Eating healthy can be flavorful!

Healthy Turkey, Potato & Kale Soup

Chef Renee's Healthy Turkey, Potato & Kale Soup

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about working towards a healthier Chef Reneé. It seems many of you are thinking along the same vein. I’ve received so many questions from folks in the community about it, I thought I’d just use this week’s column to address some of the things you are telling me you want to know about. I love your questions and comments. Please continue to email me at Enjoy!

Dear Chef Reneé,

Why is it important to eat “whole” grains and what are they?

— Kim S.

Dear Kim,

This is a great question. The addition of whole grains in your diet will make a huge difference in your body’s regulation of metabolism. Want to rev up your metabolism and feel full longer? Drop the white rice, white bread and sugars and eat brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta instead.

Here’s how it works. Grains are the edible seeds of grasses such as wheat, oats, corn, rice, rye and barley. Grains are made up of three parts. The endosperm is the large center area, which is high in starch and also contains some protein. At one end of the endosperm is the germ, which is rich in vitamins, minerals and oils and allows the plant to reproduce. The bran contains most of the fiber and other nutrients and covers the germ and endosperm.

When the bran and germ are separated from the endosperm, the grain is called refined or milled. Examples would be white rice and white flour or any product made from white flour, like white bread. Notice in this instance, all the good-for-you parts have been removed….fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy plant oils.

Whole grains are powerhouses of nutrients and are inexpensive. They are rich in phytochemicals, substances which reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease when consumed often. They are also a great source of antioxidants and high in fiber, which keeps you feeling full longer than refined grains, reduces your risk of colon cancer and keeps your system regular, to put it delicately.

Sometimes it can be confusing to determine if an item on the grocery store shelf is whole grain. For example, you may see bread on the shelf that is called “wheat bread” or “100 percent wheat” and think you are doing good to buy it. In reality, it may be made mostly of white, refined flour with molasses or caramel added to make it look like whole wheat. Make sure to read the nutritional label. Whole grain should be the first ingredient listed.

The USDA recommends eating three servings daily of whole grains. Try some. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the rich, nutty flavor and your body will thank you.

Chef R-

Dear Chef Reneé,

What do you think about these diets that don’t allow you to eat carbohydrates? Also, what is the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates?

— Sharon A.

Dear Sharon,

To be honest, I don’t really think much of diets that disallow a whole food group. Everyone I’ve ever known who didn’t eat carbohydrates were really grumpy.

Our bodies need nutrients in each of the food groups to function properly. Carbohydrates, in particular, are the body’s primary source of energy. If your body can’t find any carbohydrates for energy, it will begin to break down protein to get energy. This is less than ideal because your body needs protein to build and repair muscles.

Another thing that can happen is the body can start to use fat for energy. The problem with this is if the body burns fat for energy because there are no carbohydrates available, the process is incomplete and can result in a condition called ketosis, which can cause dehydration and could even lead to coma.

That being said, it is important to know the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. We should make a concerted effort to consume the complex carbs and lay off the simple ones. Simple carbohydrates are really sugars – glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, maltose, lactose – all the “-ose’s.” This is stuff like soda, candy, sweetened cereal, table sugar, cake, cookies, and yes, catsup. Complex carbs are the good guys. These include whole grains, fruit, legumes and veggies.

When you add some great complex carbs to your diet, you will enjoy a better functioning intestinal tract, lower blood cholesterol, and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Turns out an apple a day really does keep the doctor away.

Chef R-

Dear Chef Renee,

What are some easy substitutions I can make in recipes to lower the calories?

— Brad S.

Dear Brad,

I’m really glad you asked this question. So many times, people think they don’t want to eat healthier because they think food won’t be as flavorful. Here are some easy swaps that will work in most recipes.

In Place Of

* Whole Milk — use  1% milk (even I can’t do skim)

* Buttermilk — use 7 1/2 tablespoons skim milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice

* Heavy Cream — use  evaporated skim milk

* Sour Cream — use low-fat sour cream or plain greek yogart

* Ice Cream — use frozen yogurt

* 1 cup Oil in quick breads — use 1/2 cup oil + 1/2 cup pureed fruit

* Mayonnaise — use low fat mayo or plain non-fat yogart, on a  sandwich, try hummus

* 1 cup Nuts — use 1/2 cup nuts, toasted

* 1 cup Coconut — use 1/2 cup toasted coconut + 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

* Ground Beef — use ground turkey + a little  soy or fish sauce

* Whole fat Cheeses — use low fat cheese (fat free doesn’t melt well)

* Cream Cheese — use low fat cream cheese or neufchatel

* Salad Dressing — use salsa, balsamic vinegar, mustard and lemon juice

Hope these help. Eating good for you really can also be full of flavor and satisfying.

Chef R-

Chef Reneé’s Healthy 

Turkey, Potato & Kale Soup

 2 tablespoons olive oil

3 leeks, white part only, sliced lengthwise and soaked

2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press

1 pound ground turkey

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly

3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 bunch of kale, washed, stems trimmed out and roughly chopped

1/2 cup 1% milk

salt and pepper

shredded parmesan for garnish

Finely chop the leeks. Heat oil in a large pot. Add leeks to the pan and saute 2-3 minutes. Season with a little salt. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add the ground turkey and soy sauce. Cook, breaking up the turkey meat with a wooden spoon until browned.

Deglaze the pot with the wine. Add the chicken broth, carrots and potatoes, with enough water to cover. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are halfway done. Add the kale and continue to cook until vegetables are tender. Add milk and heat through. Taste for proper seasoning levels. Garnish with parmesan cheese.