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.

Review: The Ultimate Low-Calorie Meals Book from BH&G

As the Autumn cookbook season continues it’s time to take a look at another recent release from the good folks at Better Homes & Garden, The Ultimate Low-Calorie Meals Book.  And this one is tailor-made for helping folks drop those Christmas pounds.

The Ultimate Low-Calorie Meals BookNew in the Ultimate series, The Ultimate Low-Calorie Meals Book offers hundreds of recipes and ideas that make eating healthy and watching your weight easy and delicious. These recipes are ideal for light and nutritious everyday meals that form the basis of a healthy lifestyle. Filled with dishes the entire family will love, recipes are clearly marked with icons that let you quickly identify recipes that are ready in 30 minutes or less, high in fiber, and low in sodium.

Packed with more than 400 delicious and nutritious low-calorie meals and hundreds of beautiful photos, The Ultimate Low-Calorie Meals Book is a great resource at a great price.

  • Features more than 400 flavorful calorie- and fat-conscious recipes, including main dishes, snacks, sandwiches, pizza, desserts, restaurant favorites, and make-ahead meals
  • Includes more than 300 gorgeous full-color photographs that make every page inspiring and easy to follow
  • Special Healthy Eating Basics chapter
  • Special features include substitution charts that help make every meal more calorie-conscious, up-to-date diet and nutrition advice, and much more

A book like The Ultimate Low-Calorie Meals Book is perfect for those who want to start the New Year by eating a little leaner.  With hundreds of easy to prepare recipes taking up nearly 500 pages you could conceivably eat something from this book every single day and not repeat a recipe for over a year.  That should keep that New Year’s Resolution from burning out in week two.

The book is well organized and chock full of colorful food porn.  But hey, why take my word for it?

Kale to the Chief

February is not a month where one thinks of the bounty of the garden.  That’s because in many parts of the country that garden is covered with 18” of snow while in others it just sits there all brown and putrid like the post-apocalyptic landscape from a Mad Max movie.  However there is one deeply green plant so rugged that it doesn’t care about the temperature and lack of sunlight; kale.

KaleUnfortunately most Americans only recognize kale as a garnish for a catering platter or artfully covering the ice on salad bars.  But kale is a mainstay of Scottish cuisine as it is one of the few plants sturdy enough to handle highland winters.  It is harvested from September through March and is a terrific source of Vitamin A (206% RDA), Vitamin C (134% RDA almost as much as an orange) and Vitamin K (684% RDA).  Kale also contains a good deal of cancer-fighting components like the two powerful antioxidants – carotenoids and flavonoids.  It also contains organosulfur a mysterious cancer-fighting compound; scientists don’t understand exactly how organosulfur fights cancer they just know that it does.

Though a serving only contains 2 grams of protein it does contain 18 amino acids – the building blocks of protein.  The paltry 34 calories in a serving drop significantly once in the body because of kale’s high fiber content.  Raw kale is on the list of negative calorie foods meaning that digesting it actually burns more calories than it contains.  That’s right, the more you eat the more calories you burn.  If bakers could figure out how to incorporate kale into donuts the Krispy Kreme Diet could be a reality.

Burns SupperSo now that you know why you should eat kale it’s time to learn how to eat kale.  It is very versatile as you can enjoy it raw in salads or cooked in soups.  In fact because of kale’s sturdy nature you can actually toss it with salad dressing hours before serving it without fear of it breaking down like lettuce does.  In soups kale is often paired with other rugged plants like potatoes and leeks.  Potato Leek Soup is a traditional menu item for Burns Night, an international celebration of all things Scottish held on or around January 25th, poet Robert Burns’ birthday.

Scottish Potato Leek Soup

  • 3 TBL olive oil
  • 1 bunch leeks thoroughly cleaned and cut lengthwise and julienned
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 c kale, torn into small pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1) Heat 2 TBL olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks, salt and garlic. Sauté until leeks are tender, roughly ten minutes.

2) Add potatoes and broth then simmer for 20 minutes.

3) In a large sauté pan, cook the kale over medium heat in the remaining olive oil with salt to taste, until wilted but still a little firm.

4) With an immersion blender, puree the soup for a few seconds.  If you do not have an immersion blender skip this step as it is optional.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  NOTE: this soup begs for a good deal of pepper.

5) To serve place equal portions of the sautéed kale into each serving bowl and ladle the soup on top of it.

Review: Substitute Yourself Skinny

For many Americans the battle of the bulge is predicated on the fact that diet food tastes nasty. Those pre-portioned pseudo-meals shipped directly to your door are not only dreadful tasting but processed to the point you can’t really call it food.  They may make your tummy smaller but they wreak havoc on your liver, pancreas, heart, kidneys, et al.  Nothing that tastes bad is good for you.  After all your taste buds are as much a part of your body as your abs and glutes.  Why abuse them?

Susan Irby on Wannabe TV ChefSusan Irby has made her career by designing foods that fit what she calls “the Bikini lifestyle.”  It is an approach that has earned her the nickname the Bikini Chef.  Often identified as spa food, her style features healthy, local, sustainable ingredients prepared with sophistication.  But Irby’s food also has comfort and that’s what makes her healthy fare so satisfying.

Susan’s latest book is her best offering to date of figure-flattering flavors.  Substitute Yourself Skinny (Adams Media, 2010) includes 175 super-slimming recipes and dozens of gorgeous color photos.  This is one diet book that deserves serious food porn props!  Irby’s previous books include $7 Healthy Meals (read review) and $7 Quick and Easy Meals (read review) as well as Cooking with Susan, Southern Family Favorites.  All are available at  For more on Irby check out my exclusive interview from earlier this year.

The true voodoo of Substitute Yourself Skinny is not that Susan takes great, time-tested recipes that are packed with flavor and substitutes one or two high fat or high calorie ingredients for healthier alternatives while maintaining the soul of the dish.  No, the real magic is that Susan teaches you how to do it yourself.

Despite what the mail-order meal people would have you think, the path to getting that Bikini body is through your kitchen.  There is no such thing as a healthy diet that does not involve fresh ingredients cooked from scratch.  If cooking for yourself sounds horrific then what you eat is not the source of your excess tonnage, your laziness is.

Irby addresses this by making her recipes easy and quick.  First she starts you off with a shopping list of the staples needed for eating healthy and cooking quickly.  Then she offers recipes like I’m Feeling Lazy Lasagna and others engineered for that busy family on the go.

Susan Irby the Bikini ChefFinally, and most astonishingly, Irby has filled the pages of Substitute Yourself Skinny with foods you actually like and even crave: Creme de la Creme Cream of Broccoli Soup, Cinnamon Raisin Waffles, Not So Scalloped Potatoes, Biscuits and Gravy, Cajun Red Beans and Rice, I Love New York Cheesecake, Slidin’ Home BBQ Sliders, Sausage Pizza, Banana-rama Banana Pudding Cake and Fudgy Chocolate Brownies to name just a few.

Each delicious recipe is accompanied by a calorie count, serving size and nutritional breakdown.  Scattered throughout you will find helpful bits of information the author calls Skinny Secrets.  As mentioned before the photographs are stunningly clean and colorful.

Check back tomorrow to see how you can get your very own copy of Substitute Yourself Skinny for FREE!

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

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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