Director of Nutrition and Dietary Services at Nutrisystem
Joining Nutrisystem for a 3-month internship is Max Sugarman, a culinary nutrition student from Johnson & Wales University. I had the pleasure to chat with Max about his culinary training and to get some tips for our Nutrisystem customers.
Mary: Max, you mentioned that you had taken classes at Johnson & Wales in “Spa Cuisine.” What are the requirements for Spa Cuisine?
Max: Spa Cuisine can best be described as the combination of upscale and healthy foods. Spa Cuisine does not necessarily follow a strict set of guidelines or an intense food preparation process. In most cases spas will create their menus by:
· focusing on using fresh and seasonal ingredients
· having a creative culinary approach when it comes to preparation
· having an elegant plate presentation
· including an ethnic theme, which usually comes from the background of the executive chef
· designing meal choices that use healthy ingredients
Mary: How do you think the Nutrisystem meal plan aligns with the concept of Spa Cuisine?
Max: Nutrisystem meals and snacks are focused around healthy ingredients, like lean meats, healthy fats, whole grains and lots of fresh vegetables and fruit- all of which are important in creating menus for Spa Cuisine. Nutrisystem also has world-renowned chefs who help inspire different ethnic meals for the customers to select from.
Mary: When you are creating a dinner menu, what is your primary concern?
Max: For any chef the primary concern should always be the flavor and taste. Even if the food is attractive and nutritious, if it does not taste good, nobody will eat it. It’s the job of a good chef to combine good flavor with proper nutrition and appearance.
Mary: What tips can you suggest for making meals more healthy as well as better tasting ?
Max: When people are cooking at home it is very easy to improve the flavor of a dish by adding a lot of unhealthy ingredients, such as butter, cream, cheese, and salt. Here are some easy tips to help avoid using high fat ingredients, and also to improve the flavor of your dish.
1. Use cooking methods that do not involve a lot of fat or oil, such as grilling, roasting, stewing, or steaming. These methods will give your meal flavor without adding a lot of extra calories.
2. Incorporate whole grains whenever possible. For example, for recipes using flour, try combining half wholewheat flour and half regular.
3. It is important to choose lean meats that do not have a lot of fat and cholesterol. Examples of lean meats are skinless chicken breast, turkey breast, fish, pork loin, and flank steak.
4. Use herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chives, and cilantro or chili peppers and lemon or lime zest to add flavor without extra calories. Ethnic spices also can intensify flavor and have health benefits as well, like turmeric in Indian food, ginger in Asian food, and garlic in Italian food.
5. When an ingredient high in fat content is needed for a recipe, add it last. Fattening foods, such as cheeses and sauces, may add a mild flavor to your meal. When added last to the dish, the flavor will stick out more and less will be needed.
Mary: Do you have a personal preference when it comes to ethnic cuisines? French, Spanish, Chinese, etc? And which ethnic cuisine do you feel is the healthiest?
Max: I do not have a personal preference when it comes to ethnic cuisines- I love all foods. A lot depends on the
skill of the chef and the freshness of the ingredients. It’s hard to say which cuisine is the healthiest. Many Asian cuisines, though, do a great job using local ingredients, such as fresh fish, colorful vegetables and spices that offer significant health benefits.
Mary: Thanks for the information, Max, and I hope you enjoy your internship at Nutrisystem.