A Chef Workout (And Meal) From Rocco DiSpirito

Photo credit:The New York Times

What made a well-known chef decide to start cooking healthier at home and then write a series of cookbooks to encourage others to do the same?

In a New York Times interview, Rocco DiSpirito told writer Ahad O’Connor that it all began with a doctor’s visit: “About 10 years ago, my doctor said, ‘You might want to start writing your will because I don’t like what I see in your numbers.'”

Rocco was only 35 years old at the time with a family history of heart disease. But he said it took him 6 months before he got serious about changing his diet & lifestyle. It was that or face a l lifetime of medication with potential side effects. He described the transformation in his health this way: “In about 8 months, I went from a flat-footed chubby chef with a crooked spine to competing in the St. Croix Ironman and I just thought, ‘If I can do this, anyone can.'”

He admits that it’s challenging for chefs to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They spend a lot of time on their feet cooking and eating dishes that may be high in calories and flavored with a good measure of butter, and other fattening fats. That is until he came up with new recipes. As he explains it: “I would take apart the foods that I loved and put them back together with better parts. And what I realized is that in many cases, the healthy version is as delicious or even more delicious than the unhealthy version.”

He says that he sees his latest cookbook “Cook Your Butt Off” as a way of demonstrating that you can not only cook healthier meals at home, but get exercise as you cook by embracing low tech tools. Instead of using a Kithcen Aid to beat eggs, try whisking them, and chop veggies by hand versus throwing them in a food processor.

And if Rocco were to go through your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, he would likely be advising you to get rid of the processed food and white stuff–the refined carbs that are in white flour, sugar, white bread and white rice–and replace them with the right stuff. Consider whole grain, brown rice and natural sweeteners. He’s a fan of stevia and monk fruit.

And he says his favorite chicken dish includes cauliflower rice and glazed eggplant: “What I’ve done is I’ve eliminated a processed carb that’s very starchy and has a high glycemic index, and I’ve replaced it with a cruciferous vegetable.”

What he’s also doing is giving others an incentive to follow his health changing example. Good for You, Rocco!

New York Times, 5/4/15

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