By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Chef Paul McCullough
Word to the wise: Grownup food is much more flavorful and healthier.
Educators have a lot on their plates these days. If you look around the staff lounge, you’ll find doughnuts and cupcakes, frozen meals (loaded with sodium) zapped in the microwave, vending machine snacks, and sodas. Processed foods, an exercise regime that consists of walking around a classroom, and high stress can be a recipe for poor health.
As you set goals for 2013, we thought we’d provide you some fodder. To get started, we’ve got healthy recipes, nutrition tips and a week’s shopping list provided by Chef Paul McCullough, whose catering business, Paul’s Kitchen, is located in Los Angeles. (Aficionados may remember McCullough as a finalist on the “Food Network Star” reality show.) A chef for celebrities, McCullough brings home-cooked meals to film and TV crews; he made his culinary debut in Hollywood catering for the stars of “Sex and the City.” He is currently executive chef at City of Hope National Medical Center, catering exclusive VIP donor events. He has also served as honorary chair for CTA’s Read Across America. McCullough will be traveling this holiday season on a national media TV tour promoting his new book, Roma-Therapy, about cooking with tomatoes, available on www.amazon.com.
Q and A with Paul McCullough
Why are you worried about school employees?
Teachers and other professionals who work with students are responsible for educating the future of our country - and we need you. Educators are nurturers taking care of others, but you also need to take time to take care of yourself. If you are taking care of yourself from the inside out, feeding yourself a balanced diet, taking the stairs and fitting in a walk on your break, you will be a more effective educator. You will be more focused. I’ve heard people say, “Eating healthy is expensive.” My answer: So are high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.
What were your considerations in developing these healthy lunches and snacks?
First I considered adaptable recipes that could easily transform into different dishes. I wanted them to be tasty as well as provide balanced nutritional value. They can be made in 20 minutes or less. Healthy eating does not necessarily require cooking. It’s knowing what to buy and how to put it together that's half the battle. Time is something we all need more of, so I thought about taking a Sunday trip to the market where you could get everything you need for your lunches in a one-stop shop.
What principles from these recipes can be applied to future lunches and snacks for a week?
It is well known that five smaller meals during the day helps boost your metabolism and regulate blood sugar, and helps you stay focused. Think about a mid-morning snack, healthy lunch with complex carbs and lean protein, then an afternoon snack as well. And water! Lots of water.
What makes these meals and snacks healthy?
Because they are filled with vitamins and minerals. They are not processed foods that are leached of their natural goodness and filled with preservatives. Most of the menu items are low in fat where it counts: turkey sausage, low-fat cheese, lean chicken and tofu. I pay attention to the good fats we all need, such as the fat in avocados, nuts and olive oil, which actually help absorb nutrients. Fiber is an important factor in keeping blood sugar levels stable. So, rather than drinking a glass of apple or orange juice, eat the whole fruit as one of your snacks. You get all the health benefits without the “sugar spike and crash” that can happen after drinking a glass of juice.
What about the “I’m the only one in the school eating healthy” complex?
The good news is everything you need is right there for you. Your school is full of experts. Everyone you need to live your best life is just down the hall from you. Rally together and start a break room task force. Get a team of teachers to work together to improve your lunchroom experience. Toss out the Sweet’N Low and Equal (may cause cancer in lab rats… hello, what about you?). Bring on the stevia, which is a natural plant extract. Stock up on raw agave nectar to put into your tea or over your yogurt. Raw is important, because once it is processed (heated to temperatures that will prolong shelf life), it loses nutritional value because it essentially turns into corn syrup. Chuck the soft drinks. Drink more tea. Pitch in to buy healthy snacks like almonds, dried fruit and Balance bars.
How might this impact our students?
Leading by example is a great way to effect change in the lives of our students and in California schools. Apples on a teacher’s desk are iconic for a reason. People view apples as symbol of variety, change, growth and strength. Also, without love and care the fruit cannot flourish, much like your students. Teachers play a vital role in the emotional, mental and physical development in a student’s life. So keeping an apple on your desk will not only set a good example for your students, it’s also a quick snack when you need it.
What about my family’s lunches?
Since you have made the decision to start treating yourself to a healthy lunch, why not treat your family, too? Encourage your family to participate in making lunches. Discuss the advantages to smarter choices. Point out people you see eating healthfully. Simply multiply your shopping list to accommodate your family’s needs.
Should exercise also play a role?
Want to feel better, have more energy and perhaps even live longer? Look no further than exercise. The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. And the benefits of exercise are yours for the taking, regardless of your age, sex or physical ability. Check out these seven ways exercise can improve your life.
• Exercise controls weight.
• Exercise combats health conditions and diseases.
• Exercise improves mood.
• Exercise boosts energy.
• Exercise promotes better sleep.
• Exercise can be fun.
Did someone say recess? Exercise controls weight, combats health conditions and diseases, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, and can be fun to do with your family. Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any health concerns.
For more information, visit www.PaulsKitchen.com or McCullough’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/PaulsKitchen. You can read a blog about the making of Paul's book Roma-Therapy.