Long working hours and juggling the demands of family life can sometimes be both challenging and stressful. At times like these, eating right and preparing healthy meals may not always be on the list of priorities.
But if celebrity chef Daniel Green — a world-renowned TV chef and award-winning culinary author — can find time to cook a healthy dinner after a long day of appearing in cooking shows or promoting his books around the world, he believes you can, too.
"Everything I cook is in a frying pan or a wok, so it's always quick. My go-to is salmon or tuna. I pan sear and cook loads of veggies and use spices to make it interesting", said Daniel, who was in Malaysia to attend the launch of PETRONAS ICT's FAT to FIT Challenge on 19 March 2018.
The FAT to FIT Challenge is PETRONAS ICT's flagship programme for 2018, and it is aligned to PETRONAS' Corporate Wellness Programme MESTIfit4health. Daniel has been appointed the FAT to FIT Challenge healthy eating coach to help PETRONAS ICT participants navigate towards better food choices and healthy eating habits.
Daniel coached participants on healthy food choices, as well as cooking options and eating habits during the launch and will continue to share insights via monthly Skype sessions. His food philosophy is "No butter, no cream, no cheese, no deep frying". Staying true to his philosophy helped him shed the 29 extra kilogrammes 30 years ago as a teenager. Believe it or not, the trim 50-something father of two was an obese teenager, who weighed 104 kg and wore size 38 pants.
We asked Daniel to share his meal plans and what he cooks on busy days.
1. Could you share with us what your daily meal plan looks like?
Most days I make a huge egg white omelette filled with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and spinach. I have coffee with skim milk together with fruits. Juices and fruits are for energy. If I need a carb fix, I will have rice with protein or oatmeal, fruits and skim milk.
In between meals, I have fruit and juices. If I'm hungry, I have some protein like turkey slices. I also love edamame as a snack with some rock salt.
For lunch, I normally have a big salad with olive oil or vinaigrette with avocado, chicken or smoked salmon.
When I am eating out, I choose the same type of food or the Japanese options such as a sushi box. Chicken — even two portions — is okay and ask for more vegetables, but no rice or potatoes.
Soups are great, too, but try to avoid heavy coconut milk and noodles. Again, ask for more protein and vegetables.
As for drinks, try to have at least a litre of water a day. The recommended water intake is 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women. Avoid sugary drinks and always opt for water.
For a sweet treat, have summer berries and maple syrup with a little water and reduce in a saucepan.
I love salmon for dinner. I make many types of sauces like miso, honey, ginger or soy and lime, and cook up a load of wok-fried vegetables and add sesame oils, sesame seeds, ginger, chili or garlic. You can do this with chicken or any seafood.
I also roast a whole chicken with roasted vegetables. You can have a big portion but don't eat the skin.
I do not eat after having dinner as I can't burn off the energy.
2. Can you recommend substitutes for the ingredients you used that may not be widely available in Malaysia?
Most of the ingredients I use are easily found in Malaysia. However, any protein can be changed from fish to chicken. Fish can be changed with any seafood [of your choice].
3. At culinary school, chefs are taught to add butter, cheese or cream to add flavour. What do you use to add flavour without the fat?
I use spices. My top spices are:
• Sesame oil
• Soy sauce
[Looking at the list], I think I must be more Asian than Western!
4. On "I'm-hungry-but-can't-be-bothered-to-cook" days, people tend to turn to quick but not-so-healthy options. What are your tips for turning those "bad" choices (such as instant noodles or frozen pizza) into healthier ones?
Easily done. I go for sushi or salads for pre-prepared dishes, or roast chicken. I also snack on edamame, avocado and I love clear soups with spices and vegetables. Salad bars are great, too.
Almonds are high in fat but low on carbs. If you can have just a handful, they keep you going until your next meal.
5. Some people believe that leftovers are not healthy as they are not fresh. Is this true? Is there a way to make full use of leftovers?
There is nothing unhealthy about leftovers if the dish was healthy to begin with. Leftovers can be brought back to life by adding something fresh. You can add fresh herbs and vegetables to chicken in the fridge.
6. For some, eating healthily every day of the week sounds torturous! Can they allow themselves to have a "cheat" day?
You can indulge during the weekend after keeping a strict diet Monday to Friday.