Did you know that pickles could help get you out of a pickle? That’s what chef Art Smith learned when he prioritized healthy eating habits to lose more than 100 pounds.
“Pickles are great for dieting,” Smith says. Crunchy pickled okra, carrots and other veggies come with every meal at Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, Smith’s restaurant at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead.
A life enlightened
When he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2008, Smith weighed more than 300 pounds and says his attitude was weighed down, too. “Now I have so much more energy. And I’m proud to say this 53-year-old is off diabetes medications, and I did it through proper diet.”
Smith also credits a return to fitness with an upped exercise program including walking at first and then running.
Smith shares the story of his return to health and recipes for lightened-up Southern foods in his new cookbook, “Art Smith’s Healthy Comfort.”
He says, “I could make a meal out of ripe tomatoes! One of my secrets is to eat healthy through the week and then on the weekends have some fried chicken.”
Smith, who has cooked for celebrities, heads of state and was Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, grew up on his family’s farm in Jasper, a small North Florida town. He says to eat a healthier diet in the South — or anywhere — you have to embrace the joy of eating less pie and more produce: “Recently, I went home and had a field pea party!”
Deliciously making a difference
Sharing lunch with Smith at Southern Art, I chose the Little Gem Lettuce salad with clementine and avocado, and we shared an order of Crab Cakes with Chow Chow.
“My favorite dish on this menu now is the Hominy Field Pea Succotash,” Smith said. He enthusiastically ordered that dish, and in true “you’ve got to try this” chef style, the table was loaded with biscuits, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Creamed Escarole and Shrimp and Grits with Andouille sausage. (Dining out diet tip from Smith: box up what you can’t eat now and enjoy it for another meal. I gladly followed his advice.)
Atlanta registered dietitian Marisa Moore agrees that diet can make a big difference in treating Type 2 diabetes. “Regular physical activity, a diabetes-friendly diet and weight loss (if you’re overweight) can help you get off diabetes medications,” Moore said. “I’ve seen it happen time and time again with my clients, and research shows that diet and lifestyle changes are incredibly effective.”
Smith has partnered with Merck on an educational program called “Taking Diabetes to Heart” to get the message out about the importance of personalizing a diabetes-management plan through food, fitness and medications when necessary. “Diabetes runs in my family, and this disease is a serious problem.”
It’s good to know seriously good food such as Southern Art’s Speckled Trout with Artichoke Tomato Herb Salad can be part of the diet plan.
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at email@example.com.