This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 edition of Living Intown Magazine.
The typical New Year’s resolution to eat better often results in a been-there, failed-at-it repeat of promises gone by. We know we need to cut the junk and bump up the fruits and veggies, but the best intentions often fall away by February.
“People often think that eating healthy means it’s going to be boring,” says Jason Hall, executive chef of Hampton + Hudson on North Highland Avenue. “But that’s a misconception. As long as you keep it fresh, it will be interesting.”
Hall, along with a Northside Hospital nutritionist and a fitness guru, offers some helpful reminders on how to eat healthier in 2017.
Executive chef Jason Hall
At home, Hall has a few rules that guide his eating habits: “I stay away from processed food and avoid anything that’s packaged.” He’s a fan of using herbs, vinegars and lemons to spice up just about any dish. He applies that same approach to the kitchen at Hampton + Hudson Community Bar and Restaurant. Just because the word “bar” is in the name doesn’t mean he’s turning out the typical salty, fried pub grub.
“It’s okay to have a little animal fat, but we’re big on greens, vegetables and grains,” he says. “I like to use spices and acids to get a lot of flavor without fat. For instance, our grilled cauliflower is flavored with an Indian spice. The puree of carrots has lemongrass and ginger, and instead of using butter for the puree, we add a little olive oil for a bit of richness. And the vegans love it.”
At both home and work, Hall uses apple cider vinegar for a variety of dishes. “It has a high acidity and a slight amount of sweetness,” he says. “It’s like lemon: Just a splash can bring out a smokiness or a little bit of spice in a dish.”
Though Hall’s resume includes the five-star Sea Island resort and Midtown’s Livingston, he advocates for keeping it simple. “If you’re buying fruits, vegetables and proteins, you’ll have a lot less sodium and sugar, and a much healthier diet,” he says.
Outpatient dietitian Leah Galante
Whether patients need nutrition info to lose weight or alleviate a medical condition, nutritionist Leah Galante first assesses what they’re doing and identifies where improvements can be made. But she doesn’t just handle nutrition plans; she also manages expectations.
“We look at the changes we can make right now — small, reasonable, achievable changes,” says Galante, an outpatient dietitian at Northside Hospital. “That’s what will get them to the end goal: weight loss and healthier lifestyle.”
Instead of shooting to lose 50 pounds in five months, Galante encourages patients to narrow their thinking and try to shed one to two pounds a week. “Don’t be fooled by those people on TV who are losing 10 to 20 pounds in a short period; that’s not realistic,” she says. “When you set grand goals for drastic weight loss, it’s too easy to get discouraged. Instead, focus on what’s small and reasonable, and don’t get caught up by ‘amazing’ results.”
A small but significant change involves breakfast choices. Galante recommends whole grains with a fruit or vegetable: low-fat Greek yogurt with fruit, whole grain cereal with nuts and fruits. “Oatmeal is a good option because it’s high in protein, and you can sweeten it with fresh fruit, almonds or walnuts.”
She argues that consistency is key with eating three meals a day, about three to five hours apart.
“Meals don’t have to be at set time, but keep them within that range,” she says. “That keeps the metabolism regular.”
Some of Galante’s patients struggle to find the time to eat healthy, which can take some planning, but is not impossible.
“I know everyone in Atlanta is sitting in traffic, but if you take time to prepare a healthy snack or take lunch to work, it will prevent you from grabbing fast food,” she says. “Think about what your week will look like, then find a couple of hours to prepare some lean proteins, like grilled chicken, in advance. During the week when there’s less time to cook, you can heat things up. Some meal delivery programs can also help with this.”
It takes time to break old habits, but staying the course can yield remarkable results, she says. “Remember the good things you’re doing. And know that you may not see grand change right away, but losing a pound a week for a year is 50 pounds. Just give it time and don’t get discouraged.”
Galante suggests packing breakfast quiches with plenty of veggies and baking them in muffin tins, so they can be frozen and thawed at short notice. Pair with whole grain toast or an English muffin.
Fitness coach/cafe owner Tammy Stokes
After nine years of whipping Atlantans into shape at West Coast Workout, her Buckhead studio, Tammy Stokes is now showing them how to enhance their diets. The debut of Cafe West Express now allows Stokes to meld the two essentials for anyone serious about self-improvement: nutrition and exercise.
“It’s not just about nutrition and exercise, it’s about what you’re practicing every day,” says Stokes, a Californian who studied physical education and nutrition in college. “There are active people who are stressed out all the time, and that negates the good they’re doing. And you can’t just eat healthier.”
Stokes helps clients make “simple, understandable and doable” changes that fit their lifestyles. “For instance, I’m not going to spend $300 on ingredients, take them home and cook them — not gonna happen,” she says. “I need something simpler.”
A few years ago, Stokes put her ideas for simpler, more nutritious foods into “Live Your Healthiest Life,” a book of 65 recipes. Her favorites are the low-sodium, high-fiber vegetable soups, some of which will be served in the cafe. Her own favorites? “For lunch, I love a big salad,” she says. “If I’m really hungry, I’ll throw it into a wrap – that’s a little more satisfying. I also cook twice a week, on Sunday and Wednesday, so it saves time.”
Eating more plants, fruits and vegetables is a universal law for weight loss and health, Stokes says. “Put less focus on animal fats and proteins, and in a year, you can transform your health and appearance. But it starts with understanding why you’re doing it, and taking it one step at a time.”
The Atlanta-based Gather & Garnish prepares ready-to-cook repasts using locally sourced, natural ingredients. Members can sign up for one to five meals a week with pick-up or delivery options.