Interviews / August 16, 2012

Dave Grotto, RD, LDN

By Charles Platkin, PhD

In 2005 Dave was bestowed the Excellence in Practice award by the American Dietetic Association for his clinical work. Dave served as national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association for over six years and has been featured in numerous print, radio, and television interviews. He hosted the popular live radio program, Let’s Talk Health, CHICAGO! for over 10 years and was a co-host on the television program, Health & Lifestyles, Weekly.

Dave speaks and writes about a vast array of health and wellness related topics, including nutritional oncology, integrative approaches to cardiovascular disease, alternative medicine, kid’s nutrition, and optimal dietary strategies for men. He is a chapter author of CRC Press’ Manual of Integrating Therapeutic and Complementary Nutrition and his acclaimed book, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life! was published in mid-2007. Dave serves on the scientific advisory board at Fitness magazine and has appeared in several national magazines, including Prevention, Men’s Fitness, and Self.

Dave also lectures extensively on the benefits of humor and laughter therapy and is a Certified Laughter Leader, receiving further training in improvisation from The Second City in Chicago. Dave lives in the Chicagoland area with his wife, three daughters, and two-female dogs making him an expert on the subject of “unopposed” estrogen.

Diet Detective: Hello David, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. You are a busy man, writing books and counseling, so I will try not to take up too much of your time. I guess my first question would be how did you gett into the field of nutrition?

David: I first became interested in the field when my Grandfather had a health-food store in La Mesa, California. My mother brought home licorice whips, rock candy, and other goodies and I thought to myself, “Wow! I like health foods!”

I started working at a health-food store when I was fourteen. At that time, I was experiencing all sorts of health challenges — acne, overweight, panic attacks, and fatigue, to name a few. A customer convinced me to make some lifestyle changes. I acted on those recommendations and had a “taste” of what good health felt like. I wanted to share the news of good nutrition and its relationship to health ever since.

Diet Detective: What was the most interesting nutrition concept you’ve found in the last few years that would surprise us?

David: The most surprising concept to me was an “add-on” versus “take-away” approach to improving our health. I came from the old school approach of deprivation — you had to give up all of your favorite “bad” foods first if you ever had any hope of improving your health. I found after two decades of being in the trenches as a nutritionist that my patients had become sick and tired of hearing what was bad for them but were “starving” for information on what foods they could add-in to help their health. This positive nutrition approach is what I used in the 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life! book.

Diet Detective: Can you tell us a bit about your company Nutrition Housecall?

David: Many of my patients used to call me up after having an initial visit with me in my office and say, “Can’t you come home with me just to get me started?” So, in fact, I started doing just that. And what I found was that I was more effective in helping my patients implement their lifestyle plans. I think why this has been so successful is that I actually get the whole family involved when I’m at their home. We go through cabinets, refrigerators, and freezers and mark foods that are optimal for their health and also indicate which ones are not the greatest. The patient can either elect to keep on eating the “less-than-stellar” foods with full knowledge of its limited health benefits or throw it away.

Diet Detective: You just had a book released called 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. I’m just curious, is there one food that even you were astonished could “save your life? How does it work biologically to save us, so to speak?

David: I pretty much wrote off all lettuces as “nutritionally void” but was rather surprised in my research to find that Romaine lettuce was rich in vitamin C and full of a plant-chemical called Salicylic acid, the same compound found in aspirin and COX-2 anti-inflammatory drugs. Romaine lettuce is also rich in another plant chemical called lutein which helps fight macular degeneration and certain types of cancer.

Diet Detective: We’ve seen books on super foods, natural cures, etc. What in particular makes your new book unique?

David: I didn’t want to write yet another one of these books unless it was different. Many of my patients didn’t want just a handful of foods to choose from. What if you don’t like blueberries? What if you don’t like garlic? Are there other foods with similar properties? The answer was YES. I cut off the number at “101” — there are actually a lot more foods that can save your life! I just wanted to give people a really good selection to choose from.

The recipes found in 101 Foods also make this book stand out. To me, being both a registered dietitian and a father of three girls, it didn’t make any sense to talk about how great certain foods were unless the book could provide delicious recipes that KIDS enjoy! My three daughters were the official taste-testers. My wife and I decided that unless the girls gave “3-thumbs-up” to a recipe, it would never make it into the book.

Lastly, what makes “101 Foods” different is that is has a lot of neat facts about the history, food lore, home remedy use, preparation, and storage tips of the featured foods along with the latest science, making the case of the “add-on” worthiness of including that food to one’s diet.

Diet Detective: What about some of these foods? Can you give us some details on each?

David: Sure!

  • A handful of tart cherries before bed can help you sleep better. Tart Montmorency cherries are rich in the antioxidant melatonin, which may help in promoting sleep.
  • Hot peppers may fight skin cancer. A mouse study showed that capsiates in sweet pepper induced cell death (apoptosis) in skin cancer cells and they also have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Potatoes may reduce the risk of stroke. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “Foods, such as potatoes, that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.”
  • Grape juice may be as heart-healthy as red wine. Researchers found that the flesh extract of grapes was just as protective for the heart as skin extract. Beyond the heart-health importance of resveratrol, found abundantly in grapes, significant concentrations of other antioxidants such as caffeic acid, caftaric acid, and coutaric acid have been found in the flesh of both red and white grape varieties. Drinking Concord grape juice significantly increased good cholesterol (HDL) and significantly lowered two markers of inflammation in people with stable coronary artery disease.
  • Honey can help wounds heal faster. Honey has long been revered for its antibacterial and wound healing properties. A special preparation of honey known for its high antibacterial properties, called Medihoney®, was used in treating wound care in the Children’s Hospital in Bonn for three years. Researchers observed significant reductions in even the most resistant wound infections as a result of using the honey preparation. Cancer treatment can often lead to side-effects such as sores in the inside of the mouth. One study found that honey applied to the sores reduced discomfort.

Diet Detective: If you could eat one unhealthy food whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?

David: Hands down PECAN PIE!! If I had to select my last meal on earth, pecan pie would certainly be for dessert!

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite breakfast?

David: My favorite is the one that helped lower my own cholesterol 70 points in 1 month! Here’s the recipe:

Firefighter’s Honey Muesli
This recipe was created as part of a cholesterol-lowering program for Chicago firefighters. Its quick, simple and tasty — perfect fuel for putting out whatever kind of “fire” you’re fighting!

Servings: 1

Prep time: 5 minutes

This recipe contains four powerhouse foods!

1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup skim milk or low-fat vanilla soy milk
1 ounce mixture of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios
1/8 cup mixed dried fruit

Mix all ingredients and eat immediately or cover, refrigerate overnight, and eat the next day.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories: 330; Total Fat: 8g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 90mg; Total Carbs: 56g; Dietary Fiber: 6g; Sugars: 10g; Protein: 11g

Diet Detective: Do you have time to exercise? What do you do?

David: Weight management simply cannot be achieved without physical activity. If I don’t exercise at least a half-hour daily, my weight goes up. I usually do 30 minutes of cardio along with 15 minutes of weight resistant activity. The bottom line — though you may think that you don’t have enough time to exercise, everyone has some time that they can devote to exercise.

After examining your life, if you still come to the conclusion that you don’t have any time to exercise, you need to re-think the value of what you spend your time on. Nothing is more important than your health because without it you can’t enjoy anything else!

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy ingredient? What’s the one thing you’d suggest people keep in their kitchen if they want to cook healthy meals?

David: I truly don’t have one “healthy favorite” — I love all of the “101.” Here are 10 to get started with:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Agave syrup
Dried cherries
Green tea

Diet Detective: What’s the one kitchen utensil or tool that you can’t live without?

David: My wife! She contributed so many recipes and worked side by side with me and has the oven burns and knife-cut scars to prove it!

Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?

David: Beans. They’re a great source of protein, contain a ton of nutrients, and also count as a vegetable. Though I must say, dairy is a close second. I realize those are both categories though!

Diet Detective: Which person do you respect the most, or who motivates you? And why?

David: See the answer to “What’s the one kitchen utensil or tool that you can’t live without?” A degree in nutrition is no guarantee that you can actually get kids to eat healthier. My wife Sharon is great about getting my kids involved with purchasing and preparing foods. To me, that’s NOT easy to do, but it’s important to making real strides in improving the health of our children.

Diet Detective: What do you do to reduce stress/relax/center your mind? Do you participate in an organized relaxation activity such as yoga, meditation, or tai chi?

David: Exercise, prayer, playing with my kids, driving, and playing the piano. Not necessarily in that order.

Diet Detective: If you had to pick one healthy cook book to recommend, which would you choose?

David: Any of Graham Kerr’s books — he’s the best! He knows how to present great taste first then drag along the health benefit last. Perfection!

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy recipe? Will you share it with our readers?

David: Boy, you really like to pin me down to “the one,” don’t you? Ha! Here is one of my favorites from Ina Pinkney, owner of Ina’s Kitchen in Chicago!

I made these pancakes for my wife on Mother’s day. She exclaimed that hands down, these were the best pancakes she had ever had! Their creator, Ina Pinkney, is the chef and owner of the renowned Ina’s Kitchen in Chicago. Ina says the test of a good pancake is how it tastes unadorned, on its own. I couldn’t agree more! These whole-wheat oatmeal pancakes are great straight up but they also taste great with slices of bananas or a few blueberries placed on the pancake before ‘flipping’ it over. Just a little pure, maple syrup drizzled over the top is needed to bring out the rich flavors contained within!

Ina’s Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Servings: 12 pancakes

Prep Time: (8+ hours — oats have to refrigerate overnight)
Cooking Time: (5 minutes)

3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups buttermilk, low fat
1/4 cup whipping cream, light
1 egg
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Combine rolled oats, buttermilk, and cream in a mixing bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, beat egg with brown sugar and oil in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine flours, salt, and baking soda. Stir into egg mixture along with the oats soaked in buttermilk and cream. Batter will be thick.
3. Coat a large, non-stick pan with cooking spray. Add batter, measuring 1/4 cup for each pancake. Pancakes should be about 4″ across. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the first side, until tiny bubbles appear and the surface loses its sheen. Flip. Cook second side, 2 to 3 minutes, until cooked through.
4. Repeat until all batter is used.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories: 120; Total Fat: 5g; Saturated Fat: 1.5g; Cholesterol: 30mg; Sodium: 250mg; Total Carbs: 15g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugars: 5g; Protein: 4g

Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?

David: Laughing Cow Light Swiss wedges — they are only 35 calories each and my kids love them!

Diet Detective: What’s the most bodacious chance you’ve ever taken?

David: Writing the 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life book! I have poured my heart, soul, and a few other things into it and it’s already had a positive effect on so many. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?

David: My first and worst job was working for an ice cream company at the age of fourteen. I rode around in one of those bicycle ice cream carts and ended up owing the company money because I ate more than I sold.

Diet Detective: What did you want to be at the age of five?

David: A rock star!

Previous Post
Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., R.D.
Next Post
Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD

By Charles Platkin, PhD

Next Post
NY Post: The Plane Truth - Airline Meals Can Land You In Fat City