Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chase Away the After Holiday Eating Blues with Light and Healthy Eating

After the holidays we can experience a “food hangover,” too much sugar, alcohol and generally – food. We all try to start the New Year off right with light and healthy meals and maybe loose a bit of weight. But trying to eat healthy can be confusing. There is so much information out there and so many promises, how do we know which way to go?

Dr. Michael Fenster, MD, interventionalcardiologist and chef, has an easy method of developing and sticking to a healthy eating program that will have you celebrating all year long.

Grassroots GourmetTMis a healthy eating concept derived from Dr. Fenster’s beliefs and studies as a physician and as a chef. “As a physician, the words Hippocrates wrote long ago still echo with import today,” he explains. “‘Let thy Medicine be thy Food, and thy Food be thy Medicine.’“

But this is only half the story. As a chef Dr. Fenster knows that if the food does not taste good, then it is only medicine.

Using the Grassroots Gourmet concept, Dr. Fenster provides these guidelines for navigating between deprivation and gastronomic gluttony thatfollows three basic principles, what he calls the Threefold Path of Be’s:

Be Aware and Avoid the call of the junk food/fast food siren
What is commonly referred to as “junk food” is so named for a reason. These foods often are manipulated resulting in significantly less nutritious offerings. Taste, flavor and nutritional components are replaced by layers of sugar, salt and fat. These prey upon our hardwired biological instincts to create addictive behaviors and a vicious, repeating cycle.

Be Fresh-but no Adultery
Many of the items we use to prepare meals at home are not as fresh as we think. They have been altered in the growing, raising and processing points prior to their delivery to us. They have been altered to be able to remain on the shelves indefinitely. The Law of Unintended consequences applies here. We have only to look at the most recent debacle over our handling of trans-fatty acids (TFAs) to remind us of this reality and its inherent potential dangers.

Be On-Time and in Proportion
Far too often we end focusing only on caloric content as our mechanism in controlling our diets. But the simple biological mechanisms of timing when we eat things-it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to start signaling satiety to the brain- is often overlooked. We eat a serving for three people in less than 15 minutes, then wonder why don’t feel good and gain weight. We can enjoy delicious treats from time to time, but we enjoy them in proper proportions. Not everything is better supersized.

“It’s so simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy,” Fenster explains. “In fact it can be quite difficult at times. However, by following these principles I believe you can create a truly sustainable diet that allows you to eat delicious food that is also healthy; it is a diet that will last you a lifetime, because you create it.”

To start your year off right on the Grassroots Gourmet path, try this light and low-fat Vegetarian Chili recipe from Dr. Michael Fenster. It warm nutrition for a cold winter’s night.


Serving Size 6 oz; Servings per container: 40

470 Calories; 36 g Total Fat; 34 g Total Carabohydrate

Chili is a great American food. A winter favorite it is as varied in composition as America itself. The quality of the chili can run the spectrum as well, from a greasy bland bowl of some stewed like substance to sublimely satisfying and filling. This version kicks off the New Year with a properly spiced vegetarian version. Need meat? No worries add a pound or so of your favorite protein and lose 8oz of the beans; but I recommend trying the vegetarian version first.

The extra beans add richness and are an additional source of lean protein, as well as fiber, tryptophan and molybdenum-a trace element essential for the proper functioning of the detoxifying enzyme, sulfite oxidase. The wheat berries add a satisfying texture and filling flavor. They absorb the flavor of the chili liquid; and if you construct your own homemade (or find some freshly ground) chili powder you truly elevate this humble creation to new heights. The wheat berries also reduce the fat content (you can get all the fat derived flavor and texture you need by using beef or dark chicken stock; you do not need pounds of meat). They are also fantastic sources of folic acid, protein, B-complex vitamins and anti-oxidants like vitamin E. Diets rich in foodstuffs like the beans and wheat berries in this veggie version of chili have been associated with less obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and periodontal disease.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp Mexican oregano
4 tbsp chili powder
1 chopped hot pepper like cayenne or jalapeño
1 chopped dried California pepper (or similar type)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
6 oz tomato paste
16 oz bag dried beans (rehydrated) or 2 cans of beans
3 cups vegetable nage (see recipe below)
1 cup white or red wine
2 cups assorted vegetables
16 oz chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp masa (corn flour)
¼ cup cilantro
Cheese and sour cream for garnish

If rehydrating the beans, soak the night before. Place in a pot covered by 1-2 inches of water then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 2 hours over medium heat then remove and reserve to add back later.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until onions translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the oregano, chili powder, peppers, cumin, coriander, and cocoa and tomato paste. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the beans, nage, wine, vegetables and tomatoes. If needed add additional water to assure the vegetables are covered. Bring to a simmer and cook for another 1 ½ to 2 hours until all the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced slightly.

Remove ½ cup of liquid and whisk together in a separate bowl with the flour. Add the slurry back to the chili and continue to cook an additional 30 minutes.

Add the cilantro and serve by garnishing with cheese and sour cream.


6 onions, quartered
12 carrots roughly chopped
2 lemons, quartered
4 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 tsp white peppercorns
1 tsp pink peppercorns
2 bay leaves
8 star anise
4 quarts of water
2 cups white wine
2 sprigs each:

Bring the first 8 ingredients to a boil in the water. If your tap as any off flavors, use bottled water as the nage has very subtle flavor characteristics. Reduce to a simmer and continue for about 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and allow to cool at room temperature. Add the wine then strain the entire mixture. The resulting liquid should be clear. Add the herbs and refrigerate for 24 hours the strain again.


Michael Fenster combines his culinary talents and Asian philosophy with medical expertise, creating winning recipes for healthy eating. He is frequently asked to present live cooking demonstrations as well as giving numerous radio interviews on health and food shows both nationally and internationally. Michael is a certified wine professional and chef, receiving his culinary degree from Ashworth University where he graduated with honors. He has worked professionally in kitchens prior to entering medical school and maintained his passion for food and wine throughout his medical career. Mike helped manage the award winning Napa Alley in Roanoke, Virginia, and hosted a local cable TV cooking show, “What’s Cookin’ with Doc” in Dublin, GA. He has written columns for, is a regular columnist for the culinary magazineBasil, as well as a member of their Council of Chefs and a monthly health and fitness contributor to The Tampa Tribune. He recently cooked up heart healthy fall soup on the nationally syndicated television show “Daytime.”

Michael Fenster, MD, is a Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist, currently on staff with the Cardiology Specialists of Florida at Hernando Heart Clinic. He has participated in numerous clinical trials and spoken nationally on a variety of cardiovascular topics to audiences ranging from lay public to peer presentations at the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology meetings. He has also published numerous professional peer reviewed articles and served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at North East Ohio University College of Medicine (NEOUCOM). Michael recently graduated summa cum laude from Auburn University’s Physician’s Executive MBA program.

Michael holds a JuDan (10thdegree black belt) ranking in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, which he has studied over the last three decades. He lives in Spring Hill, Florida, with his wife Jennifer.

To see cooking demonstrations with Michael Fenster and more recipes, visit

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