Live and Let Diet Transcript

The Kitchen

    Hi, Alton Brown here. And I want to tell you a rather personal story that started, oh, nine months ago when I walked into the editing room here at \Good Eats Industries and saw some disturbing images frozen on a screen. Now I'm going to share them with you. But I have to tell you, they're shocking and disgusting in their nature. So have a look, won't you?



    [camera zooms in on a computer screen where we see various images of AB] This was shot at a crawfish farm in Louisiana. You see that? That's, [pointing out his gut] that's me. And that. That's, that's also me. All me. Ooh, look at that, me. And there again, me.
    Now needless to say, I fired the editor, destroyed the tapes, and tried to deny the fact that, well, I looked like Marlon Brando, circa 1979. The horror. [sounds of an airplane engine overhead, homage to "Apocalypse Now"] But the next morning, for the first time in two years, I got on the bathroom scale. And what did it say? I decided standing there and then that everything would change and that I would shed 50 pounds of ugly fat. Nine months later, and here's the 50 pounds of ugly fat I lost. [shows a 50-pound block of lard] Pretty ugly. Of course, this is actually lard, but you get the point.
    The entire story, complete with helpful tips, can be found in my new memoir, Buff Like Me. It's just the working title. I figured there's no harm in taking time in this program to share a few of the foods that helped me move away from "Apocalypse Now" Brando and just a little closer to "Streetcar Named Desire" Brando. And what's really important is that I did it all on a steady diet of ...

[Good Eats theme plays]

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Itchy and Twitchy

    Before we get started, my attorneys, Itchy and Twitchy want you all to know that I am neither a physician nor a dietician and that the information about to be presented is ...

ITCHY: [hands AB a piece of paper to read]
AB: ... experiential, experimental, and exploratory in nature? Guys, I'm not, you know, trying to sell anything here. I'm just ...
TWITCHY: [brings out AB's copy of "Buff Like Me"]
AB: Oh. Heh heh.
ITCH: [Hands AB another piece of paper]

    [reading] Also, I should stress that before beginning any diet plan, you should consult your primary care physician?

DOCTOR: [enters room and puts a tongue depressor in AB's mouth] Say, "Aah."
AB: Aah. [chokes]

    Wait a second. Wait a second. I, I didn't, I didn't see a doctor. And even if I had, it wouldn't have been this guy. I mean, he's the cameraman, for goodness sakes.

D: [winks at us as he checks AB's heart]

    Look, I'm telling you, this isn't about a diet in the modern American sense, okay? But rather from the original meaning as derived from the Greek diaita, meaning "way of life." Now my diaita was way out of whack, okay? And I just want to share with these nice folks at home a few of the ways that I whipped it back into shape, okay?

AB: So I really don't need you fellas, okay?

    And because my weight is down, my cholesterol, triglycerides and resting heart rate are all down, ...

AB: [to the doctor] ... I wouldn't need you even if you were a real doctor, ...

... which he's not.

D: [puts on a latex glove]


[AB and lawyers run off]

Gas Station


    To your car, gasoline is energy. You put it in, it goes. But let's say that you came in for a fill-up, say, 20 gallons, but you only drove 10 miles before you came back for another 20 gallons. Now pretty soon you would need more room to store all that excess energy your car wasn't getting to use.
    Well, the same is true of your body. Energy-dense foods, like processed starches, desserts, most baked goods, candy, alcohol, and the like provide a lot of energy. And unless you use it by, I don't know, running a marathon every day, you're going to have to find a place to put what you don't use, like here [gut], or here [back], or here [butt]. But, ...

AB: Excuse me. Excuse me, sir. Sir. Would you mind if I just borrowed this doughnut for just a second? I, I'll bring it back. I'll bring it back.

    Submitted for your approval, this orange contains about the same amount of potential energy, which we call calories, as [removes about 1/20 of the doughnut] this tasty tidbit of glazed donut. The orange, however, is considerably larger, because it also contains water, fiber, complex carbohydrates—the kind that don't go directly to your backside—vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, all of which just so happen to be really good for you. So this [orange] is nutrient-dense, while this [the piece of doughnut] is merely energy-dense. That is an important distinction.
    Now I set out to increase my nutrition-to-energy ratio. And to do that, I came up with the Plan of Four Lists.

AB: Oh, here's a little something for your caboose, my friend. [shoves the doughnut into the man's mouth]

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    The Plan of the Four Lists is all about prioritizing my culinary input.

    All right, now here is list one. These are the foods that I must consume daily, and those include fruits, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, carrots, and green tea, which we'll have to deal with on another show.


    List number two includes the foods that I need to consume at least three times a week, at least. And those include oily fish, yogurt, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and avocado.


    Now list number three, now that's when discipline comes on line. These are the foods that I allow myself but one time a week. They include red meat, pasta, all desserts, and alcohol.


 That's right, kids, one alcoholic beverage a week.

THING: [hands AB a martini]

    But I do make it a nice big one and, of course, a martini. See, unfortunately, this is about as energy-dense nutrition light as you can get.

THING: [drops a couple of olives into AB's martini]
AB: Ooh, nice idea, Thing. But, unfortunately, two olives do not a salad make. [eats the olives anyway] Mmm.

    There is one more list to consider. This is my "Do Not Eat" list, the foods I consume zero times a week. This list includes fast food, soda pop—with the exception of club soda, that's okay—processed meals—TV dinners and the like—canned soups—generally full of sodium—and anything with the word "diet" on it. Because, after all, I'm not on a diet. Besides, the way I look at it, artificial sweeteners have so deadened our collective palates that we can't even taste how sweet real sweet even is when we get it. So that is the last of the lists.


    There is, however, one other rule I eat by and it's a simple one. Breakfast, each and every day, no exceptions. Now medical professionals all agree that breakfast ...


D: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Several studies have found that people who maintain significant amounts of weight loss routinely eat breakfast.
AB: Would you please get back behind the camera?
D: You know, you should really get that mole looked at.
AB: Aaaah. Camera, now.
D: If you would hire actors, I wouldn't have to jump around like a monkey all the time.
AB: Well, that's true.

    Speaking of breakfast, I like mine purple.

The presence of purple predicts anthocyanins which possess antioxidant powers, that sweep damaged matter from the body.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Milk Carton

    [at the refrigerator] My favorite personal purple delivery device is the smoothie. And if I had a theory of smoothie relativity, it would state that half of a smoothie's mass should come in liquid form. And, of course, purple liquid would be better. Now I like pomegranate. I like Concord grape. And I like açaí [pron: ah-SAH-ee] juice for their flavor, and for their high level of antioxidants. So I'm going to go with the açaí today.
    I also like to get a little more protein in my smoothies. And for that, I reach for soy milk. To tell you the truth, I don't really drink much dairy at all anymore because, well, milk used to tell me to do bad things.

MILK CARTON: Hey, Mr. B. Want some nice warm cookies?
AB: No. No! I don't want any nice warm cookies.
MC: What? You chicken?
AB: I am not chicken. You stop that!

    Oh! We all, you know, have our personal demons. Anyway, make sure your soy milk is low-fat and enriched with both protein and vitamin B12, which most of them are. All right, on to the fruit.

MC: [makes chicken clucking sounds]
AB: [rolls his eyes]

    I always include four types, starting with the purple. Blueberries and/or blackberries, which I realize aren't technically purple, but you get the point. Strawberries are always in my smoothies. A lot of vitamin C, some bright acidity, fiber. Nice. Cherries and grapes are favorites, but they're too pulpy for smoothies. I usually go also with something orange or yellow in flesh color, like peaches and, ooh, mangoes definitely a favorite.
    Now we all know that fresh fruit is best, right? Well, actually when it comes to smoothies, not so much.

MC: Want some cookies?

    In fact, all of my smoothie fodder stays frozen, beginning with bananas, which I like for their creamy ice cream-like texture, and their high amounts of potassium. I buy them on the sale table when they're all streaked with brown and nobody wants them, but they're actually perfectly ripe on the inside. I take them straight home, peel them, wrap them, and freeze them. Get them for about 35 cents a bunch. Everything else I buy I.Q.F., or individually quick frozen. Such fruits are economical, they're high quality, completely prepped and ready to go. In other words, they're convenient.
    Now that we've assembled our software, time to contemplate the hardware. Now to my mind, a worthy smoothie engine must possess the following features, okay.
    One, it's relatively heavy. This one weighs in at 11 pounds, so we know there's a serious power plant inside.
    Number two, check out the carafe design. It should be squared rather than cylindrical because food tends to just spin around inside a cylinder. It'll be made of plastic or polycarbonate, rather than breakable glass. And the blade assembly will be fixed. Yes, it'll be a little trickier to clean, but at least it won't come apart during a blending session. That would be bad.
    Now take a look at the lid. It should be heavy and very firm fitting, alright. That's quite important.
    Number four, all smoothie engines possess a variable speed control. This is maybe the most critical characteristic of all. And, oh, number five, just in case your fruit binds up, you want to make sure your model comes with a plunger. If you tried to use something like a wooden spoon or stick or something, you'll be very, very sorry. As for the robotics, those are completely optional. [the smoothie blender slowly lowers as on a hydraulic lift]

Got extra fruit?
Double your smoothie size and freeze some in cups for an icy treat later.

    Now 24 ounces is a perfectly appropriate smoothie size for me, but I don't mean volumetrically. I want to go with a weight. And to keep things easy, we'll say four ounces of each of the six components. The simplest way to dose this out, of course, is a scale that has a zero-out or tare function.

    So we'll start with açaí juice, four ounces, and zero out the scale. And the soy milk. There we go. I usually start with the liquids. Zero that out, because it's easier on the blender. Then bring on the solid stuff, such as the bananas. I always cut those into pieces. It makes it easier. Strawberries, the peaches, and finally the blueberries, zeroing out after each addition. 4 Ounces Acai Juice
4 Ounces Low Fat Plain Soy
4 Ounces Frozen Banana
4 Ounces Each, Frozen
    Strawberries & Peaches
4 Ounces Frozen Blueberries

    [at the refrigerator] Here's my little trick. I assemble the software at night right before I go to bed, and stash the carafe in the refrigerator so that the fruit will thaw just enough for the blender to get a good hold of it come morning.
    [the next morning] All right, with everything in, you're going to be tempted to just flip the switch and smoothie away. But, believe me, there's a process here, a right way of doing things. So make sure that the variable speed control is all the way down, whatever its lowest point is. Turn on the power, and slowly boost the speed to about one-third power, alright. And then just let the machine chew on those big pieces of fruit for, yeah, probably about 30 seconds.
    Alright, when the mixture starts to look more like a liquid than a solid, go ahead and boost the speed until you start to see a vortex, like a little tornado form. There. There. There. That's good. If you boost the speed any more at this point, the mixture's so viscous that the vortex will just take a big gulp of air and, ah, well, there. That's exactly what happens. The little vortex sucked in some air, and now the blade is just bound  up into a big bubble. So all we can really do is wait for the burp. So let's start over again at the lowest speed and then bring it up very slowly. There. That's a good vortex. Let this sit and spin for about 30 more seconds.
    All right, at this point, things are looking pretty smooth. And I want it to take in a little bit of air and become a little bit more homogenous. So I'm going to go ahead and boost the speed by another 25% and let it run for one solid minute.
    [at the table, tasting] Mmm. And that, my friends, is my daily breakfast. It tastes fantastic, and it's full of nutritional stuff like ...

Beta carotene
Vitamins B & C

The Kitchen

    These days when I go out in the world, I make sure I have in my possession a can of lightly smoked brislings. Now if you're not familiar with these fish, brisling are European sprat, or small kind of herring-like shoaling fish found around the North Atlantic. Although they are rarely available in fresh form, canned versions for their clean flavor, delicate texture, and pleasantly oceanic aroma are favorites of "seafoodies" everywhere. And best of all, brisling are packed with omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. I'm sure you get The Lancet and can look those big words up for yourselves. Rest assured, they are very good for the heart.


    And since these are tiny little fish, their bones are actually edible. And so they're very high in calcium, perhaps the most crucial mineral for weight loss because it seems to prevent the body from stacking on fat and may even help you to get rid of it. 40.078



    And, of course, being fish, brisling are full of protein, lots of protein, which you're going to need to rebuild [groans as he tries to dead lift a large barbell] all those muscles you've been tearing down with all the weight. I got it. I got it. That you're going to be lifting. I got it. I got it. I got it! I got it! I got it! [crashing sound as AB stumbles off camera]

Brisling also contain tryptophan, selenium, vitamins D & B12,
omega-3s, and a heapin' helpin' of protein.

    Now these little guys are packed in my preferred 2-layer configuration in olive oil. Now water-packed specimens are lower in calories, but they're nowhere near as tasty. Besides, I drain most of the oil before consuming. And I like to eat with chopsticks, which promote slower eating, which studies have shown is key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Mmm. Go ahead. Take a couple of cans. [a hand reaches to take a can but in doing so, dislodges the fake label "Brisling", to reveal another, "Sardines"]
    What? [the camera runs for the door] Okay, so I covered up the label. But, look, this is all psychological. I mean, you yell "brisling," and everybody says, "Huh? What?" You yell "sardine," and we got ourselves a panic on the 4th of July. Sorry, I just can't pass up a "Jaws" quote.

    But, seriously, nearly a dozen different species of small fish are packed and marketed as sardines, including, but not limited to, blue pilchard, herring, pilchard, smigwhatever that isand sprats. Some of these things grow up to 10 inches. And when they're canned, well, they're just right down disgusting. But tiny little brislings from Norway or Scotland remain sweet in the can. And, no, they don't pay me to say that. Look, why don't we temper any possible fishiness the way they do down in the Canary Islands by combining our brisling with avocadoes, okay?


    [at the kitchen counter] So, crack the lids on two cans of brisling packed in oil, of course, and drain the oil into two matching bowls. You should get about a tablespoon of oil out of each. 2 Cans of 2-Layer Brisling
    Sardines In Olive Oil

1 Tbs. Oil From Cans [in 2

    Into one bowl, whisk one tablespoon of sherry vinegar, then add a tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley, and about a quarter teaspoon of fresh lemon zest, and a good grind of black pepper. Whisk, and then add both cans of the fish. Fold them in nice and gentle-like, so you don't break them apart. But you do want good coverage for the marinade. Now park that someplace for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. 1 Tbs. Sherry Vinegar
1 Tbs. Chopped Fresh Parsley
¼ tsp. Lemon Zest
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
    [at the oven] Alright, move one of your oven racks to within three inches of your top element, and crank your hot box to broil, high broil if you got it.

High Broil

    Now cut four half-inch slices of sourdough bread, and brush them down with the oil from the second mixing bowl. There. Broil until lightly toasted. That's going to be two to three minutes in my oven, but I don't know about yours. So you might want to keep an eye on it every 60 seconds or so, or the next sound you hear may be the smoke alarm. 4 (½) Inch Thick Slices
    Sourdough Bread
Brush With Oil From One Can
    of Sardines
    Alright, grab yourself one ripe Hass avocado, halve it, remove the pit, and then grab yourself a fork, and simply mash the flesh, both sides, directly into the skin like that. There you go. Remove the toasts when done, and then evenly distribute your proto-guacamole onto the slices. Kind of spread it around with a spatula. There. You're going to distribute the fish evenly, along with the marinade, onto the toast and kind of mash it in so that it holds. 1 Ripe Avocado

    Garnish finely with a tablespoon of parsley. Hit it with some coarse sea salt, nice and crunchy that, and a big heavy squirt of lemon juice. There you go. 1 Tbs. Chopped Fresh Parsley
Coarse Sea Salt To Taste
Freshly Squeezed Lemon
    Juice, To Taste

    Alright, it doesn't look like much, but this is a nutritious and delicious meal that I could eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Mmm.

Avocados are packed with heart healthy unsaturated fats, proteins,
and nearly 20 different vitamins and minerals.

The Kitchen

    For me, the shift from an energy-dense diet to a nutritionally dense diet was especially hard, because it meant saying farewell to my beloved snacks.

[these foods are on a toy wooden boat that symbolically sails away]

AB: [to the boat] Bye-bye, nougat, caramel, and crisp cookie crunch. Bye-bye, pretzels, and chocolate-covered everything.

    Luckily, snacking, per se, wasn't the problem. In fact, grazing helps to keep the metabolism going, thus preventing you from launching on ravenous rampages every time you sit down to a meal. Of course, one must snack wisely. And I wanted something that was, you know, hand-friendly and crunchy and satisfying, as well as healthy. And so I settled on the only nut on the famed Mayo Clinic's list of ten super foods, the almond.

    [at the oven] Hot box to 250, rack in the middle.

250 Debrees

    [at the counter] Now combine one tablespoon of ground ginger and one teaspoon of kosher salt in a really big mixing bowl and set aside. 1 Tbs. Ground Ginger +
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
    Then fetch down a 12-inch sauté pan, place it over medium-low heat, and add two teaspoons of olive oil, and one teaspoon of dark sesame oil. 2 tsp. Olive Oil +
1 tsp. Dark Sesame Oil
    When that heats up, take one dried árbol chili, break off the end and remove the seedswhich are really, really hotand then crumble the chili directly into the oil. Let that cook for 30 to 45 seconds, or until you can actually smell the chilies in the air. There you go. 1 Dried Arbol Chile,

    Now add one pound of whole natural almonds and toss, cooking, for approximately five minutes until they become nice and toasty. 1 Pound Whole Natural
    Then time to bring in some flavor. A tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. I'll let that cook for about one minute, until the pan seems relatively dry, and it's going to get kind of brown and sticky on the bottom. That's okay. 1 Tbs. Low Sodium Soy
    Sauce +
1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce

    Then it's time to evacuate into the bowl, and toss with the ginger/salt combo, thusly. Then move everything onto a sheet pan lined with a piece of parchment paper. And make sure you get them evenly dispersed.
    [at the oven] Alright, into the oven for 20 minutes. This baking will set the outer layer so that the flavors stay put without the nuts feeling sticky.
    Cool for half an hour and enjoy. Now a handful of almonds can provide a medicine chest of goodness, from monounsaturated fats to vitamins, fiber, protein, to magnesium, which is critical for your nervous system. Still, there are calories here, so I limit my dosage to one ounce, once or twice a day. Discipline.
    Speaking of, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight takes plenty of the "D" word. It takes discipline to weigh regularly, to eat slowly, to keep to your lists, to take control over what goes into the hole in your head.
    Now it has helped me to keep a visual reminder about where I am on the journey. [shows the 50 pound block of lard] Maybe I'll add a little more to this block; make a coffee table someday. But until then, nice.
    See you next time on Good Eats.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010