhile, to get your regular fix of Jenny and to sample her yummy recipes, check out her website www.thesveltegourmet.com and grab a copy of her cookbook, The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses.
Author: John McGran