Rocco DiSpirito's Insider Secrets

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Rocco DiSpirito's Insider Secrets

Healthy eating guru Rocco DiSpirito shares his insights on grocery shopping, must-have tools and healthy ingredients.

Make Healthy Ingredient Swaps.

"I try to use ingredients that are full of fiber and water because those are calorie-free with fill-power," offers Rocco, who advocates using fiber- and water-rich broccoli-slaw "in just about everything." Another one of his favorite ingredient swaps is monk fruit extract for sugar.

For Rocco, the key to making these changes is in "identifying the calorically dense, empty-calorie foods and replacing them with nutritionally dense (not calorically dense) foods."

Image Credit: George Doyle

Use Flavor Detonators.

Rocco defines "flavor detonators" as "things that add a lot of flavor without a lot of calories." These tasty, flavorful ingredients include Dijon mustard, wasabi, horseradish, Tabasco sauce, fresh citrus, fresh herbs, fresh garlic and fresh ginger. Rocco likes to have these items on hand in addition to monk fruit extract, Sriracha, Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg white powder, xanthan gum, miracle (shirataki) noodles and vegetable medleys in packets for steaming.

Image Credit: Clinton Hussey/Corbis

Select Heavy Produce.

"We don’t want to be heavy, but we want our food to be," explains Rocco. "As food ages, it looses moisture. The water contained in the cells evaporates." The heavy pieces are often fresher, and this also goes for meat and fish.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Head to the Farmers Market.

A farmers market will always be fresher than a supermarket, explains Rocco. Plus, there is an added bonus if you go at the end of the day: "At the end of the day, instead of bringing [extra food] back to the farm, [sellers] will basically give away food. They will fill up bags with whatever they’ve got left and sell it for a dollar."

Image Credit: Getty Images

Grow Your Own Tomatoes.

When it comes to tomatoes, Rocco recommends growing them instead of buying them. "You can grow tomatoes anywhere," he explains. "You can grow cherry tomatoes in a hanging vine in a pot or on a patch of land. There is really nothing like a homegrown tomato, it is the most ridiculous flavor you will find."

Look for Obvious Clues that Fish is Fresh.

While many people will say to ask to smell a piece of fish to determine its freshness, that might not be necessary."If it’s bad, you’ll smell it [in the fish market] and if it’s not bad, you won’t smell it," says Rocco. "When fish is fresh, it has literally almost no odor."

Visual clues can also tell you a lot about the freshness of a piece of fish. If it looks freezer burnt, blemished or has spots of grey or brown, it is likely not fresh. Additionally, it should look plump.

Be a Little Sneaky When Trying to Get Kids to Eat Healthy Food.

"You’ve got to do what you've got to do," Rocco admits. "Sneak healthy foods into the foods they love. The less they know the better and the more you know the better." Replace standard ketchup with low-sugar ketchup and blend some kale into your pizza sauce. "They will never know the difference."

Image Credit: Getty Images

Add Some Spice.

According to Rocco, hot sauce, pepperoncini, chili flakes and red pepper flakes are highly under-utilized. "When you are eating spicy food, everything you eat afterwards feels richer, thicker, bigger and fuller, so spicy foods are underrated both in their ability to add flavor and in their value to get you to eat less."

Taste Your Food.

Chef Gray Kunz instilled in Rocco the importance of tasting your food as you cook. "He thought the difference between a good chef and a really great chef is how often they taste their own food," explains Rocco. "Far too many home cooks and many more professional chefs than you’d think rely on routine recipes, eye sight and sense of smell and touch to determine whether something is good, but you really don’t know until you taste it."

Don't Worry Too Much About Cooking Meat Through.

"Don’t cook your prime three-week-old rib-eye steak to 160 degrees in the center because you are worried about salmonella," advises Rocco. "There is almost no chance of salmonella in the center." While other things can always go wrong, the most common food-bourne illnesses come from exposure to bacteria on the outside of the meat, not in the center. Simply make sure the outside of it is cooked past 160 degrees.

Try Shirataki.

Shirataki, which you most often find in the form of noodles, is full of dietary fiber without any calories. "It takes on the flavor of anything you cook it with, so that is one of my favorites," says Rocco.

Buy Certain Foods Canned or Frozen.

Many frozen vegetables are great and Rocco especially loves frozen mixed veggies for stir-fries. Peas and fatty fishes like tuna, salmon and swordfish freeze particularly well. Meanwhile, chicken stock and beans are perfectly fine to buy canned.

In fact, chicken stock and beans together make a fail-safe dish anyone can make. "Bring it to a boil and you're done," he explains.

Image Credit: Dave & Les Jacobs

Grocery Shop More Often.

"If your shopping consists of a once a month visit [to a grocery store], you should change that," says Rocco. In countries like Italy where obesity is less of a problem, people shop for food twice a day. The more often you are able to shop, the better.

Keep Your Cooking Tools At Arm's Reach.

"The secret to organizing your kitchen is not having it organized," quips Rocco. "It should be set up as if you are going to cook all the time." If your tools aren't out and ready to be used, the kitchen is not ready to be used.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Inform Yourself About Nutrition.

According to Rocco, the biggest mistake that people make when trying to cook healthy food is that they do not know enough about the actual nutrition of their ingredients. "A lot of people mistake all-natural food for healthy food, organic food for healthy food, gluten-free food for healthy food, sugar-free food for healthy food, vegetarian food [for healthy food], vegan food [for healthy food]. That is not healthy as far as my definition of healthy is concerned," he says. Rocco instead recommends looking at the numbers: the calories, the fat, the carbs and the protein.

"Make sure you are making a dish that is less than 350 calories and that no more than 15 percent of those calories come from fat," advises Rocco.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Let Your Palate Do the Work.

While Rocco sings the praises of his must-have kitchen tools--microplanes, vita-preps and box graters--he believes the most underrated tool is your palate. "It essentially tells us everything we have to know about food and [it's] the one we use the least," says Rocco.

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Rocco DiSpirito became interested in healthy eating after he transformed his diet and saw amazing results from it. "I personally experienced the benefits of going from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy lifestyle," the chef explains. "The original reason I decided to get healthy was because my doctor was concerned about my blood pressure." With the idea of taking pills to control his blood pressure looming over him, Rocco opted to change his diet and lifestyle instead.

"It took about a year but a year later, [my doctor] congratulated me for completely redesigning my body from the inside out," Rocco remarks. His friends and family also noticed that he looked younger.

Today, Rocco tells his story through his cookbooks and videos which offer healthy takes on everyone's favorite recipes.

Beyond his dish ideas, the celebrity chef and healthy eating guru also has a wealth of insider cooking and grocery shopping tips that many don't know. From a simple way to pick out the best produce at the grocery store to a type of food that tastes great and helps you eat less, Rocco has all the answers.

Check out the slideshow above for 16 of Rocco's best tips for healthy eating.

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