It’s fair to say that Liz Vaccariello’s books have influenced the way that millions of people eat, namely the best-selling Flat Belly Diet, 400 Calorie Fix, and The Digest Diet, which was published earlier this year.
How has all that diet and nutrition research rubbed off on her? “My whole point of view is you’ve got to be real,” says Vaccariello, who was editor in chief at Prevention and currently has that role at Reader’s Digest. “You can’t tell people to lead a pristine life. You make good choices and when you can’t, you don’t beat yourself up about it. Which is why you also see a thing of Ranch dressing in my fridge,” she jokes. (She also has two young daughters.)
To see how she keeps it real, we took a closer look at what the diet doyenne and nutrition author has stocked in her fridge.
When you’re the author of books about what to eat, do you feel obligated to stock and eat mostly the things aligned with your findings? What would you say your own eating habits are? Yes! Because I’m reading all these studies, and doing recipes all the time to learn about the nutrients, so the research absolutely factors in. When I wrote the Flat Belly Diet, I had a MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) at every meal, following a more Mediterranean Diet. Now with The Digest Diet, I’m eating everything—beef, fish, a lot of chicken, pork (my favorite economical and tasty way to get lean protein)—I’m just aware of the fat-releasing potential.
How is “releasing fat” different than “burning fat”? It’s my own turn of phrase. I came to see that there were certain foods that made the body hold onto the fat. I wanted to find the foods that studies showed helped the body release the substances and behaviors to let go of the fat.
And what helped release fat? Well, like the book says, berries, vitamin C, calcium, dairy…
That’s surprising because lots of people are giving dairy up. Yes, calcium and dairy are two big fat releasers, according to the studies. Calcium, like from legumes, is a fat releaser, and dairy, which sounds like a repeat but isn’t, is another. Studies found that people who are obese reduced their body fat (gained muscle mass) when they consumed calcium and dairy.
So that explains the some of the string cheese in your fridge. What are your dinner standbys—and do you do the shopping and cooking? We’re a big cooking family. I cook when I can but it’s hard for me during the week. Steve and the girls eat lots of great home-cooked food. On Sunday it’ll be a big soup, Tuscan stew, or meatloaf. Soup is so easy—it’s a guaranteed veggie infusion. It’s a great way to flood the body with nutrition.
And during the week when you’re more rushed, do you reach for that package of ravoli I see stocked? I don’t have a problem with the packaged ones. To me, it tastes just as good. I love it with asparagus or beans or veggie on top. Here’s a tip: I don’t use a colander—I use slotted spoon, so they don’t fall apart.
The grapes and berries: are these your breakfast, snack, or dessert? All three. I insist that the girls have fruit—and mostly berries—strawberries and blueberries.
And what about veggies? Constantly. And we just bought a juicer in January and have been having a lot of fun experimenting with blends, like apple carrot orange. Nothing tastes better. But I’m very careful not to skip the fiber, so we also have smoothies. I love the almond/peanut butter one in the [Digest Diet] book. It’s so filling with the flax meal.
What’s in the big white and green bottle? A special kind of milk? Yes, I’m a big milk drinker; I’m from the Midwest. It’s Green Market Dairy milk—from Guernsey cows in New Jersey that make the most nutritious milk. It’s pasteurized, but not super pasteurized. Still, you’d have to drink 3 times the amount of regular organic milk for the same nutrients. I have it delivered directly to my home from the farm, and I like that the glass bottles keep it colder.
So what don’t you eat? I kinda don’t live in the “Land of No.” I don’t have processed desserts. I would never eat Twinkies or Cheetos. But I’d eat anything that’s natural and a whole food. But any diet that excludes something, like carbs, that Americans like to eat is just not sustainable. That’s why we included red wine with resveratrol in my book—it was probably in my hand when reading a few of the studies! Women like to drink wine and it’s a fat releaser. —Melisse Gelula
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