Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito gained his fame appearing on the likes of The Biggest Loser and Top Chef. But long before be began appearing alongside Emeril Lagasse or Rachel Ray, he was one of the culinary world's hottest young chefs, earning awards from the James Beard Foundation, Food and Wine, and Gourmet.
Now on his sixth weight-loss or low-calorie cookbook, DiSpirito's background in developing flavor — also the title of his first book, Flavor — ensures that his recipes are as satisfying as they are effective at trimming your waist. The meals in his latest, Cook Your Butt Off!, are built on a foundation of five types of fat-burning foods that kick up your metabolism and replace unhealthy and calorie-dense items. Here, he shares his favorites that every man should be stocking in their kitchen.
Natural Sweetener: Monk Fruit
Very few sweeteners are effectively no-calorie and natural, says DiSpirito. "Stevia is also a natural option, but monk fruit lacks a sting and has a history of medicinal uses in China." The reason for a natural sweetener, besides replacing sugar and its calories, is that artificial sweeteners can throw off you insulin production and slow weight loss, he adds. DiSpirito recommends getting Monk Fruit in the Raw, which doesn't use additional sugars to boost flavor.
Dairy Alternative: Almond Milk
"I avoid dairy because of the lactose and casein," says DiSpirito. "These are compounds that in most people act as obesogens, which throw off our body's chemistry and can lead to weight gain." Replace milk in your diet with almond milk — a blend of nuts and water — and you'll actually increase your calcium intake while matching Vitamin D with fewer calories. DiSpirito, however, only recommends unsweetened almond milk. While it lacks the vanilla and chocolate sugar-fueled flavors, most unsweetened brands run just 30 to 60 calories per serving.
Gluten-Free Food: Chicken Breast
Many people find relief from inflammation by cutting gluten from their diet and DiSpirito is one of them. While it's no bread replacement, lean meats like chicken (or turkey) breast are one of your most effective fat-burning foods because they fire up your metabolism. "The breakdown of lean protein requires your metabolism to work so hard that it actually consumes calories as it's digesting," says DiSpirito.
Alkaline Foods: Beer
Though research is still emerging, many athletes and nutrition experts like DiSpirito are adopting a high-alkaline diet of non-acidic foods. "A high-alkaline, low-acid diet reduces inflammation and inflammatory diseases from IBS to Alzheimer's," says DiSpirito. And while he also recommends high-alkaline foods like broccoli, tempeh, almonds, and quinoa, beer is his favorite, especially IPAs.
Microbiotic Foods: Onions and Garlic
The microbiota in your gut has to be maintained in perfect balance, says DiSpirito. "Otherwise our GI tract doesn't extract nutrients from food properly or burn up the calories it's supposed to." DiSpirito names both onions and garlic because they're such easy meal additions and are rich in inulin — a prebiotic fiber that fuels the good bacteria in your gut.