New Orleans is hardly known for its healthy fare, but Molly Kimball and her Eat Fit team are revolutionizing restaurants in the Crescent City. Our Eat Fit Cookbook shows you how renowned chefs are re-making the region’s most famous dishes to be nutritious and delicious. Not only are these healthful dishes impressive enough to appear on New Orleans’ most acclaimed menus, they are also easy enough to make at home.
“New Orleans leading the way on nutrition. Go figure!” – Ti Martin, co-proprietor of Commander’s Palace Restaurant.
THE EAT FIT STORY
The Crescent City is well known for its reputation of debauchery and divine deep-fried delicacies. In our culture, food is more than nutrition – it’s an obsession. Five minutes after lunch, we’re talking about dinner. But usually we are talking about the decadence of our meals, not the healthfulness.
I love dining out, and New Orleans is one of the best places in the world to do so. However, as a registered dietitian and nutrition journalist in the New Orleans area for more 20 years, it hasn’t always been so easy to find nutritious options at our famous restaurants.
So, I collaborated with some of the most iconic restaurants in the New Orleans area to create Ochsner Eat Fit, a nonprofit initiative that encourages chefs to offer nutritious, delicious menu options for those who want to eat clean, look better, feel better and for those watching their weight, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. My goal is to take the guesswork out of dining healthfully, making the healthy choice the easy choice.
And, it’s working!
Today, Eat Fit recipes are featured in more than 300 restaurants including Commander’s Palace, Ye Old College Inn and Mosca’s. Eat Fit can be found in the area’s largest tourist destinations, such as the Superdome, Audubon Zoo and the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Eat Fit approved items are on the menu at LSU Campus Dining, University of Louisiana at Lafayette and dozens of local schools. And we are beyond thrilled that Eat Fit has now expanded across the state of Louisiana and beyond.
As my friend and Eat Fit Chef Ambassador Carl Schaubhut says, “If you can make this work in New Orleans, you can do it anywhere!”
Our Eat Fit Cookbook shares our restaurant partners’ delicious recipes and arms home cooks with tips and tricks they can use in their own kitchens, at the grocery store and in their daily meal presentations to amp up their dinner game. I will also provide insight and share tips of the nutrition trade to help you make better choices in your daily food decisions, and not just when preparing these dishes.
There’s a lot of misinformation and misperceptions about what we should and shouldn’t eat. We cut through this confusion and teach readers how to eat to optimally to fuel their bodies with foods they love. We’ve included educational features, charts and visuals to answer some of the most common questions I hear in my practice as a registered dietitian. My goal is to make it easy to eat clean, look and feel great, and live our strongest, healthiest lives possible.
HOW EAT FIT STARTED
When I am dining out, it’s not uncommon to run into clients, readers and viewers who turn to me for guidance in the sometimes-daunting task of navigating a restaurant menu, seeking out the better-for-you fare. People often WANT to make the healthy choice, but they don’t know how.
My husband suggested I do something about it – work with restaurants to incorporate nutritious options onto their menus. But where would I even begin?
Enter Ochsner Health System, my employer of more than 20 years. Our then-CEO, Dr. Patrick Quinlan, wanted Ochsner to have a bigger and broader impact on the communities it served. He asked me how we might reach people BEFORE they became our patients.
Roughly half of American adults have at least one chronic health condition such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity or arthritis. The good news is that science continues to show us that we can prevent or manage nearly all of these through nutrition and lifestyle changes. Combine this with the fact that nearly half of our food dollars are spent away from the home, and the answer to Dr. Quinlan’s question was remarkably clear.
I proposed to Ochsner a program that married the two: work with local restaurants to incorporate nutritious-yet-still-delicious items onto the menu, eliminating the guesswork for consumers who want to dine healthfully.
We were already working with Commander’s Palace, a New Orleans culinary landmark, to highlight heart-healthy choices on their menu. I wanted to take it a few nutritional steps further, and if one chef was willing to do it, perhaps I could get more to join.
Eat Fit, a nonprofit initiative of Ochsner Health System, was born in 2013.
HOW EAT FIT WORKS
Our approach is straightforward: our team of dietitians works closely with restaurants, markets and other foodservice establishments to identify and develop dishes that meet the Eat Fit nutritional criteria. These items are highlighted directly on the restaurant’s menu with the Eat Fit seal. (And it’s no surprise that every recipe in this book has the Eat Fit seal of approval!)
The Eat Fit nutritional criteria are centered on foods and nutrients that help us look and feel our best. They’re also designed with a preventive and therapeutic approach in mind. No refined carbohydrates, a lighter hand on salt, little or no added sugar and a greater emphasis on plant-based fats means that Eat Fit is a perfect choice for those watching their waistlines, as well as blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eat Fit dishes are also naturally rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, linked to a host of benefits from our brains to our joints to our hearts. Basically, more of the stuff we want in our foods, and less (or none) of the stuff we don’t want.
Originally when we approached restaurants with the Eat Fit concept, some thought we were a little nuts. “Guests want to indulge, not watch their waistlines,” chefs said. “A slimmed-down version of shrimp and grits won’t taste good.” But ultimately, top New Orleans chefs gave me the opportunity to prove that there is a market for healthier options – not only for the 10 million tourists who dine at our acclaimed restaurants each year, but also for our residents who live and work in New Orleans.
We dove into menus to find dishes that needed just a slight tweak or two to become Eat Fit-approved. In some cases, we collaborated with chefs to create entirely new dishes.
We refuse to change the fabric of the great dishes that our chefs create, and we don’t want our recipe edits to be noticeable to their guests. An Eat Fit dish has to make the chef proud and pass the customer taste test.
The recipes found throughout our cookbook are home versions of these dishes that our chefs created for Eat Fit. All have appeared on the menus of New Orleans’ top restaurants or have been featured on various media outlets. All have been tested in home kitchens for ease of preparation.
Through Eat Fit, we’ve connected with our community of chefs in ways that we never expected, gently guiding and encouraging subtle lifestyle changes that impact not just their menus, but also the wellness of the chef, their staff and their families.
By using these recipes and trying the suggested tips and techniques, you will learn how to transform your favorite recipes and expand your repertoire far beyond the recipes in this book. We can’t eat out all the time. But there’s no reason the food we eat at home can’t taste like it was made by a famous chef. The recipes in this book will eliminate the nutrition guesswork and help all of us Eat Fit any time, any place.
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