The “You’re Just Kidding Yourself” Diet

New Year New DietIt’s the beginning of a new year and with it comes the annual doomed attempt to live a healthier lifestyle.  According to Proactive Change nearly half of adult Americans make at least one New Years Resolution each year with the majority resolving to lose weight, exercise more and/or quit smoking.  Their numbers show that by the end of week one 25% give up.  By week two that number is closer to 30% and fewer than half last six months.

Each January, restaurants around the country load up on produce because they know for two weeks they will get killed on salads.  They also have to order a larger amount than normal of chicken for frying, fatty dressings and cheese.  That’s because the first two weeks of each new year Americans flock en masse to the “You’re Just Kidding Yourself” Diet.

Today at the restaurant was a prime example.  Two consecutive tables of four people who’d resolved to eat better ordered a total of seven salads and one turkey sandwich.  The person ordering the turkey sandwich asked for it with no mayo.  Job well done.

Three ordered our shrimp salad which has six cholesterol laden crustaceans sauteed in real butter, bacon bits, iceberg lettuce, almonds, onions and a warm balsamic vinaigrette.  Each replaced the  vinaigrette with Ranch dressing.  First off, iceberg lettuce is virtually devoid of nutrients; it’s just water and fiber, not bad for you but not really good for you either.

Drenched with DressingThe vinaigrette for the shrimp salad has 45 calories and 1/2 a gram of saturated fat.  Ranch dressing has 200 calories and 3 grams of sat. fat – roughly the equivalent of an order of McDonald’s French fries (230 calories, 1.5 grams of sat. fat.).  One ordered our Greek salad which is healthier than the shrimp salad.  However, they too replaced the heart healthy dressing with a metaphorical order of fries.

The next table was the aforementioned turkey sandwich along with three crispy chicken salads.  That’s a salad with iceberg, boiled egg, tomato, onion, cheddar cheese and 6 ounces of deep fried chicken.  Two of them asked to omit the onion from the salad, all three got Ranch dressing.  All three also ordered a side of fried onion rings.

But it’s a salad so it must be healthy right?  That’s the “You’re Just Kidding Yourself” Diet.  It doesn’t matter how much you love Ranch or French or Thousand Island your salad isn’t healthy if you are using them.  The only healthy salad dressings are vinaigrettes and even they aren’t healthy if they contain hydrogenated oil or high fructose corn syrup (BTW, both are in Olive Garden’s famous salad dressing as well as most “low fat” Ranch dressings).

A healthy salad dressing should be made up of three parts Omega 3-rich oil (extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, flax seed oil, et al) and one part acid like vinegar or citrus juice.  Other than keeping your salad healthy these dressings do something else.  They allow you to taste the things in your salad.  Those other dressings cover up the flavors of fresh vegetables, vinaigrettes enhance them.

Next is the cheese.  I opt for lean crumbling cheeses like part-skim feta in my salads.  They are lower in fat which is the main culprit of melting cheeses like cheddar, Jack and Swiss.  Meat should be kept to a minimum – bacon bits are alright as long as there are only a few and there is no other meat in the salad.  I also prefer my protein to be something like grilled or steamed salmon as opposed to ham or fried chicken.  I mean, seriously.

And here’s another little piece of advice.  If you are one of those people who resolve to eat better every year and every year you fall off the wagon after a week or two I implore you to get a grip.  Remember, Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  That’s not hyperbole.

I believe that human beings are capable of anything they want to do.  Anyone can quit smoking instantly.  Anyone can learn Greek.  Everyone can become a better singer.  All it takes is wanting to.  That’s the rub, “wanting to.”

I often hear smokers say they really want to quit smoking but they can’t.  BS!  They don’t quit because they don’t really want to quit.  They know they should quit; they wish they could quit but they don’t “want” to quit.  They “want” to keep smoking.  Guess what?  Because smoking is what they “want” to do that is what they do.

It’s all about “wanting” to do something.  Until you “want” to eat healthier you won’t eat healthier; you’ll just keep going on the “You’re Just Kidding Yourself” Diet.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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