As a chef, and particularly a spa chef, I am often asked which foods are healthiest...and how to prepare healthier meals. I tell everyone that it all starts with understanding which ingredients are best for you (see guide below).
When planning a menu for the day or week, consider both the meal and what the plated food is going to look like. The vegetables, grains or starch are the "star" and should occupy three quarters of the plate. The protein ("co-star") should weigh only 4 to 5 ounces. I always look for vegetables with colors to drive the beauty of my dish—deep, dark greens, to very bright and brilliant red, to deep purple. This ensures not only a beautiful presentation, but also a wealth of antioxidants.
With this in mind, try to grow your own veggies, or go to a farmers market, or, push that shopping cart to pick up some super foods in the produce section. Stay in season, stay organic and stay away from packaged foods. Pick up a few bunches of different greens and experiment. I love loose carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, fresh herbs, garlic and onions. Pick up some seasonal fruit, citrus, oranges, lemons, and limes. When shopping for whole grains and beans look for organic brown, Japanese or Himalayan rice, black beans, lentils, and quinoa — all wonderfully easy to cook and so good for you.
Proteins are where I recommend having some self-control. Try limiting the use of beef or red meat. Do include wild-caught fish such as salmon, trout, flounder, sea bass and oysters— all high in omega 3s. Choose free-range chicken or soy-based tofu. Grill to save nutrients. When using oils, I recommend experimenting with subtle flavor differences found in avocado, olive and grape seed oils (they're also much better for you then more common cooking oils).
Remember to keep on cooking healthy! Here’s my alphabetical lineup of top super foods.
The A, B & C’s of Colorful Super Foods
What do these colors in fruits & vegetables mean?
Blue & Purple: These guys have high concentrations of anthocyanins and phenolics, which promote the benefits of antioxidants and help in anti-aging. Go blue!
Reds: High in anthocyanins and lycopene. Great for the heart, memory, and fighting cancers and urinary tract infections. Yes red!
Greens: High in lutein and indoles which promote healthy vision, strong bones and teeth. Also great cancer fighters. Go green!
Yellow & Orange: High in carotenoids and bioflavonoids and vitamin C to help the immune system, fight off cancer, and aid vision. Mellow yellow!!
White, Tan & Brown: Allacin is found in onions, garlic and leeks. Helps cholesterol, cleans the blood, helps the immune system, fights cancer and is heart-friendly.
Man o’ man—keep on cookin’ healthy!!
[A] Acai, Acidophilus, Agave syrup, Almonds, Apples, Apricots, Arame seaweed, Artichokes, Arugula, Asparagus, Avocado [B] Bananas, Black Currants, All Beans, Blood Oranges, Anything Blue, Blueberries, Bok Choy, Bran, Broccoli, Broccoli Rabe [C] Carob, Carrots, Celery, Cherries, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chiles, Cranberries, Cruciferous vegetables, Cucumbers [D] Dandelion Greens, Dates, Dark Chocolate [E] Edamame, Eggplant, Endive, Epazote, Escarole, Extra Virgin Olive Oil [F] Fennel, Figs, Flax Seeds, Fresh Wild Fish [G] Whole Organic Grains, Garlic, Ginger Root, Grapes, Grapefruit, Fresh Greens, Green Beans, Green Peas [H] Fresh Herbs, Organic Honey, Fresh Horseradish [J] Jamaica, Jicama [K] Kale, Kamut, Kiwi, Kohlrabi, Kombu [L] Lavender, Lemon Grass, Lemon Verbena, Lemons, Limes, Lettuces [M] Mache, Mango, Mangosteen, Maple Syrup, Melons, Miso, Mizuna, Fresh Mushrooms, Mustard Greens [N] Napa Cabbage, Nectarines, Nori, Nuts [O] Oats, Oat Bran, Olives, Onions, Oranges, Orange fruit & vegetables [P] Papaya, Parsnips, Peaches, Pears, Persimmons, Pineapple, Pomegranates, Prunes, Prickly Pears, Anything Purple [Q] Quince [R] Radicchio, Radishes, Raisins, Raspberries, Red fruit & vegetables, Brown Rice, Fresh Rosemary, Rutabaga [S] Salmon, Sardines, Sea Bass, Shallots, Shitake Mushrooms, Snow Peas, All Sprouts, Soy, Spelt, Spinach, Organic Strawberries, Stevia, Sunflower, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Sucanat [T] Tamari, Tamarind, Tangerines, Green Tea, Tempeh, Tofu, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Totsoi, Turnip Greens [V] Vanilla, All Fresh Vegetables [W] Wakame, Walnuts, Wasabi, Watercress, Watermelon, Wehani Rice, Wheat Berries, Wheat Germ, Whole Wheat Flours, Wild Rice [X] Xanthan Gum [Y] Yams, Yellow fruit and vegetables, Yogurt, Yu Choy, Yucca Root [Z] Zucchini
Bill Wavrin, Executive Chef, Glen Ivy Hot Springs
Chef Bill Wavrin is a celebrated chef, noted author, food columnist and television personality. Known for his warmth and genuine, larger-than-life persona, Chef Bill is a regular on the TV Food Network and a contributor to Chile Pepper magazine. Author of a James Beard Award-nominated cookbook, he has earned national recognition for fusing healthy, fresh produce, and locally sourced seasonal ingredients into his menus.