Healthy Habits Hero: Art Smith

"I found I am a more gifted chef on the vegetarian side." - Art Smith, award-winning chef, author, and restaurateur, Chicago

Art Smith
Photo: Photo: Iain Bagwell

Art Smith is definitely walking the health walk these days. Restaurant owner and former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey, Smith had let his superbusy, food-focused lifestyle catch up with him a few years ago. Overweight, with chest pains and escalating type 2 diabetes, Smith was scared into rearranging his priorities and his plate. Now he's embraced a new life with energy and joy. Smith schedules healthy meals and exercise into each day (something he never did), and the results show: He's down 120 pounds. Blood sugar problems are in the rearview mirror. The most significant dietary change Smith made was eating less meat. "My weight loss was through a diet that was 95% vegetarian. I eat egg whites, some chicken, fish, and a little bit of red meat. I feel incredible. I'm more lively, and," he says, laughing, "nothing feels better than sexy."

ART'S TOP 5 TIPS

  • Meat in the middle. Instead of going completely vegetarian one day, Smith goes two-thirds vegetarian almost every day. "It's really easy to eliminate meat from a couple of your daily meals," says Smith, who favors steel-cut oats for breakfast. Dinner is light, too, as he saves meat for midday. "I prefer to have meat at lunch because I have more time to work it off."
  • A salad a day. "My favorite salad is a roasted root vegetable salad. Root vegetables have a meaty flavor, they're substantial, and when you roast them, they have a natural sweetness. You can eat them hot, cold, or at room temperature with some arugula, kale, and mustard greens with a vinaigrette. This time of year, I do a great tomato and watermelon salad, too."
  • Rice and beans, please. "There's nothing better or more simple than pinto beans or black-eyed peas and rice. You can buy so many kinds of amazing rice. It just requires a little more TLC to cook because you want the rice to be a bit al dente in order to retain texture and flavor. I love black Himalayan rice, red rice, wild rice. I tend to like beans that retain their shape, so I'm more likely to use black or adzuki beans, butter beans, peas, or red beans."
  • Get creative with substitutes. "Meat substitutes are better than ever, and when you want the flavor and texture of meat, Gardein [a soy-based meat substitute] is a delicious way to get it. I served vegan unfried chicken to the Dalai Lama. We soak Gardein in cashew cream, batter it in multigrain panko and herbs, then bake it. It's a best seller at LYFE Kitchen [a restaurant Smith owns in Palo Alto, California]."
  • Take two on tacos. "Tacos are a perfect, kid-friendly option for any crumbled meat substitute. Mix in taco spices, and you don't even know you're not eating meat. Then just add lettuce, tomato, and guacamole. I also do a taco salad with multigrain tortilla strips on top that I bake until they're crispy."
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