Spa chefs' secrets

Learn how the pros make light, tantalizing meals
LINDA LAU ANUSASANANAN

Healthy Diet Recipes:

 

Postholiday diet resolutions number about the same as the adult population. Of course, what constitutes a healthy diet is a matter of debate. What isn't debatable is that if the food doesn't taste good, the diet won't stick. 

"For healthy food to be embraced, not just tolerated, it must have vibrant flavors and textures that are pleasing and familiar ― as well as maintain a low-fat nutritional profile," says executive chef Jim Gallivan of Red Mountain Spa in Utah. We went to Gallivan and other talented spa chefs to find out what techniques they use to create terrific-tasting light dishes.

In the first place, we found that while fat is still getting a lot of attention, it's not always as the enemy. Health experts vary on how much they recommend; the generally advised limit is 20 to 30 percent of your day's total calories.

Many of the chefs we talked to achieve that through balance ― some dishes over that range, some under. But most agree that fat is necessary, even good ― especially the omega-3 fatty acids present in salmon and other cold-water fish and the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and avocados. 

Questions of food science aside, most spa chefs share one philosophy: variety, balance, and moderation are the keys to eating well.

Their cooking is based on healthy, fiber-dense foods, such as whole grains, and antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits. To that they add moderate portions of heart-healthy proteins like those in fish, nuts, and legumes.

To make your resolutions a pleasure this year, we collected specific cooking tips and delicious dishes that incorporate them.