While some people still consider healthy eating to be synonymous with taste-free, no-fun, deprivation-inducing food, more and more people are coming to fully understand that you can be a foodie—that is, someone who loves food, all kinds, all flavors, all tastes, from fatty to fat-free—as well as someone who watches her waistline and is careful about being healthy overall.
In a way, you CAN have your cake and eat it too, at least that's what the writers behind the blog Svelte Gourmand (tagline: "Eat Well. Live Well") say. Founded by two journalists who have written for years about issues pertaining to health, nutrition and food, I wanted to find out just what makes someone a "Svelte Gourmand", and how they think it can be the key to a happy, healthy relationship with food.
I recently caught up with co-founder Sara Reistad-Long so she could talk a bit more about the website:
Q. Tell me about the blog's name, Svelte Gourmand. What is a Svelte
Gourmand—is it a a size, an attitude, a pantry shelf? Need one be a size 4 to qualify? Or a gourmet cook?
A. I'd describe it as a positive approach. You just have to really like food, and be interested in ways to stay healthy, look good, and have energy. The name pretty much came about the same way as the site did. We really, truly believe that you can eat and enjoy amazing food and still be good to your body and, well, svelte. What you don't need is a ton of resources, or crazy skills.
Q. Who are you writing for: the already-converted or people who are sort of dipping their toes into a healthier, more flavor-filled diet?
A. We're an all-of-the-above site. Eating healthy, delicious food is something that doesn't have to involve a lot of time or sacrifice for
anybody. You can be a red meat lover, or a carb love—or even have an incredible sweet tooth—and there are ways to savor those things and still fall in the net positive when it comes to both health and weight. We're all about exploring how that balance works.
Q. Why did you start the site—was this an approach you found lacking elsewhere?
A. The concept was something we were excited about. As scientists learn more and more about what it takes to be healthy, we're seeing that the what-you-eat component is critical. Food is important for how fast we age, our physical and mental health, and of course how slim we are. What we noticed was that, oftentimes, there's such a line between health blogging and food blogging. We really wanted to bring the two
together. So much research now shows that the key to really successful diets is selecting for freshness, quality ingredients, and variety. Do that and you almost automatically takes out the preservatives and additives and over-use of ingredients that lead to weight gain. In other words, delicious food leads to weight loss. The connection really made sense. Also, in addition to being health writers, we're
both big food and wine lovers. I just finished writing a cookbook and
Camille bakes better than just about anybody I know.
Q. Have you always had this sort of hearty but healthy attitude towards food, nutrition, and health?
A. I wish. Case-in-point: During college finals one year, my friends and I built a giant castle out of empty diet red bull cans.
Q. You write about health and wellness. But are there arenas in which you simply don't practice what you preach, both dietary and otherwise?
A. The blog's actually been great that way. Being consistently accountable to our readers really shaped me up. For example, when I was finishing the cookbook I developed a pretty nasty (and rapid onset!) diet soda habit. Like, multiple cans. I felt completely ridiculous. So I started looking into ways to break food ruts and I
posted about guinea pigging one solution—completely switching your whole diet for a day. For me, the trick actually worked, and then it was rewarding to get to pass that information on. Salt is my big indulgence; I try to stick to sea salt, as it's lower in sodium. And I follow the research–the jury's still a little out on whether it's as
bad for us as we think.
Q. What would be on the menu if you had one last meal on earth?
A. Oh no–there's so much! And not all of it goes together well. I love salmon, chanterelle mushrooms, and sunchokes. So there's that. And then some sort of bread and cheese and jam situation. Maybe a flourless chocolate cake and a really nice glass of red wine. This is so boring, but I don't think I could let myself die without an apple.
Q. Is there one food, beverage, or dietary concept that you think is unfairly ignored or otherwise misunderstood? (Should we pity the peanut, or feel sorry for the Sauvignon Blanc?)
A. Wow, weird that you asked that. Peanuts, I've recently learned are pretty great for you. They've got more resveratrol than red wine, are a complete source of protein, and are jam packed with all kinds of polyphenol antioxidants. Also, they're high in plant sterols and have a good balance of mono and polyunsaturated fats. In honor of the
discovery, I just posted my grandmother's amazing, amazing peanut butter cookie recipe on Svelte!