Diet

10 ways to get a healthier kitchen with Tosca Reno

The New York Times bestselling author tells what you need to toss, and what you should invest in, to make the healthiest meals at home.

Author Tosca Reno in Toronto, March 2013

Author Tosca Reno in Toronto, March 2013

At the age of 40, Tosca Reno transformed from overweight and unfulfilled to empowered and energetic with clean eating. For the last 10 years she’s been using her book, the Eat-Clean Diet, to motivate her loyal fans who’ve followed her journey. You’ve seen her on Good Morning America and her show, Tosca: Flexing at 49. She’s the CEO of Robert Kennedy Publishing and has appeared on the cover of Oxygen a record-breaking eight times. Here, she shares her tips for getting the most out of your kitchen, and what you need to make the healthiest meals in the shortest amount of time.

Q: When it comes to a healthy kitchen, what gadgets/tools help make things easier?
A: 
My kitchen depends on the functionality of a few good fridges, a gas stove and a lot of bit-part gadgets and tools to help me prepare delicious clean foods.

I use a VitaMix or NutriBullet high-powered blender to make silky smooth shakes and smoothies – many of which are based on greens like kale and spinach, which do need a good pulverizing in the blender before they are consumed. In fact, sometimes I have to take my “kitchen” with me and that is when I pack my NutriBullet in my suitcase. Then I know for sure I will have the right tool to make a nutritious green smoothie no matter where I am.

I also use a slow juicer for when I am juicing greens and produce. I like to start every day with a raw juice just to jumpstart my nutrition intake and neutralize my blood. The Omega machine is pretty good.

When I cook, I like to use a large Dutch oven like the one from Le Creuset or heavier bottomed pans from Lagostina. These are the ideal pans for making broth, soups and stews. As for utensils, I use wooden spoons and spatulas — they don’t scrape my pans and don’t leach toxins into the cooking food and heated pans.

I love, love, love parchment paper. I use it for lining baking pans and for anything that pops in the oven. I often use parchment paper to make parcels of food containing for example a chicken breast, chopped carrot and parsnip and some wedges of sweet potato. I toss in some fresh herbs and a bit of olive or coconut oil and wrap it all up like a present. This pops into the oven and bakes for about 30 minutes. The food comes out beautifully and is an interesting presentation for friends and family.

Q: What would be the five things you’re really loving this moment?
A: I depend on a serious set of knives and a good pair of kitchen scissors to do all the chopping, peeling and slicing of good clean produce. I rely on my garlic press. A lot of what I make has garlic in it! I use fine mesh sieves for making yogurt cheese – a lovely creamy base that can be used either sweet or savoury. I also really like using heavy-grade baking sheets lined with Silpat liners, particularly when I bake squash, chicken breasts or other savoury items.

I also enjoy the SodaStream because I can make carbonated water in minutes flat. This creates a delightful bubbly base from which to make many clean beverages, which can contain combinations of fruit purees and juices.

Author Tosca Reno attends 'Celebration Of Life' Honoring Fitness Publishing Icon Robert 'Bob' Kennedy at The Casa Del Mar Hotel on June 10, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Paul Redmond/FilmMagic)

Author Tosca Reno attends ‘Celebration Of Life’ Honoring Fitness Publishing Icon Robert ‘Bob’ Kennedy at in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Paul Redmond/FilmMagic)

Q: If someone is trying to make their kitchen healthier what items should they get rid of or use less frequently?
A: 
I am not a big fan of deep fryers. Not only are they dangerous, but people don’t tend to be impeccable about their use of oils in the deep fryer. I would rather bake something or roast it than fry it. This is why the Actifry is so useful. You only need one tablespoon of oil to make, say, sweet potato fries and they taste delicious. I also worry about toxicity when people are using cheaper grade pots and pans particularly some of these nonstick surfaces.

Aluminum foil is also something I am cautious with, preferring to use parchment paper instead.

Q: What’s your favourite tip/trick for storing healthy foods and snacks?
A: 
One of my favourite containers to store anything in is mason jars. Normally these are used for canning and preserving foods but I use them for storing soups, dried fruits and nuts, making a layered salad to take to work, fermenting foods and even as water bottle. I use them for everything!

Q: What’s one cooking tip you use everyday in your meal preparation to maintain a healthy diet?
A: 
I enjoy living a clean lifestyle, so for me knowing that I have my kitchen stocked with appliances, tools and utensils that help me achieve that are my insurance to stay on track in my chosen Eat-Clean lifestyle. Another tip is to prepare food in bulk so that you are not pulling your gadgets out more than once a day and you become more efficient.

Q: Is juicing something that you encourage in your kitchen?
A: 
I love to juice but I am a responsible juicer. I believe that the important part about juicing is to include deeply-coloured greens and herbs in all juice blends. If we put a lot of sweet/sugary produce in the juice there is too much sugar for the pancreas to handle at one time. However if we include greens in these preparations, we are sure to maintain a neutral pH in the blood and provide the life blood of the plants to our own bodies which delivers maximum nutrition.

Q: What’s the best tip you could give someone looking to eat cleaner?
A: 
The one that I encourage all clients to begin with is to avoid eating sugar and sugar-like foods full stop. Sugar alone is not the culprit to health and weight, but other foods, particularly processed foods and grains, act like sugar in the body. It is important to identify these and avoid them. This step alone will provide the greatest changes in your body from lessening the burden on your blood sugar handling organs, like the pancreas, to providing mental clarity, clearer skin, glossier hair, less inflammation and more. Once you learn to avoid sugar it is like opening the doors fully to optimum health.

Q: What mistake do you see people making the most when prepping food?
A: 
This may sound funny, but the biggest mistake I see is that people just don’t bother to prepare anything because they are so intimidated by the perceived notion that it takes a chef to do it or it takes a lot of time. With the right tools and utensils at hand, in a well-stocked kitchen, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Preparing your own food in your own kitchen can be a real joy, and making the effort to provide your family with nutritious, health-delivering nutrition is something in which you can take much pride in. My advice? Pick up some fun kitchen gadgets and begin to create your own food domain.

Tosca Reno is the New York Times best-selling author of Your Best Body Now and the Eat-Clean Diet series, which has sold more than two million copies worldwide. She is one of the leading North American health and wellness experts fighting the battle against obesity. Tosca has a B.Sc., B.Ed. and is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP).