What Does Dr. Sukol Eat?

Folks make a lot of assumptions about what I eat. In recent weeks it’s been announced (in my presence, and not by me) that I eat vegan, as well as Paleo, that I follow Weight Watchers, and that I’m just lucky, whatever that is, so I can eat whatever I want. In a funny way, this last part is true; I do eat whatever I want. It’s just not what you might think I want. At the grocery store, you can watch my neighbors taking nonchalant peeks into my grocery cart. So I’m going to spare you the trouble and explain it myself, right here and now.

For breakfast this morning, I had a cup of black coffee, a handful of grapes and a big bowl of soup, a perfect choice for a day when the temperature is 15F. Made late last week, this simple soup had just a few ingredients: turkey stock, turkey meat, greens (swiss chard, bok choy), and the juice of a squeezed lemon. That’s all and that’s enough. I made the stock from a leftover turkey carcass. [Place the carcass in a large soup pot, cover with water, add a tablespoon of vinegar, cover with the lid and cook in oven at 200F for 18-24 hours. Then strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth.] Nothing wasted.

What’s for lunch? Let me preface the answer to this question with a very important caveat: I almost always (99%) bring my lunch to work. It might be leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, like stew or vegetables. It often contains some beans, tofu, chicken, or fish. Or an avocado, sprinkled with salt, or a bowl of homemade soup (which I bring to work in a tightly sealed Ball jar), and a couple pieces of fruit. Favorite fruits this time of year are clementines, oranges, bananas. At the moment, the kitchen counter also holds two Chinese apples and a large, beautiful, red pomegranate. Afternoon snack consists of nuts (any and all kinds), another piece of fruit, and usually a piece of dark chocolate. I keep a small knife and small flat cutting board in my desk drawer at work to slice up apples, oranges, and the occasional mango.

Dinner might be salmon, cod, bean soup, eggs poached in tomato sauce, salmon, turkey meatballs, canned tuna. There is always a green salad, and always a vegetable, like asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, eggplant, carrots, or celery (braised, steamed, sauteed, or roasted). Sometimes there are a couple of vegetables, but one is always green. There is the occasional sweet potato (baked), quinoa, kasha, or brown rice, but never more than once or twice a week. On the nights when no one has time to cook dinner, I heat up leftovers and make a salad. Salad means lettuce, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt, and that is all. Rarely, a few olives get sprinkled on, or maybe some cucumber or tomato slices. Very rarely.

So, what do I eat? Well, it’s not any of the diets listed above, at least not exactly. I eat no gluten, which means no wheat, barley, or rye. I eat no dairy, so there’s no milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream. Why? Let’s just say that, for many reasons, it’s better that way. I highly recommend it. And I eat virtually no processed food-like items. No soda, no corn syrup or modified corn starch. No “vegetable oil,” and that goes double if it’s partially hydrogenated. The benefits of avoiding manufactured calories cannot be overstated.

Well then, what do I eat? Everything else. Real food, and plenty of it. Like loads of vegetables and fruit, and fish. Occasional beef or poultry. Eggs. Nuts. Beans (often in soup). Some whole grains. A friend pointed out that my diet probably has significantly more variety than the standard American diet, heavily weighted as it is with wheat, corn, and soy. Since I eat virtually no processed food-like items, pretty much the only corn I eat is straight off the cob, and the only soy I eat is from a bowl of fresh, green edamame.

Today for lunch I had marinated broccoli salad, sautéed box choy, leftover salmon, and a few salty black olives. I think I’ll make scrambled eggs and tomatoes tomorrow.

And what did my most recent set of lab results show? The total cholesterol was 186 (goal: below 200), and HDL cholesterol was 76 (goal: above 55). LDL was 92 (goal: below 130), and triglycerides were 92 (goal: below 150). My fasting blood sugar was 82, and my average blood sugar over the past 3 months was 100 (corresponding to a Hemoglobin A1C of 5.1). My B12 levels were in the normal range, which means that my diet supplies a generous amount of B12. The last time my Vitamin D level was checked, it was in the 40’s. I probably could use a supplement in the winter, when I both leave for and return home from work in the dark. In the summer I like to walk outside in the light every day.

So how am I doing? 

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Slow And Steady Wins the Race (2 vegan, 1 turkey)

Now that the cold weather has moved in, I thought it would be nice to talk about slow oven cooking. As often happens when food cooks overnight in my oven, its extraordinary fragrance awakens me periodically throughout the night. You have to try it to believe it; the smell is amazing. It’s impossible to go wrong with slow oven cooking. The flavors caramelize and blend to become complex and satisfying. Although it is true that eating well takes more planning, it does not take more time. In the case of slow oven cooking, it actually takes less, and all these recipes can also be made in a crockpot set to low.  Continue reading

What’s the Best Way to Eat?

An article entitled Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health? by David Katz and Stephanie Meller, from Yale’s School of Public Health, was published in the Annual Review of Public Health a few years ago. A story about the article was published in the Atlantic by James Hamblin, who called it Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner is Real Food. I would have edited out the word “Real” and simply called it “Food.” Then I might have presented a review of the differences between Food (With a Capital F) and manufactured calories. Continue reading

Can You Believe It? Fat is Good for You!

A few years ago I read a cookbook called Fat, a celebration of flavor written by Jennifer McLagan. A few days later, I tried the sage butter sauce recipe with pasta: Fry 30 fresh, whole sage leaves in ½ lb. butter on medium heat for about 10 minutes, just until the butter begins to brown and the leaves turn crispy. Meanwhile, boil ­­­3/4 pound of pasta in salted water and drain when done. Pour the sauce over the cooked, hot pasta and serve with a simple green salad and some fruit. I added steamed beet greens to the pasta as well. It was heavenly. The sage lost its tangy, sharp, fuzziness as it was transformed into something much softer around the edges. The gentle, flavorful crunch paired with the chewy, slippery pasta was unbelievably satisfying, and we ate nothing more that evening — no popcorn, no chocolate, no ice cream. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Golden Gazpacho Soup

You can think of gazpacho as soup and salad, both, at the same time. It will make a great first course at a nice dinner, but you can also take it to work for lunch (maybe with Mary’s Gone Crackers or a slice of toasted whole-grain bread). It would also make a scrumptiously satisfying mid-afternoon snack. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Joe’s Sassiest Asian Slaw Ever

My buddy and longtime fan Joe Gardewin has come up with what he calls “the very best and sassiest Asian slaw ever.” He says it’s great on turkey tacos but you should also feel free to eat it plain, right out of the bowl, if you want! His list of veggies is somewhat flexible, but includes cabbage, daikon radish, and hot peppers at the very least, and he is proud to say that he is a legit food snob since he hand-cuts his slaw. Go, Joe! Continue reading

Fourth of July Celebration (almost)!

Here’s one of my all-time favorite posts, reposted from July 4, 2010:
It’s the fourth of July today, and my sibs and I have converged on the family home for the great annual bash. On and off since yesterday evening, five strapping grandsons have been carrying cartons of beer, wine, soda, water, and iced tea up to the deck, where great drums of ice stand ready to receive them all. Continue reading

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (plus one glorious recipe!)

An article on the obesity epidemic once ran in our local paper with the headline “Eat, drink, and be sorry.” Eat, drink, and be SORRY? The actual quote reads, “Eat, drink, and be merry, so that joy will accompany him in his work all the days of his life.” And herein lies the problem. Continue reading

Fruit: Friend or Foe?

Here is how this all got started:
Last month I received an email from a friend asking about whether it was okay to eat a lot of fruit every day. She had seen an article in the NYTimes, “How to Stop Eating Sugar,” in which she read that fresh fruit is a good way to satisfy a sweet tooth without resorting to processed items with their excessive (absurd even, I would say) amounts of added sugar. Without specifying exactly how much was too much, the author included a warning… … Continue reading