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Chefs fight flab with small portions, healthy snacks

Murphy serves up a dish from the kitchen of his restaurant Landmarc in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City.

NEW YORK: Top chefs who spend long, late hours preparing meals for others, face greater temptation than most mortals to overeat, but they say small portions, healthy snacks and drinking plenty of water can help to keep the weight off.

Like many Americans, chefs struggle with the battle of the bulge. If he is not careful chef Marc Murphy, of the Landmarc restaurant in New York, admitted he can nibble on up to two plates of French fried potatoes during a busy day at his restaurant.

To offset the additional calories during the week he refrains from drinking alcohol. “I try to do cleanses Monday to Friday,” he said during a panel discussion during the weekend at the New York City Wine and Food Festival.

Murphy also uses fresh herbs to cut the amount of oil and butter in his dishes, and reduces the temptation to over-eat at friends’ restaurants – where extra dishes can flow freely from the kitchen by chefs eager to impress – by letting it be known he wants nothing extra.

“I just want to eat what I order,” the 43-year-old said.

It took a health scare for Art Smith, the owner of the restaurant Table 52 in Chicago, to change his eating habits. Just before his 50th birthday he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the illness that killed his father.

Since his diagnosis, the 52-year-old, who occasionally works as the personal chef of President Barack Obama and television personality Oprah Winfrey, has shed up 54 kilos by eating smaller meals, taking up running and boxing and eating healthy snacks.

“I keep almonds and apples around when I’m on the go,” he said.

Sue Torres, the owner of Suenos in New York, recommends a hearty breakfast to keep trim, and likes steel-cut oatmeal with fruit toppings each morning. Torres, known for her Mexican cuisine, also uses chili and flavorful ingredients to reduce the fat in her cooking.

“You could have cream and butter, but it’s about portions,” the 39-year-old chef explained.

Celebrity U.S. Chef Katie Lee, 31, is also careful about what she eats.

“From Monday to Friday, I am very disciplined. I try to have 70 to 75 percent of my plate filled with vegetables. On Saturday and Sunday, I have more fun,” she said, adding that she also exercises like a mad person.

While chefs are careful about they eat, they sometimes splurge so they don’t feel deprived. Although Murphy abstains from alcohol during the week, when he has a tipple he makes sure he drinks plenty of water.

Although his doctor has told him, “The ice in your Scotch doesn’t count.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 17, 2012, on page 13.

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