Healthy Eating Tips from CIA Student Aubrey King
Article from the student newspaper, La Papillote
Written by, Aubrey King, BPS Culinary
Let’s face it, passing up a giant warm chocolate chunk cookie on our way to the salad bar in Farquharson Hall is merely impossible. At The Culinary Institute of America we are not only learning to cook, but to eat as well. The more you eat, the more you understand food and flavor.
On the other hand, staying fit is key to being successful in the kitchen. Once, a chef of mine announced, “if you’re not fit, you’ll never be able to make it in this industry. You have to be able to move quickly!” How are we supposed to stay fit while learning to cook? For the past two and half years, my mission was to find that balance. I am by no means an expert, but merely a fellow student who would prefer not to bust my buttons on my chef coat or graduate with the “freshman 50” that CIA students are rumored to gain. You may have seen me walking around the halls with mason jars filled with green looking slop, or noticed that I went on a raw diet for a week as an experiment; I would call myself a health nut. However, if roasted bone marrow and toast is near by, you bet it will soon be in my mouth. I have been lucky enough to find that balance at this school when it comes to eating and would like to share just how I have done it.
Step 1: Put down the pastries and desserts.
The all-you-can-eat dessert table should not be a daily visited area. I know what you are thinking, “well I only take a few bites…” but that is never the case. Believe me, I was once a first year student too. If a dessert is delicious and it is in front of me, I am going to eat it all.
Pass that table and enjoy dessert on special occasions or once a week. A few bites at lunch and dinner will add up. If you or your roommate is a baker, take control of your appetite. A dorm room filled with croissants and brioche is torture. Try instead to eat an apple and think, “I do not want to waddle around the kitchen”.
Step 2: Family meal is not an eating contest.
Working in the kitchen all day can work up quite the appetite. However, shoveling food onto a plate and then into your mouth is a dangerous act. Eating too much will slow you down and make you sleepy. Your body does not have enough time to digest or tell you when it’s actually full. It is important to portion control. You should be able to see the white of your plate after putting small spoonfuls of everything on it.
Step 3: Drink water
I know, I know, you hear it from everyone to drink more water, but if you aren’t drinking enough it is important to drink more. You can buy a 32 oz reusable Nalgene water bottle from Target for less than $10. Our bodies function much better when they are hydrated, so drink at least 64 oz of water a day. You will be surprised at how much better you will feel. Working in a hot kitchen, especially in the summer time, is torture on your body if you don’t hydrate it with water. And no, that pink juice in the dining hall is not a substitute for the real thing.
Step 4: Two bites is all you need
I once read an interview of the fittest chefs in the industry. One of them explained that she only took two bites when working in the kitchen. One bite to taste and another if she really liked it. This way, she could taste everything but had self-control as to not go overboard. Following this rule might be hard at times, but think of it as a challenge of perseverance the next time you are in the kitchen.
Step 5: The salad bar is your best friend
It might be true that I rarely eat at the kitchens. Instead, I usually build monstrous salads at the salad bar or swipe for one at courtside. Salad fills your body with nutritious vegetables and fiber, which makes you feel full longer. I suggest eating a salad with protein like fish, chickpeas or chicken, to round out the meal. If you live in the dorms, think about investing in a to-go container. Fill it up with ingredients from the salad bar for later. Having healthy snacks on hand will prevent any naughty snacking behavior. Oh and one more thing, Ranch dressing is delicious, but it’s not all that great for you. Try using a light dressing or vinaigrette.
Step 6: Late night binge eating is not a good idea
I’m guilty of going to Eveready in the wee hours of the morning for a late night snack of sweet potato fries. It’s easy to let a healthy diet fly out the window when greasy, late night food is near. If you think a hangover from alcohol is bad, I would debate a food hangover is even worse. Waking up with a belly full of fried salty foods is no fun. If you must have a late snack prepare yourself properly. When you head to the store to buy the beverages for the evening, buy bags of carrots, low fat popcorn and fruit. I guarantee you and your body will feel ten times better the next day when you steer clear from the drive through.
It is easy to “let ourselves go” and slowly become the hefty chefs people generally imagine. The saying “never trust a skinny chef” has long disappeared. Some of the greatest chefs in the world are fit.
Here at the CIA, we live to eat and it is a beautiful trait we all share. Finding a balance with it all is not easy, but taking the time to treat your body right will inevitably reflect in the food you serve to others.