Tue07222014

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Healthy fast food


Photo by Monique Schoenfeld, Town Crier

Quick & Healthy Eating

Gigi Acker knows firsthand how difficult it can be to squeeze in time to cook a homemade meal at the end of a workday. The Los Altos mom said she found herself frustrated with what she calls "the whole dinner dilemma," and would go to the store and do a quick pickup for the day. Acker said she knew that she wasn't alone.

The nutritionist is promoting fast food these days - not the kind that comes through a drive-up window in a paper bag - but the kind you make fresh at home in 15 minutes or less.

Acker, a nutrition counselor, cooking instructor and president of NutritionInsights, said she began compiling recipes that required little preparation, cooking time and minimal cleanup, as a way to help busy people, like herself, enjoy eating healthy.

"People think that they have to do frozen food or have someone else do the preparation because they have no time to do it themselves," Acker said. "I tell them 'if you have 15 minutes,' you have the time to cook. All you need is the right tools and knowledge."

Acker said learning how to eat a whole new way takes a lot of knowledge. She said busy people need tips to help guide them every step of the way - from selecting food to cleaning up.

Acker said she uses kitchen gadgets to cut down preparation times as much as possible.

Acker said she gives out specific tips, even recommending what brands of foods to buy.

And she doesn't just give out advice, she uses it. A meal planning sheet hangs on her refrigerator at home, so she can determine what she needs and if what she's buying is balanced. She said planning saves time when you're ready to cook. You won't find yourself dashing to the store for a forgotten ingredient, she said.

"If you can cut prep time down to one minute, you'll be much more likely to use fresh food," she said.

Acker said an apple wedger, for example, can be used to cut a potato in one swoop rather than spending time cutting it in slices with a traditional knife. She said cooking on a sheet of tin foil, for example, will save clean up time at the end of the meal.

Acker said it's ok to eat frozen food if you can add something fresh to the meal, such as a side of fruit salad.

"I show people short cuts to whipping up a meal when they're exhausted," she said. "The kitchen can actually be a place to destress."

Acker said the business sector has become saavy to the idea of healthy eating over the past few years. Acker has spoken about healthy eating at many Fortune 500 companies over the past five years including 3M, American Express and Northwest Airlines.

"Food is part of everyday life. It can disrupt work if you're not energized or you keep thinking about it," she said.

Acker said the key to eating healthy is to eat things that you like. She said many people associate eating healthy with lowfat and bland foods - something that she said is a huge misconception.

"I found the most powerful and healthiest thing you can do is to cook and take charge of your health," Acker said.

She said once you gain knowledge about certain foods, it's easy to make a quick assessment of what kinds of things you want to put into your body.

"The goal is to see how what you choose affects your health," she said.

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