March 6, 2013By Dr. Deborah Kennedy, CFH Board Member & CEO of Build Healthy Kids ® .
March is National Nutrition Month, and a great time to think about better eating for better health. Fat has gotten a bad rap but the truth is, it is essential for life. Instead of thinking of fat is the enemy, try this on for size: fat in my family’s diet is very important; I just need to serve the right kinds of fat. A good rule of thumb to follow is: if a fat is solid at room temperature, eat it sparingly; fats that are liquid at room temperature are what you want to use in the kitchen most of the time.
Fat is what gives food that perfect mouth-feel and it also holds a lot of flavor. Some even think it should be considered the 6th taste along with sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory. That is why fat free products taste very bland and have a ton of sugar in them: to make up for the lost taste the fat brings. It is also why when you switch to low fat products, they lose their luxuriousness.
When you are cooking with fat, the tastiest and most often used varieties are usually full of solid fat: butter, whole milk, cream, fatty cuts of meat, and bacon for example. You can be sure that if you are eating out, your dish is loaded with these types of fat. Why? Because you will eat a lot of it and come back for more because it tastes good. Using low fat versions of these unhealthy fat sources will mean less taste so you need to make up for that with adding other flavors to your dish; spices, herbs and sauces are great ways to make up for the lost taste.
Here is the skinny on fats:
- The Good = Unsaturated Fat: Vegetable oils and fish are great sources of fat. You will not go wrong if you focus on using fats that come from plant sources and are liquid. These include olive oil (first pressed or virgin), canola, soy, corn, peanut, sunflower seed and grape-seed oil. Note: corn, canola and soy oils can be genetically modified; buy organic brands of these oils to be safe or switch to another variety altogether.
- The Bad = Saturated Fat: Fat that is solid at room temperature is unhealthy and should be eaten in moderation. Most of the solid fat in our diet comes from animal sources. Choose white meat from chicken and turkey over red meat products (beef, lamb and pork). Whole dairy products are also high in saturated fat, so substitute low fat (1%) or skim (fat-free) milk products when you can.
- The Ugly = Trans Fat: Man-made fat that is a solid at room temperature is the worst kind of fat to feed your family. It is called trans-fat or partially hydrogenated oil. Do not serve products made with trans-fat and do not cook with it, period.
A “fat healthy” dinner menu for the week would look something like this: 1 night serve beef or pork, 2 nights serve fish, have a pasta night with low fat or a small amount of regular cheese, 1 to 2 nights serve poultry, and try for a legume night where lentils or beans are the protein source.
You don’t have to choose between taste and health most of the time but you will need to get used to the difference in using lower fat products most of the time. Save full fat dishes for special occasions and really enjoy them when you do eat them. Health is a choice you make each and every day and it starts with what you choose to put in your mouth. Choose health!
For more ideas on eating and cooking healthy meals, visit: www.buildhealthykids.com.
November 20, 2012
For many, Thanksgiving brings to mind the warmth of family gatherings and feasts of traditional favorites like roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and pumpkin pie. For many others who struggle for enough food or to get the right food, Thanksgiving may represent a very different experience. For Chefs for Humanity, Thanksgiving represents an opportunity for all of us to explore our connection to food and to think about ways to inspire each other to not just eat, but eat well. It is our hope that we each take a moment this holiday to be thankful, to give back to others in need and to commit to eating foods packed with real nutrition for growth and health.
Happy, healthy Thanksgiving,
May 18, 2012
As a professional chef, the sign of success is an empty plate. If someone enjoys my food well enough to taste the last morsel, I've done my job well. As a global citizen, an empty plate symbolizes something much more heartbreaking: hunger.
In my travels, I've been blessed to experience the sights, smells, and tastes of vibrant markets around the world. That's where I get inspired. I love to connect the many beautiful spices, textures, color, and flavors I’ve encountered across the globe, and to create dishes and recipes to share that experience.
But I've also seen hunger in places like Haiti and Ethiopia, where undernutrition is still a very real challenge. In fact, nearly more than 170 million children under age 5 suffer from undernutrition, a hidden crisis that robs them—and their countries—of a healthy and prosperous future.
It's critical to tackle this problem, placing a particular emphasis on the first 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday as this is the time to ensure healthy growth and development.
In the next few days, leaders from the world’s biggest economies (the “Group of 8” or G-8) will be meeting on critical global issues. I'm thrilled that fighting hunger and poverty remain high on the G-8 agenda, with President Obama expected to highlight G-8 efforts to promote food security, improve nutrition and alleviate poverty during his opening keynote at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on Friday, May 18.
Fighting hunger is a serious issue. We need to beat it together, and I truly believe we can. That's why I started Chefs for Humanity and why I'm so heartened to see global leaders coming together to address it. It's why I am so supportive of the work of groups like http://www.savethechildren.org Save the Children, which creates lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world.
And in wishing for and working to contribute to a healthier world, I think of the children and families I met recently in Ethiopia, where the government and partners like Save the Children are working together to reduce hunger and undernutrition through Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
Every child deserves healthy, nutritious food. As a mom, I think about what I put on my kids’ plates all the time. Are they eating enough of the right things? Is their meal balanced and nutritious? I want what every parent wants: for my kids to grow up healthy and strong.
Feeding people brings me joy. And nothing motivates me more than the idea that one day, everyone will have access to the healthy food and other nutritional interventions they need to survive and thrive. It’s something we all need to talk about and take responsibility for. And it’s easier than you might think.
As you prepare dinner tonight, think about the ingredients you’re using, where they came from, and what inspires you. Your recipe can be a perfect way to start a dialogue about health, nutrition, and what’s happening in the world today.
As for me and my family, tonight we’ll be talking about a special—and delicious—protein source that can help boost nutritional outcomes of kids and families from India to Indiana: the legume. In the form of lentils, specifically.
Here’s the recipe I’ll be using: it’s simple, spicy, inexpensive, and—most importantly—healthy. Join me in bringing the issue of hunger to the table!
Curried Orange Lentil Soup
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped
- Fresh ginger (see above)
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon pure chile powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pound split orange lentils
- 2 cups low-sodium stock
- 6–8 cups water
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup nonfat Greek-style plain yogurt or light sour cream
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions
- 1 large lemon, cut into 8 wedges
Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook slowly, stirring frequently, until golden and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and all the spices and stir well. Cook until the ingredients form a fragrant paste, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils.
Add the stock and 6 cups water. Stir well, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the soup becomes too thick, until the lentils are soft, 40 minutes to 1 hour (check sooner if you used a different variety of lentil).
Taste and add salt if necessary. Ladle the soup into bowls, top each serving with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, and garnish with the cilantro and scallions. Set out the lemon wedges so guests can squeeze in as much juice as they want.
Chef’s note: I like to add a lot of ginger to this soup, but you can use less or leave it out altogether, if you like. I also prefer orange lentils for this particular soup because they don’t taste as earthy as brown lentils, and they’re prettier. You can use small French green lentils, if you like, but begin checking after 30 minutes of cooking to see if they are done.
February 20, 2012
I think about food all the time. It's my passion; it's my profession. Yet for millions of people around the globe the thought of food is a matter of survival.
Every year, more than 2.5 million children globally die due to hunger and malnutrition. In fact, chronic malnutrition, or the lack of proper nutrition over time directly contributes to three times as many child deaths as food scarcity. Yet surprisingly, you don’t really hear about this hidden crisis through the morning news, Twitter or headlines of major newspapers.
The exciting news is that this crisis is solvable.
I saw that firsthand last week on a trip to Ethiopia, where nearly half of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition. I traveled there with Save the Children, just ahead of the global development organization’s release of a new report: “A Life Free From Hunger: Tackling Children Malnutrition.” And what struck me most is that we really can offer that better future to millions more children who today go without the nutrition their young bodies need to develop well and survive.
I witnessed several simple, proven solutions, including those offered by an amazing group of government health workers who received extra training from Save the Children. These women are really on the frontlines, educating mothers about the importance of incorporating healthy foods into their meal planning. I followed one of these women, Ngist, down dirt roads of a rural village lined with small huts not much bigger than a typical American kitchen. We first visited Sendeafe, a 45-year-old mother of two. Before, her family’s diet consisted only of sorghum and maize – and so her 3-year-old son became malnourished. Then Ngist previously suggested Sendeafe sell the sorghum and maize at the local market and use the money to buy healthier foods, like eggs and vegetables. Today, Sendafe’s sweet little boy is doing much better as a result.
Like me, and mothers across America, Sendeafe wants her kids to grow up healthy and strong so they may perform well in school, fight off illness and reach their full potential. Yet whether in Los Angeles or rural Ethiopia, it became clear that a mother’s ability to provide for her children is not always tied to income, but rather to education.
Dinka, 37, is another mom I met. As a shopkeeper, she could afford more than Sendeafe and others in her village. Even so, until recently Dinka never had the chance to learn the importance of proper nutrition. She used to feed her 1-year-old son only cow’s milk, and so her little boy wasn’t growing properly. With the help of Nigist, Dinka learned how to create a variety of porridge from onions, tomatoes and potatoes to ensure her family received the nutrition they needed to survive and thrive.
I met many mothers who didn’t know the benefits of solely breastfeeding their babies at first – both to protect against contaminated water, and to build their babies’ immune systems. One of these moms, Fikrt, brought her 4-month-old baby to a health post for vaccinations. While there, she also received counseling from a nurse on the important role exclusive breastfeeding plays in nourishing her child and how breastfeeding should be supplemented with healthy foods after the baby reaches six months of age.
Of course, resources are also a critical ingredient in the fight against child malnutrition.
At a USAID-funded urban garden program, I met moms who were each provided a plot of land to grow and harvest such healthy items as cabbage, onions and tomatoes for their family. If they have a surplus, they can sell it to earn extra money. Many of the mothers told me how they now realize how important it is to provide their family with healthy vegetables to supplement their traditional staple – the flat, spongy bread called injera- so their children may develop properly.
The trip was remarkably hopeful and I know with more support, more children can have better futures in Ethiopia and around the world. As founder of Chefs for Humanity, I ask that everyone who appreciates good food and good health to speak up for those children who can achieve it with our help.
Together, we can share the recipe for success and urge our world leaders to take action on behalf of the world’s children. After all, every child deserves a healthy start in life.
January 12, 2012
So many of us are lucky enough to gather with loved ones over delicious food and drink. Unfortunately, not everyone has such luck.
As you may know, I founded Chefs for Humanity after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, with a vision of bringing together the special talents of the culinary community to address hunger and malnutrition both domestically and overseas. We have had impact in Haiti, and are also very proud to be partnering with the Let's Move! Campaign, bringing nutrition education to schools to combat teenage obesity and improve health for kids.
During January and February, we are proud to be part of Food & Wine Magazine's "Chefs Make Change" coalition. This campaign speaks to the collective power the culinary community has for positive impact on hunger and nutrition - the very idea Chefs for Humanity was founded on.
Click the Food & Wine Chefs Make Change link, or visit Chefs for Humanity to learn more about how I, along with nine other of the world's leading chefs, are changing the world for the better -- and please consider donating to Chefs (look for my photo and the donate button). Your donations will help Chefs for Humanity in its efforts to alleviate hunger and improve nutrition for children in need, both here at home and abroad.
Please share this with your family and friends. Your collective contributions will add up to great change!
As always, we appreciate your support and generosity.