Foothill Fitness: Chef Nathan Lyon serves up healthy eating tips

September 13, 2013 | by

Great gains and health can be reaped through small, incremental changes. Starting to eat better doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning every indulgence at once.

Nathan Lyon, Emmy-nominated celebrity chef and cookbook author, will share tips and ideas on healthy eating during a cooking demonstration at the Foothill Fitness Challenge kickoff event Oct. 5 at 9 a.m. at City of Hope.

Nathan Lyon, Emmy-nominated celebrity chef and cookbook author, will share tips and ideas on healthy eating during a cooking demonstration at the Foothill Fitness Challenge kickoff event Oct. 5 at 9 a.m. at City of Hope.

Emmy-nominated celebrity chef and cookbook author Nathan Lyon is helping drive home the message that healthy food can be every bit as rich in flavor as in nutrients. As part of the Foothill Fitness Challenge kickoff at City of Hope on Oct. 5, he'll be offering challenge participants an array of ideas and recipes on how to do just that.

In addition to co-hosting "Growing a Greener World" on PBS and hosting "A Lyon in the Kitchen" on Discovery Health and Fit TV, Lyon has a bachelor’s degree in health science from James Madison University and a culinary arts degree from Le Cordon Bleu. He channeled his expertise into his cookbook "Great Food Starts Fresh," which is a seasonally organized guide to cooking healthy, delicious food with the freshest ingredients available throughout the year.

Here’s a sample of the tips he has to share with Foothill Fitness Challenge participants:

The farmers market is your friend. Community farmers markets are brimming with produce that is fresh, in-season and grown locally. Buying in-season helps guarantee fruits and vegetables that are local, ripe and bursting with flavor and nutrients. Not only are farmers markets a source of top-quality fruits and vegetables, they're also a rich source of information. Farmers markets open a dialogue between home cooks, farmers, other shoppers, chefs and foodies. Think of it as a one-stop shop for anything about food – from picking to storing to cooking. It’s a great starting point. Don’t be afraid to ask how to pick the best produce or how to prepare it.

Healthy food tastes good. Sweet, crisp apple slices, juicy ripe tomatoes, tart and zesty oranges – fresh, seasonal produce is delicious! When your ingredients are picked at the peak of their flavor, you don’t have to do much to make them delicious – because they already are. For example, a seasonal vegetable sauté with extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and fresh torn herbs topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh shavings of parmigiano-reggiano cheese is not only simple and quick, but healthy and delicious.

Plan ahead. Just 15 to 20  minutes of meal planning for the week can save you time shopping and extra trips to the market. Keep in mind that properly stored fruits and vegetables can last weeks. (Lyon provides a guide on how to do so in his cookbook, "Great Food Starts Fresh." Also, feel free to ask a local farmer.) Alternatively, consider freezing produce if you over-buy. You don’t need a whole weekend or a lot of expertise to have, for example, the delicious taste of a ripe summer tomato in December: Place ripe, washed tomatoes in a zip-top bag and stash them in the freezer. Come winter, remove the tomatoes from the bag, run them under cold water and the skins will slip right off. Perfect for stews, soups and sauces.

Choose colorful foods. Fried and starchy foods generally come in brown. Eating foods that are green, orange, yellow, purple and red help you to naturally stock up on vitamins, minerals and fiber. In winter months, consider frozen and canned produce. Berries, peas, corn, tomatoes and more are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness, so they retain their nutrition, flavor – and cost less.

A little of the good stuff goes a long way. If you need a little splurge, choosing high-quality ingredients with a concentration of flavor is the way to go. For example, using an aged, sharp cheese like parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino-romano, can add a lot of flavor to a dish with just a small amount.

Lyon will serve up more practical tips and do a cooking demonstration at the Foothill Fitness Challenge kickoff Oct. 5. The event – which launches a competition among teams from throughout the Foothill communities – will begin at 9 a.m. For more information about Chef Lyon and his cookbook, go to www.chefnathanlyon.com

Sign up for the Foothill Fitness Challenge at www.cityofhope.org/fitnesschallenge.