Over the course of 12 cookbooks, Rocco DiSpirito has learned a thing or two about healthy eating.
The latest from the New York City-based chef finds inspiration in negative calorie foods that help fuel your metabolism.
“The Negative Calorie Diet,” out now ($27.99, Harper Wave), features a 10-day cleanse, 20-day meal plan and 75 new recipes that incorporate ingredients such as nightshade and cruciferous vegetables, as well as advice on maintaining weight and what to eat when dining out.
“It’s the meatiest book I’ve written so far,” says DiSpirito, who will be at the 92Y Thursday.
amNewYork spoke with DiSpirito, 49, about the cookbook.
How has your approach evolved?
It’s come piece by piece. I’ve evolved from using things like artificial sweeteners and pudding mixes to give foods certain flavors so they would mimic and duplicate the flavors of our favorite comfort foods. That was OK for the time — 2006 — I think people were really just starting to get into the mode where they were thinking about healthy choices. Ten years later a lot has changed. Making healthy choices is on everyone’s mind now. There’s so much data that points to lifestyle disease and the results of poor eating choices. What people understand now is a local, natural, farm-to-table, whole foods lifestyle. Trying to make healthy choices is the new normal, versus trying to find the silver bullet, quick-fix swap.
What’s the focus of the new cookbook?
Instead of telling you what you can’t eat, I’m going to tell you what you can eat. We used to preach same-in, same-out [calorie quantity], but there’s an alternative to that, which is the quality of the calorie. If the calorie is nutritionally-dense, fiber-dense, water-dense, it’s a calorie which will help you burn more fat. You will burn more fat than you consume — that’s the concept of the negative calorie diet. Water is the best example — you burn one calorie metabolizing one ounce of water. If you eat foods which are filled with water and fiber and nutrients, it makes sense that those foods will burn a lot more calories than foods which don’t have any fiber or water in them — most of the fast foods and processed foods. You cannot get fat eating broccoli. You can eat these foods with impunity.
How do you deal with conflicting medical advice on the best healthy eating practices?
It’s mad confusing. I have a fresh food delivery service — I cook and coach for about 40 to 50 people every day. What I found is you have to treat each person as an individual — each person has their own needs and goals. You’re going to see a trend in the next year — personalization is going to be a big thing. Common weight-loss programs are going to have to figure out how to personalize and curate. There are a lot of programs that contradict other programs, and they all work, it’s just a matter of figuring out which one works for you. For my clients, I do that for them.
You recommend no coffee and alcohol during the cleanse?
I try to get people off coffee and alcohol, but it’s not an all-or-nothing game. Any little bit of advice you can take and make a part of your life will help. If you cut coffee from 10 cups a day to three, over time that’s a gigantic difference on the acidity in your body and the inflammation that causes. If you’re drinking 10 cups of coffee and 10 Diet Cokes a day, you have created this scenario in your gut that will prevent any wellness. I drink both but in very measured amounts — I’m very prudent about when and where and how much. And I drink espresso because it has 80% less acid.
Do you still make rich fatty foods?
I’m a reformed butter-holic. I don’t miss the rich foods. I miss cooking without some of the restrictions or having to be in this specific set of parameters. I eat my own food, I rarely go out. When I go out I can eat anything and not really have to worry about what I’m consuming because most of the time I’m consuming nutritionally-dense, local, organic, healthy food.
IF YOU GO: Rocco DiSpirito in conversation with Stacy London at 92Y | Jan. 7, 8:15 p.m. | $32-$36 | 1395 Lexington Ave., 212-415-5500, 92y.org