Now Eat This: Healthy Meal Makeovers with Celebrity Chef Rocco DiSpirito
By Fabiana Santana
What are the first things that come to mind when you think of a good Italian boy? We bet food, good looks and a loving mama are in the top three, especially when said Italian boy is superstar chef Rocco DiSpirito.
He first gained widespread acclaim after opening Union Pacific, his multi-starred restaurant in New York City. He was voted America’s Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine and was the first chef to land the cover of Gourmet magazine’s “America’s Most Exciting Young Chef” issue. And he practically created food reality TV with his hit series The Restaurant. So, yes, the man can cook. Which means he can eat. But he didn’t become People magazine’s “Sexiest Chef Alive” by stuffing his face. Rocco is an avid triathlete and is a spokesperson for Feeding America, Food Bank for New York City , and Dr. Oz’s Healthcorps. For Rocco, healthy and delicious are no longer mutually exclusive. And he’s got the recipes to prove it.
“If you don’t know already,” writes Dr. Oz in Rocco’s latest book Now Eat This Diet, “ Rocco can take the most fattening, heart-unhealthy recipes and turn them into miraculous nutrient-packed, delectable, mouthwatering meals. He cuts the calories, the trans fats, the saturated fats, the simple carbs, the sugar – all the bat stuff – without cutting the flavor.” So, how does he do it? By choosing the right ingredients. That means nixing bad sugars in favor of what he calls “good sugars” (think agave nectar and honey), cutting fat by using egg whites or egg substitutes in stead of whole eggs and subbing out low-fat or nonfat yogurt for sour cream in your favorite Mexican dishes and choosing all natural products like La Tortilla Factory low-carb tortillas and Coffee-mate Natural Bliss flavored creamers made with simple ingredients like nonfat milk, heavy cream, sugar and all natural flavor like vanilla bean.
“When a company like Nestle invests millions of dollars in research and development to create an all natural, healthy product that will probably not be as profitable as the other stuff on the market, that is a case of the people talking and the man listening. In my opinion, that is revolutionary.” Products like this, Rocco says, help make healthy living a lifestyle rather than a diet. “The low fat vanilla variety has just 20 calories and 1 gram of fat per tablespoon. Whip some of that up in the morning for your coffee and you’ve got a quick, low cal, low sugar cappuccino.” Or use it in a smoothie with fresh squeezed orange juice and a frozen banana. For a recent press breakfast, Rocco mixed it with egg white powder, light ricotta cheese, orange zest and mint for a creamy stuffed crepe that was under 110 per serving.
That’s the kind of thinking behind Now Eat This Diet and the Now Eat This food truck – Rocco’s mobile restaurant serving up healthy version of comfort dishes to New Yorkers. Think carb-free chicken noodle soup (182 calories), healthy chicken and broccoli stir fry (245 calories), general Tso’s chicken (310 calories) and Mama’s meatballs with ziti marinara (345 calories). Bonus: Every Friday Rocco’s Now Eat This truck visits an area school and the chef spends the day teaching kids how to cook and eat healthy and then all the kids get to enjoy a healthy, free lunch together. So basically, when you feed yourself at Now Eat This truck, you are not only getting a healthy, home cooked meal, but you are also feeding a classroom full of students for the day. (Think about that the next time you’re stopping for a lunchtime slice, New Yorkers!)
“My favorites have been the first and sixth graders,” says Rocco. “They are so excited and happy to learn!”
In September 2012 Rocco’s syndicated show Now Eat This! Kids will air across America. In each episode, Rocco will challenge, guide and encourage a family and their children to make healthier lifestyle choices.
Recipes by Rocco DiSpirito
- 1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 container (7 ounces) plain low-fat Greek yogurt (about ¾ cup)
- ½ cup Coffee-mate Natural Bliss Low-Fat Vanilla
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 3 cups fresh berries or sliced fruit
- 6 springs fresh mint
- low-fat granola (optional)
Place cheese, yogurt, Coffee-mate and honey in a blender; cover. Blend for 2 minutes or until completely smooth. Spoon into individual bowls; top with berries and sprinkle with granola.
- 1 tsp. matcha stone ground green tea powder
- 1 tbsp. water
- cocktail shaker
- ice cubes
- 3/4 cup low-fat milk
- 2 tbsp. Coffee-mate Natural Bliss Low-fat Vanilla
Combine matcha with water in cocktail shaker; stir until dissolved. Fill cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add milk and Coffee-mate; shake well to blend. Strain into medium glass filled with ice and serve.
Orange Vanilla Bliss Recipe
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¼ cup Coffee-mate Natural Bliss vanilla
- ½ frozen or room temperature banana
- ½ cup ice cubes
Place OJ, Coffee-mate, banana and ice in blender; cover. Blend until smooth.
Healthy Loaded Potato Skins Recipe
Ever order stuffed potato skins as an appetizer at a dinner-house chain? Estimated damage in a typical 12-ounce (8-skin) serving: some 600 to 1,100 calories and 40 to 80 grams of fat, most of them artery-clogging. But don’t panic. There’s no reason to stop eating potato skins-as long as they are the ones in my recipe. They’re light because of reduced-fat ingredients like cheddar cheese and sour cream.
- 2 medium russet potatoes (about 8 ounces each), scrubbed
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup mild or spicy salsa, such as Pace
- 1 cup (about 1 ounce) coarsely crumbled baked corn chips, such as Guiltless Gourmet
- 1 cup shredded (about 3½ ounces) 50% reduced-fat cheddar cheese, such as Cabot
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper (leave the seeds in if you like it hot)
- ¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream, such as Breakstone’s
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
159 calories 8g fat (4g sat / 0.5g mono / 1g poly) 21mg cholesterol 622mg sodium 15g carbohydrates 2g fiber 10g protein
- Preheat the oven to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and set it aside.
- Prick the surface of the potatoes several times with a fork. Microwave the potatoes on high until they are completely cooked through, about 12 minutes, turning them halfway through. Let the potatoes cool until you can handle them.
- Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scoop out and discard (or reserve for another use) the flesh of the potatoes, leaving a very thin wall of flesh-less than ¼ inch thick-attached to the skin.
- Put the potato shells on the prepared baking sheet, hollowed side up. Spray them inside and out with cooking spray, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake the potato shells until they are golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 10 minutes. If the bottoms of the shells start to brown too much, flip the shells over and continue baking.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons of salsa into each shell. Scatter the crumbled chips over the salsa. Toss the cheese and jalapeño together in a small bowl and top the chips with the cheese mix. Bake until the cheese is bubbly, about 8 minutes.
- Serve the potatoes topped with dollops of sour cream and the remaining salsa and a sprinkling of cilantro.
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