Ask Mickey

Ask Mickey: Bon Appétit Helps You Figure Out What to Eat

Bon Appétit Management Company, Adobe’s food service provider, was founded in 1987 to cook restaurant-quality, healthy food from scratch for corporate employees, university students, and museum guests. Michelina, aka “Mickey,” the Italian mother of CEO Fedele Bauccio and COO Michael Bauccio, remains our inspiration.

At Bon Appétit, we know there’s a lot on your plate that you worry about, both metaphorically and literally. Making good choices helps you avoid unwanted pounds, work and sleep better, and form healthy eating habits that will help you live longer. So, we’ve gathered a few Bon Appétit Registered Dietitians and chefs to offer you some Mickey-inspired monthly tips on “chewing the right thing.”

Send your questions and feedback to nutrition@café or text (650) 308-9594.

This Month: Find the Synergy

New Year means a new and improved you! Many people return from the holidays rested, focused, and excited about taking charge of their well-being. Whether it’s an intention to kick your exercise plan up a notch or to maximize your energy each day, choosing foods with synergy can support those good intentions.

“Synergy” isn’t just something you hear from the marketing team. In food, it refers to nutrients that work together to increase the health benefits you receive from eating them. These synergistic nutrients may come from a single whole food or a combination of different foods. Many whole foods contain synergistic nutrients, so it is always better to eat foods whole rather than consuming processed foods with vitamins added, or nutrient supplements alone.

A few examples of foods with nutrients that work together are a salad with grapefruit and grilled shrimp (foods rich in vitamin C and iron together help the body absorb each), a comforting tomato soup made with olive oil (the lycopene in cooked tomatoes is better absorbed when paired with a healthy monounsaturated fat source), and broiled salmon atop dark leafy greens (not only are these sources of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fats, but the plant-based iron will be particularly well-absorbed thanks to the salmon).

So how can you make this synergy happen at the café, or any time you are choosing a meal or snack?

Peel the power: Ingesting the peel of fruits and vegetables is one way to increase beneficial compounds, as the peel often has a very high concentration of nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants. Consider trying kumquats next time you are at the farmers’ market; these miniature citrus fruits are meant to be popped in the mouth skin and all, where they’ll deliver a sweet and tart burst of taste. At the café, be sure to munch on the skin of your baked potato, rather than just the topping-laden filling, and go for unpeeled cucumbers from the salad bar.

Don’t do the diet: Pair your salads with a drizzle of regular vinaigrette or other oil-based salad dressing, rather than diet versions. Your body will get more nutrients from the leafy greens and other vegetables when they’re paired with a bit of healthy fat to carry them into your digestive system. Nonfat salad dressings don’t offer this benefit, so you end up losing some of the nutrients in the salad when you go too low with the fat.

Complete your protein: If your diet is primarily plant-based, don’t go nuts on the nuts. Eat a variety of plant-based protein sources, such as whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts, to ensure you’re obtaining complete protein. You don’t have to stress about eating them at particular times or in a special sequence. As long as you’re enjoying a variety, your body will add them to a pool of available proteins stored in your body to meet all of your needs.

Choosing foods that work together is one aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but the importance of exercise must not be overlooked. Exercise and diet work in synergy, too. Together they will help keep your energy high as you jump into the New Year!

You Ask; Mickey Answers!

My New Year’s resolution was to lose the 15 pounds I’ve put on since last January. I’m already stressed about how I’m going to do that. Help!

A new year is a great time to start with a fresh approach to taking care of yourself. The complementary nutrients of whole foods (foods eaten more or less in their natural form, not a “bar” or a microwaveable meal) can help you do that, while supporting your goals of achieving a healthy weight. The kinds of whole foods that offer the most beneficial nutrients for preventing disease and maintaining a high energy level tend to be the same ones that help with weight management. Fruits and vegetables offer fiber to fill you up, accompanied by a broad variety of micronutrients, for very few calories. Whole grains, lean proteins, and minimal amounts of plant-based oils round out the picture for a New Year’s diet that will give you a great foundation for feeling energetic and strong, while moving toward your weight goals. Be sure to pair those nutritious meals with regular physical activity, and you’ll have the perfect combo for feeling great at a healthy weight.

I heard that I should eat certain foods in combination at specific times of day for the maximum benefit. Is that true?

While it’s true that we can maximize the benefit of some whole foods by consuming them with others, it’s the overall pattern of our diet that matters the most for a lifetime of wellness, not the meal by meal choices. An example of a synergistic combo that increases nutrient absorption is when we pair something with iron and something with vitamin C —such as a chicken breast with a zesty citrus salsa on top. No matter when you eat what, filling about half your plate with fruits and veggies, with a little bit of whole grain and a little bit of lean protein, is the kind of pattern that will keep you healthy in both the short and long term. It’s easy to do at the café by trying an unfamiliar whole grain in your salad and topping it with some beans and a drizzle of your favorite oil-based dressing, for example.