Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito shares his genius strategies for transforming comfort-food indulgences into fat-burning powerhouses.
When it comes to food, Rocco DiSpirito isn’t one to sacrifice flavor for nutrition. “You can be healthy, lose weight and still enjoy amazing food all day long,” he promises. The key, he’s found, is filling up on plant foods like vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains. “These foods simply taste better. Plus, they’re great for weight loss because their calories are used efficiently by the body, making them less likely to be stored as fat,” Rocco explains. Indeed, research shows that dieters who favor this way of eating lose 242 percent more weight. Read on for tricks to jump-start your slim-down!
Turn coconut yogurt into slimming dressings.
To give dressings and dips extra-rich texture and delicious tangy flavor, Rocco relies on coconut yogurt. “It works the way mayonnaise would in recipes, but it comes with enough health benefits to fill an encyclopedia,” he notes. Indeed, research in the International Journal of Obesity shows that the medium-chain fatty acids in the tropical favorite prod the thyroid to produce more energizing hormones, boosting metabolism by up to 56 percent for three hours.
Try puffed rice to fill up on fewer calories.
“Puffed brown rice is low in calories, fat-free, sodium-free, and gluten free — I use it as a healthy filler rather than bread crumbs and it performs beautifully,” notes Rocco. “It’ a great way to stretch a pound of meat into two pounds of meatballs. And since the starch in the brown rice absorbs liquid in meat mixes, the net result is tender, juicier meatballs.”
That’ not the only perk: Using puffed rice in place of bread crumbs also slashes 367 calories and 66 grams of carbs per cup, plus adds 200 percent more filling fiber. And research in the British Journal of Nutrition found that enjoying high-fiber fare helps dieters lose up to five times more weight than those who opt for low-fiber foods.
Blend in nuts to add creaminess sans bloat.
“Dairy contains two proteins that many people can’t digest, so I do my best to avoid it,” notes Rocco. But he still enjoys silky-smooth soups with help from cashews and almonds. “If you blend almost any nut with water, you’ get a very thick and creamy liquid that functions almost exactly like cream,” he explains.
“These creams taste amazing because nuts are inherently delicious. In fact, I think pureed nuts taste superior to heavy, fattening cream any day.” As a welcome bonus, Penn State University researchers found that healthy fats in nuts dial down the output of hunger hormones to help dieters lose 64 percent more weight.
Use the microwave to make low-carb treats.
“Sometimes it’s tough to find gluten-free bread or buns without a lot of extraneous stuff and preservatives, so why not make your own?” asks Rocco. With some experimentation, he found that he could make convincing bread in the microwave in minutes with just five ingredients.
The best part: “This bread has 90 percent less empty carb calories and 500 percent more protein than wheat breads and it toasts nicely,” promises Rocco. To make: In a bowl, whisk 1/3 cup of buckwheat flour or almond meal, 1/2 tsp. of baking powder, 1 egg, 2 Tbs. of almond or coconut milk, and a pinch of salt. Pour mixture into a coffee cup coated with cooking spray and microwave for 90 seconds. Turn out and cut into four slices.
The bonus: This low-calorie, gluten-free bread is low on the glycemic index-a measure of how quickly blood sugar and insulin levels rise after eating. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that sticking with low-glycemic foods helps optimize metabolism and keeps blood sugar steady to ward off cravings.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.