I’ve got a friend who, like many of us, has made a commitment to lose weight, exercise and eat right in the new year. For her, it’s a pressing and life-threatening health problem. I’ve committed to help her (what was I THINKING? — nah, nah, nah, just kidding).
I thought I’d share some material that didn’t make it into a story coming up in The Weekly this week about healthy eating.
First, a man who has been through it and proved it can be done: 100 pounds lost. Can you guess? Hint: He’s 2-2.
Yes! It’s comedian Frank Delima. He can even make you laugh about dieting: Every time he tells you about the foods he uses, he tells you where he buys it, where it’s on discount right now, you know how your Gramma or Popo or Obachan or Vovo does?
Here’s how he pared off the pounds: One year of monk-like strictness (he condidered the priesthood once, you know): Five small meals a day, all from his own kitchen (instead of weight, that’s a day’s worth of food he’s carrying). No carbs. No alcohol. Lowfat meat, fish and vegetables. Favorites: 97 percent fat-free ham (Sam’s Club), egg whites (the white carton at Safeway, not the yellow one), low-carb/lowfat tortillas for chicken or ham and vegetable rolls, occasionally hamburgers made with 93 percent fat-free (Sam’s Club).
“Just making a salad is not enough. I get hungry,” he said. Now, he eats his pre-portioned mini-meals every 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
Years 2-4: He gradually reintroduced a few carbs. He allows himself an occasional night out. But he still carries his meals. If he’s on the road with his crew, he’ll stop at Zippy’s or someplace like Ken’s Pancakes in Hilo for a boiled egg, nonfat milk and a dry wheat toast or drink some Muscle Milk. And he never eats after the show, once his favorite pupu hour (and the worst possible time, just before bed). Or he’ll have a 250-calorie Subway sandwich.
Throughout that period, he said, he remained ‘ono for the good, crusty bread at Verbano’s, spread with fresh butter and a glass of red wine. (This is my exact recipe for total happiness at table, though I’ve cut out the wine. A glass of pomegranate juice, slightly diluted with water, suffices.) He allows himself this indulgence occasionally now.
His best food friends: vegetable spray and a nonstick pan; skinless, boneless chicken breast; turkey bacon (used sparingly); noodles and rice substitutes made from yam or beans (shirataki- or konnyaku-type), boxed lite tofu (Longs), Splenda.
He acknowledges that these substitutes aren’t just like the real thing, but adding them gradually to your diet allows your palate to change and begin to accept such ingredients as low-sodium shoyu, which may seem pallid at first.
Splenda, unlike other artificial sweeteners, doesn’t have any aftertaste or bitterness and can be substituted one for one for white sugar. This ingredient, however, has not found favor among those who prefer more natural, plant-sourced sweeteners such as agave syrup, brown rice syrup, stevia and stevia-derived Truvia.
Nor does his low-carb regimen have a lot of advocates among vegetarians, health food enthusiasts and many nutritionists.
And don’t feel lonely if your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight: Frank’s planning to go for 20 fewer pounds in the slow season for entertainers this month and next.
My friend Carol Devenot, who wrote The Advertiser’s “Light & Local” column for years, e-mailed me some tips to add to Frank’s. She’s in the whole grain carb crowd.
Become a semi-veg, like her. Limit meats, even lowfat meats. You need protein (which digests slowly and helps you stay full longer), however: substitute edamame for starchier vegetables (i.e. lima beans), try soy and textured vegetable protein products until you find some that please (I have yet to find a meat substitute that wasn’t nasty but I love firm tofu, baked or grilled. And I use tofu crumbles — homemade — in place of hamburger in some recipes; crumble firm tofu, spread it on a Release-lined baking pan, drizzle with the desired flavor of marinade or sauce; mix gently; bake at 350 degrees until heated through and a bit caramelized.)
Substitute fruit puree for oil in baking; apple butter or applesauce is a frequent choice.
Get to know grains you may not have used in the past: quinoa (keen-wah), barley, oat groats (they’re wonderfully cream, like rice), wheat berries, farro (a grain popular in Italy that is centuries old; it, too, has a creamy texture; you can even make risotto with it.
No problem eating the occasional baked potato, but top it with A-1 Steak Sauce, barbecue sauce, marinara (tomato sauce), salsa, creamed fresh corn, vegetarian chili, horseradish, wasabi . Or choose healthier local sweet potatoes or yams, simple baked or steamed. And don’t forget taro: boil the leaves in nonfat chicken broth or vegetable broth and steam the corm to eat instead of potatoes.
Instead of dairy milk, choose almond, soy or rice milk. (But take note that, though these are lower in fat, they are far from calorie-free.)
Soups are comforting and filling; choose bean or legume or vegetable soups based on fat-free broth.
Make no-oil salad dressings with flavorful vinegars; fresh, minced herbs; citrus juice and spices such as ground mustard or a curry powder mixture.
Focus on salads less dependent on oils such as bean, corn or beet salads with no oil- dressing.
I also talked to Alan Wong and he had some dressing ideas, too: passionfruit juice, yuzu or calamansi instead of the usual lemon or lime. He’s been experimenting with making different-flavored vinegars with ingredients such as Sichuan peppers, cumin/coriander/cardamom and ginger. Or combine ginger juice with a little shoyu and some minced green onions to top fresh, local tofu or tofu salad with watercress. Another option: hand-torn basil, tomato wedges (or, if you can’t find any good, local heirloom tomatoes, the cherry or grape tomatoes from Ho Farms and elsewhere are good, too, sliced in half), whisk together some wasabi paste, Tabasco and shoyu for a dressing. Herbs, herbs, herbs.
When you read package labels notice the portion size: A portion rarely consists of the whole package or even half a package. Products you may have thought were healthful may be heavier than you knew.
If you like old-fashioned recipes for baked goods, as I do, you’ll find them LOADED with sugar and, to the modern palate, much too sweet. I’ve found that in simple recipes, such as quick breads and pie fillings, you can cut sugar by 1/3 or even 1/2 without missing it.
Eat early and often. Sounds counter-intuitive but it’s the way to go. Eating early in the day, and paying strict attention to portion-size (get a scale) allows your body time to absorb nutrients, digest and process your food. Going right to bed after a big meal is a recipe for thunder thighs (and, eventually, various health problems — even stomach or colon cancer).
Here’s a favorite recipe from a very old book, “Fast & Low,” a delicious vegetable side dish. It predates oil spray but you could skip the 1 teaspoon oil called for and just spray a nonstick skillet.
Hot cucumbers and green pepper: Thinly slice 1 onion, 1/2 cleaned green pepper, 1 English cucumber (peeled or not, just as you like). In a nonstick saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil, saute onion and pepper, add cucumber and 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh leaves). Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Off the heat, gently sitr in 1/2 cup lowfat yogurt.
And another: Pureed Peas: Peel 2 cucumbers, slice and steam 15 minutes. Add 3 boxes frozen peas and 2 minced shallots for five minutes. Remove from heat, place in processor, whir to smooth along with 1 tablespoon ricotta and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and fresh-ground pepper. Place in top of double boiler until reheated. (I omit the sugar and use a little salt instead; I serve this puree under grilled meats or fish.)