By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC
Imagine a day when your doctor hands you a recipe instead of a prescription and you’ll share the vision of health professionals gathered recently at the Culinary Institute of America’s campus in Napa Valley.
The Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference presented by researchers from Harvard Medical School brought medicine and menus together to illustrate the benefits of a healthful diet.
“We need to practice what we preach,” declared Dr. David Eisenberg, director for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies at Harvard Medical School. “What doctors eat predicts their willingness and ability to advise patients about what they eat.”
Eisenberg, who created the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference, led a recipe demonstration on Asian stir-fry techniques. Eisenberg was the first U.S. medical exchange student to the People’s Republic of China in 1979.
“That’s when I learned the significance of a teaching kitchen,” he said. “If we’re going to get people to eat better, we have to realize that taste trumps nutrition science every day.”
The conference was packed with nutrition knowledge and real-life recipe advice. Here’s an overview.
1. Eat lots of vegetables: Advice to eat more plant-based foods was abundant. Harvard School of Public Health’s Dr. Walter Willett, a course co-director, emphasized, “Populations that eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day live longer lives and have less heart disease, stroke and cancer.” Cooking up solutions: Chef John Ash, a cookbook author, said, “Instead of steaming, try roasting vegetables such as cauliflower and brussels sprouts — the high heat brings out naturally sweet flavors.”
2. Say yes to good fats: Not all fat is created equal. Trans fat is the most harmful. Avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. The preferred forms of fat intake include olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and fish oil. Omegas 3s in seafood are beneficial. Eat seafood at least twice a week. Cooking up solutions: Cookbook author Joyce Goldstein said, “Save money and have fun making your own salad dressings with olive oils and vinegars. Add a splash of fresh orange or lemon juice.”
3. Upgrade your carbs: To help control swings in blood sugar and support a healthy heart and digestive system, minimize refined sugar and white flour products; instead eat whole-grain breads, oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains and cereals. Eat fewer refined carbohydrates: white bread, white flour, sugary cereals, pasta, jellies, sugar candy and soft drinks. Cooking up solutions: CIA chef instructor Tucker Bunch shared these tips, “Most all grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries and faro, can be cooked ahead and then reheated in a pan combined with seasonings such as sautéed garlic, fresh basil, sliced olives, lemon juice and olive oil to make delicious side dishes.”
4. Eat mindfully: Advice to slow down to appreciate and savor flavors, aromas, colors and textures of foods is becoming just as important as nutrient recommendations. Eisenberg said mindless munching whether in front of the television or in the car must be addressed. Cooking up solutions: Savor and really think about the pleasure of enjoying a square of dark chocolate or a small dollop of whipped cream on top of a bowl of fresh berries.
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@carolynoneil .com.