Running saved my life, says Art Smith, 51, who was Oprah Winfrey’s chef for 10 years and owns restaurants in Atlanta, Washington and Chicago.
Four years ago, Smith – raised on biscuits and gravy – overindulged in all his favorite comfort foods. And it showed. At 147kg, he had type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. ‘I knew I had to do something,’ he says. With the help of coach Az Ferguson, author of The Game On! Diet, he started walking, then alternating walking and running.
Smith also started to rethink his diet. He realised ‘the recipe for healthy eating isn’t that complicated,’ says Smith. ‘The less processed, the better.’ As the kilos slipped off (he’s lost 55 to date), his blood pressure returned to normal and his diabetes vanished. In 2010 he ran his first marathon, in 4:32.
So while Smith’s diet is much healthier, he hasn’t given up his favorite comfort foods. ‘When people think healthy, they think of a salad. But that’s not the only choice. It’s easy to remake burgers, fried chicken and burritos into meals that don’t go over the top on kilojoules.’
Here’s how Smith does it.
With simple soups, it’s easy to reduce ingredients you should eat less of – high-fat dairy and salt, for instance – and boost healthy ingredients like vegetables or whole grains.
Comfort fix: To make sweetcorn chowder, reduce the cream and add cashew butter, which contains heart-healthy oils. Soak raw cashews overnight in cold water. Put in a blender (adding cold water to cover) and blend on high until smooth.
Swop butter, which is high in saturated fat, with vegetable oils – most of which contain unsaturated fats. But remember that while oils such as olive and canola are healthy, they are still high-kilojoule.
Comfort fix: In pie crust, replace some butter with oil. Use ¼ less oil than butter (for 1 cup butter, use ¾ cup canola).
Many runners don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Smith, who loves vitamin-rich asparagus and broccoli, tries to add veggies to every meal.
Comfort fix: Add broccoli, corn, or spinach to classics like tuna casserole.
The healthiest cuisines, from Asia to the Mediterranean, use meat sparingly.
Comfort fix: Instead of sausage in pasta sauce, add white kidney beans. In meat loaf, swop half the mince for lentils.Recipe: Unfried Baked Chicken