After 11 seasons as the nutritionist for NBC's The Biggest Loser, I've learned a great deal about the typical eating habits of many Americans, particularly the habits that cause weight gain. When I sit down with the contestants at The Biggest Loser Ranch for their one-on-one personal nutrition consultations, we review their food journals, and I help them understand how their food choices–both good and bad impact their waistlines and their overall health.
Oftentimes, they're shocked to discover just how many calories they've been taking in, as well as the unlikely sources of those extra calories. Some contestants are stunned to learn that they've been consuming an entire day's worth of calories in their beverages alone, while others discover that the seemingly "healthy choices" they've been making aren't nearly as nutritious or as low in calories as they'd assumed.
A surprising number of these excess calories come in the form of sauces, dressings, oils, marinades, and condiments–which, if not used carefully, can turn a healthy meal into a nutritional nightmare and, over time, add up to pounds of extra weight. For example, consider the bowl of French onion dip that we enjoy with our crudites, the dab of creamy mayo we use to enliven our sandwich, or even the bottled Caesar vinaigrette that seems "healthier" than creamy ranch. Just 1/4 cup of the dip can have as many as 200 calories (most of which come from fat), while a mere tablespoon of mayo can add 90 calories (all of them fat) to your otherwise virtuous turkey sandwich. Even that Caesar vinaigrette can contain 150 calories in a modest 2-tablespoon serving. And when you don't keep careful track of portion sizes, the calories add up even faster.
One reason why we always seem to be pouring, slathering, and dipping our foods with tasty extras is because our taste buds have become accustomed to the intense flavors of highly processed foods–from salty to sweet, spicy to creamy. Most dips and condiments available at the grocery store are loaded with sodium, fat, and refined sugars. And the more fake food we eat, the more our taste buds crave outrageous, manufactured flavors that can overwhelm the more subtle, natural flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins.
Many of my clients are reluctant to part with their highly processed favorites because they don't think their cravings can be satisfied with "healthy food." But it's a misconception that simple, nutritious foods can't be absolutely bursting with flavor. And that's why I wanted to write this book.
In Flavor First, you'll learn how to tease out and enhance the natural, delicious flavors of fresh foods and create plenty of zing–naturally. From creating your own spice rubs and marinades, to whipping up delicious sauces and vinaigrettes, to learning simple cooking techniques that will add layers of flavor to your food, Flavor First will give you plenty of options for adding some zest to your weeknight routine and show you that healthy food is anything but bland.
Sofrito is a sautéed vegetable mixture used as a seasoning in much of Latin America and the Caribbean. There are as many variations of sofrito as there are curries or mole, though it usually contains bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, onion, and sometimes tomatoes. Sofrito is typically chunky, but I’ve pureed it to use as a sauce. Sofrito is delicious on eggs, such as the Huevos Sofrito, and is the perfect topping for enchiladas and Southwestern-style pasta.
Makes 2 cups
1 red bell pepper, roasted and peeled
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup canned no-salt-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup packed cilantro sprigs
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Chipotle Puree
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Combine the roasted pepper, onion, tomatoes, broth, cilantro, garlic, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, and chipotle puree (if using) in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a skillet and simmer, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and the mixture is fragrant. Season with salt and black pepper.
Use immediately or refrigerate for 3 or 4 days.
Per 1/2 cup: 30 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, 6 g total carbohydrates (3 g sugars), 1 g fiber, 1 g protein