As a food writer and cookbook author, I’m faced with an occupational hazard: eating. That explains why, when I re-applied for life insurance, the rejection notice came at me faster than a fierce tennis serve. My blood sugar was too high. My doctor told me I had to lose 20 pounds, so I did. In fact, in less than a year, I lost 25. Taking off the weight was surprisingly easy. It is now five years later, and I have not surrendered even one precious notch on my belt.

The way I did it, however, was by focusing more—not less—on food. I know this is an unorthodox approach, as most diets try to take your mind off eating with formulaic meals or meal substitutes, like protein shakes. But at the outset, I knew that the only long-term eating plan that had a prayer of succeeding for me was one that worked with my love of food.

So, rather than putting food out of my mind, I worked hard to raise what I call my Culinary Intelligence (CI): my ability to choose food with so much flavor that I wasn’t left seeking satisfaction in sugary sauces, deep-fried crusts and melty cheeses. In the course of writing my upcoming book, Culinary Intelligence, I figured out how to eat wonderfully but not fat-fully. Here, my key healthy eating strategies:

Healthy Eating Strategies: Umami rules

Steak is one of my favorite foods. But not the kinds of steak served at chain restaurants, which are often covered in barbecue flavoring or melted blue cheese. These calorie-laden sauces disguise the bland meat, usually mass-produced from feedlot, grain-fed cattle. I could eat a pound of it and still feel unsatisfied. Grass-fed beef is a whole different matter. Read more…

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