The Colors of the Rainbow – Inspirational Cooking Tips From Hilton Head Health


Find inspiration and healthy cooking tips from Melissa Petitto, Hilton Head Health Institute’s chef to the stars.

Melissa Petitto who’s cooked for Lucy Liu, Carla Gugino, couples Christy Turlington and Ed Burns, and Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin shares healthy but glamorous meal ideas in her cooking classes at Hilton Head Health, a weight-loss destination spa on the tony, South Carolina island of the same name.

As guest celebrity chef a week at a time, four or five times a year, her sessions are always full, as well as her private consultations.

“My cooking style is definitely seasonal and innovative fusion, I guess because I try to pull a little bit from everything,” says Petitto.

Her main emphasis, as she demonstrates in her classes, is about making better choices. For instance, as Petitto whips up lasagna in one session, she uses fat-free ricotta cheese mixed with fat-free cottage cheese.

“Really? You can use no-fat?” one skeptical guest asks.

“Yes,” Petitto assures, “because you’re mixing it.”

Her recipe also calls for part-skim mozzarella, and lots of veggies, including broccoli, zucchini, and spinach. She also selects whole-wheat lasagna noodles, and adds Hilton Head Health’s own marinara recipe, which is lower in fat and sugar than canned sauces.

Putting her stacked creation in the oven, she notes: “That’s 318 calories per serving. Imagine what your typical lasagna is.”

Petitto has this advice for everyday spa-goers: “Eat seasonally and think about the freshness of the ingredients you’re putting into your body. As long as your plate is colorful and filled with a lot more vegetables than starch and meat, you’ll be headed in the right direction. I really like my plate filled with the colors of rainbow.”

Ready to get started? Petitto developed this menu especially for Healing Lifestyles & Spas readers enjoy:

Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4


4     medium sweet potatoes

1     tbs. olive oil

1/4  cup vanilla flavored soymilk, or fat-free milk

1     tbs. orange zest

sea salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400° F. Peel and prick sweet potatoes and individually wrap in foil. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife comes out easily. Unwrap sweet potatoes and place in a large bowl. Add olive oil, soymilk, orange zest, sea salt and pepper.  Using a hand held mixer, whip on medium speed until light and creamy, about 30 to 45 seconds. Serve warm.

Arugula Salad with Pears, Dried Cranberries, Roquefort, and Crispy Prosciutto

Serves 4


2    slices of thinly sliced prosciutto

1    tbs. olive oil

1     tbs. white balsamic vinegar

1     tsp. honey

1     tsp. Dijon mustard

4     cups baby arugula

1     Bosc or Anjou pear, thinly sliced

1/4  cup dried cranberries

1/4  cup crumbled Roquefort

sea salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400° F. On a sheet tray lined with foil, lay prosciutto slices flat. Transfer baking sheet to oven and roast for 10 minutes or until dried and crispy. Allow to cool. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic, honey, and mustard. Mix until combined and season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine arugula, pears, cranberries, and Roquefort. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until the salad is evenly coated. Top with crumbled crispy prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Honey Glazed Striped Sea Bass with Fennel Slaw

Serves 4


1        cup finely sliced fennel bulb

1        tbs. finely sliced scallions

1        tbs. fresh squeezed orange juice

1        tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1        tsp. rice wine vinegar

2-1/2  tsp. honey

4        4 oz. fillets of striped sea bass, skin on

1        tsp. fresh thyme, minced

1        tsp. minced garlic

1        tbs. olive oil

sea salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a medium bowl, combine fennel, scallions, orange juice, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon of honey. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

On a baking sheet lined with foil, season fish fillets with salt and pepper. Evenly divide the thyme and garlic among the four fillets and drizzle with two teaspoons honey.

In a large non-stick or anodized pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Swirl the oil to coat the entire pan. Add the fillets and cook for 3 minutes. Do not move the fillets around; you want a caramelized crust on the bottom. Flip the fillets and cook an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown and caramelized. Transfer fillets to the baking sheet. Bake the fillets for 5 minutes or until cooked throughout. This will differ depending on thickness of fish fillets. To serve, top sea bass with fennel slaw.

Dark Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries

Serves 4


1        16 oz. package silken tofu, drained

6        oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4     cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-processed

1/2     cup water

1        tbs. brandy

1        tbs. espresso

1/2     cup sugar

1-1/4  tsp. chocolate shavings

1-1/2  cups fresh raspberries


In a food processor or blender, puree the tofu until smooth. Place the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, water, brandy, and espresso in a saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and mix in 1/2 cup sugar. Stir until smooth. Add chocolate mixture to tofu and puree until well blended. Spoon the mousse into individual serving dishes or one large serving dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. To serve, top with fresh raspberries and chocolate shavings.

For Petitto’s guest dates at Hilton Head Health:

For more on Petitto:

by Kathy Newbern


Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team
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