Maintaining your weight

Q: Chef, how do you and Ann maintain your weight?

A: Thank you for asking, Mike. We are both committed to a healthy lifestyle that focuses on being active and eating healthy, balanced meals. We limit portion size and follow a lot of the principles of the Mediterranean diet; a healthy way of eating inspired by the diets of Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

In this style of eating, there is a heavy emphasis on plant foods such as vegetables and legumes. Fresh fruit is often served for dessert. Olive oil is the main source of fat. Eggs are limited to no more than four a week. Fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts and red meat consumption is very limited. Wine can be consumed in moderation. Total fat consumption for this diet is about 25 percent to 35 percent with saturated fat less than 8 percent. We do not follow this diet to the letter but we do base our meal planning on these general guidelines.

Portion control is a very important factor in maintaining a healthy weight. Traditionally, meat is the star of the show and can take up half the dinner plate.

Starchy foods like noodles or potatoes usually take up more room on the plate than the vegetables. We turn this around; vegetables are the largest portion, followed by the starch and the meat takes up the least amount of room on our plate. The only exception is fish, which we can eat larger portions of because it is so lean and light.

We don’t consume beverages like soda, which have a lot of empty calories and no nutrition. We drink water, coffee, herbal teas and low-fat milk. Chef Hosch loves fruit juices but has also limited the intake of them to 6-8 oz at a time, Ann doesn’t drink them.

We limit our beef consumption to one serving a month. When we eat red meat, we stick to the leaner cuts of meat. Any meat with “loin” in its name is a leaner cut of meat. Some examples are strip loin, beef tenderloin and pork loin. We often eat wild meats such as bison or venison because they are usually leaner, and we both crave a heavier meat from time to time. We do eat chicken 1-2 times a week and use sausage and bacon made with turkey or chicken to cut down on fat.

When cooking, we find if meat is cut in smaller pieces and stir fried or mixed with vegetables and-or starch, it seems to go a lot farther. We also look for ways to add vegetables and beans to our meals. For example, black beans, carrots and kale can be added to a marinara sauce. These ingredients can also be pureed before adding to the sauce for a more traditional marinara texture. We both enjoy preparing vegetables in different and unusual ways. I am including a recipe we recently prepared at the end of this article.

We both are very active and exercise regularly. We also try to incorporate exercise in our day to day activities. We pick a parking place far away from the door, use stairs instead of elevators and stand when we work rather than always sitting. We try to take a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, telling ourselves even if we just go one block it is better than not moving.

Not all of our weight control methods are exactly the same.

The only prepared foods that we eat regularly are tomato sauces, the occasional poultry-based bacon or sausage, dried fruits (in moderation), Greek yogurt and occasionally hummus (when we don’t make our own).

We simply don’t eat at fast food restaurants, which tend to use more, low-quality fats, processed foods and are extremely calorie dense.

Ann eats a hearty breakfast of 1/2 cup of gluten-free oatmeal with chia seeds, fruit and plain Greek yogurt. This keeps her full until lunch time. Chef Hosch usually eats a lighter breakfast.

Ann sometimes enjoys a healthy snack between meals, such as a few almonds or rice crackers. Chef Hosch usually sticks to three meals a day.

Ann satisfies her sweet tooth with less sweet treats and fruit. When Ann bakes she uses coconut sugar, which is not a sweet as sugar cane and has a lower glycemic index. Using this sugar keeps her cravings for sugar down and she no longer enjoys traditional sweets, as they are too sweet. Ann also indulges in dark chocolate, usually 70 percent cocoa, in small amounts. Chef Hosch enjoys traditional sweets in moderation.

We use balsamic vinegars that are infused the fruit to add sweetness without many additional calories to our meals.

We have a variety of flavors such as: raspberry and pomegranate flavored dark balsamic and an orange-mango-passionfruit white balsamic. These vinegars can be mixed with olive oil as a salad dressing, drizzled on vegetables to add a sweet flavor, or added to seafood or chicken just before serving.

The following recipe is one that we eat at least twice a week with some variety of vegetables depending on what is available in the store or what is on sale. We grow some of our own vegetables in season. We believe that food is best close to its growing source and strive to eat chemical free.

Sauteed greens

1/2 bulb of fennel, julienned

1/2 red pepper, julienned

1/2 yellow pepper, julienned

1/2 onion, julienned

2 cloves garlic, dices

5 cups greens chiffonade (kale, collard, chard, dandelion)

Infused vinegar

In a Dutch oven, saute fennel, garlic, peppers and onions until tender crisp. Lower heat to medium high and add greens. Cook for 4-5 minutes until wilted. Transfer to serving plate. Drizzle with infused vinegar.