Interviews / August 16, 2012

Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., R.D.

By Charles Platkin, PhD

Diet Detective: In all your years of weight control research would you say that losing weight is more about behavior than food? If you had to assign percentages, how would you divide it up?

Jean: I don’t think you can discount the importance of food in contributing to the obesity epidemic. Changing behavior is very important but long term change is very difficult in light of the food we have available and the way it is presented to us. The food contributes to shaping our behavior. It’s at least 50:50.

Diet Detective: You have a program called VTrim and a book called The EatingWell Diet, what is truly unique about the VTrim program that has not been already discussed and brought to the attention of dieters? (Especially those who have “heard it all” when it comes to dieting/weight control — and have simply given up.)

Jean: The unique feature of the VTrim program and the Eating Well Diet is the focus on behavior. It’s less about telling people what to eat and more about helping them figure out how to eat.

Diet Detective: You’ve done extensive research on Internet weight-control programs — are they for everyone? Or are they really for a certain personality type?

Jean: We have not been able to identify a certain “personality” type or a certain level of computer skill and comfort that predicts success with our programs. For now it’s probably safe to say that Internet programs can work for anyone with an Internet connection.

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

Jean: Bread.

Diet Detective: What dessert do you dream about?

Jean: Ice cream — or chocolate cake. It’s a toss up.

Diet Detective: If there were one healthy food item (something you love) that you had to eat every day, what would it be?

Jean: Yogurt — but I already eat that every day.

Diet Detective: What do you think is the single most important thing that makes or breaks a diet for someone?

Jean: There isn’t one thing. Many successful people talk about how the “time was just right” for them. Honestly I think it can be like quitting smoking. It takes many tries before you get it right. Sometimes people start and get derailed by a job change, a sick family member, or another major life event. They lose, gain it back, and learn from their mistakes. Often it’s as simple as finally being able to incorporate some exercise into your life; other times it’s knowing what to do but finally having the motivation to see it through.

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

Jean: Either an egg or broccoli. Eggs lack fiber but have almost everything else; broccoli has lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals but not much protein. You can also do a pretty good job of making pizza perfect if you do it right — whole wheat crust, vegetables and good cheese without overdoing it.

Diet Detective: What physical activity do you do to keep yourself in shape?

Jean: I run, bike, swim, ski, lift weights and ride a horse. I’ve competed in marathons, triathlons and equestrian events.

Diet Detective: On those days when you’re not motivated to work out, but you know you have to, what’s the one thought that gets you going?

Jean: I’m always motivated to work out.

Diet Detective: If you had to choose a specific song or band to get you psyched for your workout, what would it be? What other songs are on your iPod?

Jean: I don’t have an iPod. However, because it’s cold and dark in Vermont and I have to work out indoors for much of the year, I have a TV in front of my bike trainer and treadmill. When I feel like I can’t watch the morning news one more day (there’s really no news in Vermont so you can imagine how dull it gets) I watch CD’s of TV shows I’ve never seen. I finished the first two seasons of Desperate Housewives this winter!

Diet Detective: Do you have a favorite low calorie healthy recipe or cooking tip? If so would you share it?

Jean: YES! I learned this from Jane Brody and think it’s an awesome trick. I make a lot of soups in the winter, and to thicken them and make them seem richer than they are, I puree some of the vegetables and potatoes in a food processor or blender and throw it back into the pot. It gives the illusion of a cream-based soup without the cream!

Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?

Jean: Rice cakes. I love bread as I said above but I can be happy with lots of things on a rice cake instead (peanut butter, cheese, smoked salmon, etc.). As long as the topping is flavorful — because the rice cake sure isn’t — I’m OK. And I do love how they crunch!

Diet Detective: Define failure.

Jean: Giving up.

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

Jean: Taking over as Chair of my department. Although, there have been some moments on horseback….

Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?

Jean: UGH — being a lifeguard at a pool that no one came to! I was never so bored in all my life.

Diet Detective: What’s the next major item on your “to-do” list?

Jean: Learning to speak a foreign language. I can’t decide between French and Spanish however.

Here are two recipes from The EatingWell Diet: Introducing the VTrim Weight-Loss Program (EatingWell)

Ham, Gruyère & Spinach Bread Pudding

High-quality ham is worth the cost. It infuses the pudding with a smoky flavor that compliments the spinach, peppers, rosemary and Gruyère.

Makes 6 servings
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 3⁄4 hours

4 large egg whites
4 large eggs
1 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups whole-grain bread, crusts removed if desired, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1⁄2 pound, 4-6 slices)
5 cups chopped spinach, wilted (see Tip)
1 cup diced ham steak (5 ounces)
2 1⁄2 cups chopped jarred roasted red peppers
3⁄4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat an 11-by-7-inch glass baking dish or a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray.
2. Whisk egg whites, eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Add mustard, rosemary and pepper; whisk to combine.
3. Toss bread, spinach, ham and peppers in a large bowl. Add the egg mixture and toss well to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and push down to compact. Cover with foil.
4. Bake until the custard has set, 40 to 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and continue baking until the pudding is puffed and golden on top, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

To make ahead: Prepare the pudding through Step 3; refrigerate overnight. Let stand at room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake as directed in Step 4.

To wilt greens: Rinse greens thoroughly. Transfer them to a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and punch several holes in it. Microwave on High until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Squeeze out any excess moisture from the greens before adding them to the recipe

Per serving:
276 calories, 10 g fat (4 g sat, 3 g mono), 169 mg cholesterol, 25 g carbohydrate, 21 g protein, 3 g fiber, 746 mg sodium, 422 mg potassium

Nutrition Bonus:
Vitamin A (70% daily value)
Folate (37% dv)
Calcium (30% dv)
Vitamin C (20% dv)

Curried Chicken with Mango Salad

If you have the time, marinate the chicken in the tangy yogurt sauce at least an hour ahead in the refrigerator, to make it even more tender and delectably juicy. You can cook the chicken on the grill if you prefer; grill on high heat, 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

1⁄2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mango chutney
2 teaspoons garam masala (see Note) or curry powder, mild or hot
4 bone-in chicken thighs (13⁄4-2 pounds), skin removed, trimmed of fat
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 mango, diced
1⁄4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar

1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Coat a broiler pan with cooking spray.
2. Whisk yogurt, chutney and garam masala (or curry powder) in a medium bowl. Add chicken; turn to coat. Remove the chicken from the sauce and transfer to the prepared broiler pan; sprinkle with 1⁄4 teaspoon salt.
3. Broil the chicken until the coating is charred in spots, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue cooking until it is slightly charred and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes more.
4. Meanwhile, combine mango, onion, mint, vinegar, brown sugar and the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Serve the chicken with the mango salad.

Ingredient note: Garam masala is a fragrant blend of ground spices commonly used in Indian cooking. It’s in the spice section of most supermarkets and specialty stores.

Per serving (1 thigh & about 1⁄2 cup salad each):
289 calories, 12 g fat (3 g sat, 5 g mono), 101 mg cholesterol, 16 g carbohydrate, 29 g protein, 1 g fiber, 308 mg sodium, 403 mg potassium

Nutrition Bonus:
Selenium (46% daily value)
Vitamin C (25% dv)
Zinc (20% dv)

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