Catching Up With Chef Cameron Payne of Biggest Loser Resorts As He Shares His 5 Tips For A Healthy Kitchen
Chef Cameron has had big roles in big kitchens feeding big menus to big numbers of hungry guests in Las Vegas and other cities. But his biggest role yet is in making smaller portions with big flavors (not calories) come alive on the plate for spa guests at The Biggest Loser Resorts as their Corporate Chef.
I caught up with him at The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge in Southern Utah, his home base, to chat up some spa cuisine and healthy lifestyle. Spun from the wildly successful Biggest Loser reality show on NBC, four destination fitness resorts now proudly carry the name and the program philosophy in Amelia island, Florida, Palm Desert, CA, Upstate New York and Chicago. And if you love the show, I’m told that it’s not uncommon to run into some of your favorite Biggest Loser participants and trainers from the various seasons staying active and healthy at the resorts alongside other motivated guests!
Chef Cameron, who started at The Biggest Loser Resort, Fitness Ridge in Utah and now oversees all of the properties as Corporate Chef, is caring, articulate and very approachable. Describing his culinary style as “fresh and flavorful” and always trying to pack a lot of flavor into his recipes made with fresh ingredients, Chef Cameron offers these 5 tips for your healthy kitchen. (These also happen to be just a few of the many healthy food strategies he teaches to guests at Biggest Loser Resort each week!)
1. Use lots of vegetables in your diet. Sharing that vegetables are “high quality, low calorie, nutrient rich foods,” Chef Cameron notes that most people could sit down and finish off a pound of potato chips with low nutrition and loads of calories, but probably could never consume a whole pound of carrots in a single sitting. They’re filling! And they’re good for you too. At The Biggest Loser Resorts, guests have access to vegetables at a well-stocked salad bar-style station all day long. Sometimes low calorie dips are also available, while other times there are just veggies for munching when hunger hits.
2. Watch the fats in type, amount and preparation. He advises to stick with grilling, baking or steaming, and to steer clear of crispy or fried foods. “One tablespoon of oil is 120 calories,” Chef Cameron reminds us. Chef shows (and convinces) guests that healthy food can be flavorful, too, without excess fat.
3. Start the day with a good food start breakfast. Chef Cameron suggests eating within the first hour of the day noting that when you start with good choices in the morning by eating breakfast, you’re more likely to “make better choices later in the day.” And certainly, there’s lots of research to support this healthy start and the role it has on weight, attention, energy and performance. Act on Chef’s advice and eat breakfast to kick off a day of healthy habits! Of special note, Chef Cameron also clearly walks the walk, too. You’ll find him in a workout class with guests at The Biggest Loser Resort almost every day, in addition to running, hiking, and playing racquetball and basketball.
4. Take charge and cook your own food. While this may seem hard for many of us in a rush and under stress, you’re in control when you cook food yourself. “Even with calories posted nowadays, you never know how someone else is preparing your food and what they are [actually]adding into it.” One of the favorite activities at the resorts is the cooking class. The Biggest Loser Resorts offer healthy, flavorful cooking classes every week to guests. And the most important tool for a home cook or chef he says is “a good sharp Chef’s knife,” a kitchen basic that makes preparing food a lot easier. And the most important skill? How to use that knife! Learning knife skills makes cooking so much easier and time-saving, he says.
5. Use a salad plate for your entree. Chef Cameron makes the point that this strategy ensures you will plate smaller portions rather than larger portions that are typical when you use the large entr©e plates. Research from Cornell University supports this notion of eating on smaller plates and serving with smaller utensils, too. Chef Cameron emphasizes that the look of the plate is important, too. “Eat the rainbow,” he says and make it colorful, flavorful with a contrast of textures to make the smaller portions more satisfying.
Strategy # 6: I’m adding this one to his list: while adopting Chef Cameron’s healthy kitchen and living tips, try a couple of his recipes including his Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie and his Apple Cobbler (yes, you read that right!) You’ll feel like you’ve had your own mini-visit to Chef Cameron’s kitchen yourself. Happy, healthy eats!
Be sure to make a friend with Chef Cameron’s Facebook Page to get updates on new recipes and more healthy eating tips, too.