You may recognize Chef Corbin Tomaszeski from Food Network favourites like Restaurant Makeover and Dinner Party Wars, but these days the father of three is looking healthier and slimmer than ever, thanks to a recent 16-pound weight loss. And the newest Weight Watchers ambassador swears it was a piece of (cleaned-up) cake.
“Eating healthy is something you slowly integrate into your lifestyle and is really something that isn’t difficult,” he says. “It’s really a lifestyle of eating and getting people to make foods from scratch and pay attention to quality and quantity.”
In addition to preparing fresh and satisfying meals for the Weight Watchers Simple Start plan, the Toronto-based chef is working with Chartwells School Dining to bring Ontario students healthy, kid-worthy lunches inspired by cultures around the world (think: Crispy Chicken Pops and Grilled Chicken Tostadas).
Showing that he’s hungrier than ever to change the way people think about food, we sat down with Chef Corbin to talk about how he brings healthy eats to his kids, avoiding major holiday missteps and three must-have kitchen staples.
What appealed to you about teaming up with Weight Watchers?
I thought I was a pretty healthy eater but learning about what foods to eat more of really helped me. So I set a goal to lose 16 lbs, I did it and I didn't starve myself or sacrifice by eating things I don't enjoy. It was just paying attention to some of the healthier foods and knowing what some of the ingredients can do for you. Now, my whole family's on Weight Watchers and they don't even know it! [Laughs]
What three staple items would you recommend so busy working parents can easily prepare quick and healthy meals?
1. Good, lean proteins! Fish is a great option, and shellfish, plus leaner proteins like turkey, chicken, pork and even beef. You don't need the cuts with extra fat or marbling. I do a lot of grilling, roasting or baking and one-pot wonders.
2. Eat a lot more whole-wheat products that give you longevity between meals. Something as simple as changing the breads in the house from white or sourdough to whole wheat prevents those impulse cravings between meals.
3. Unlimited amounts of fruits and vegetables. I prepare extra side dishes of vegetables instead of always sticking to that formula of protein-starch-veg. There are so many ways to prepare them - steaming, a light easy sauté, roasting in the oven. I'll take cauliflower and prepare it in ten different ways, roasting it with different spices and herbs, or steaming it and spritzing fresh lemon or grapefruit juice to take it to a whole new level. I encourage people to take risks and experiment!
How can people make cooking easy for themselves?
The trick to success is planning ahead. For me as a chef it was easy because, on a professional level, that's all I do - we plan recipes, we shop, we do all the slicing, the dicing, we do all that pre-work. So I tell people to treat their home kitchens like a restaurant kitchen. Plan your meals ahead of time. Do one big shop in the week, make a list and go in with a set agenda. And plan meals and put them in containers in the freezer so they're easily accessed. When you're well-prepared and organized you don't make poor choices around food.
You're all about the moments behind food, and with that comes holiday meals where fatty foods are often at hand. How can we clean up our holiday fare without losing that homey nostalgia?
It's a tough one. You can indulge, but less is sometimes more. You don't have to have that heaping plate at holiday time. I'm completely obedient about staying away from things that aren't good for me during the day and then at night, when I know I'm going out for dinner or cocktails, I know that I'm not going to feel guilty about having a glass of wine because I've prepared. And I don't do massive portions.
How do you engage your boys in the kitchen?
I take them shopping. Our oldest is 11 and I always take him to the produce section and tell him to pick something that he wants to eat. There's no point in me buying something he doesn't want to eat and forcing him to eat it. It's like when your grandmother says to eat the boiled brussels sprouts. But if you pick the brussels sprouts and we prepare them together and we make them, chances are you're going to eat them.