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Control ingredients by cooking from scratch to help slim down waistline: chef

Royal Ontario Museum Chef Corbin Tomaszeski cooks alongside Rozanne Persad, owner of Curry & Roti Restaurant in Scarborough, Ont. in the

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Royal Ontario Museum Chef Corbin Tomaszeski cooks alongside Rozanne Persad, owner of Curry & Roti Restaurant in Scarborough, Ont. in the "Restaurant Takeover" studio kitchen in this undated handout photo. Chef Corbin Tomaszeski, from "Restaurant Makeover" and "Dinner Party Wars," gives some tips for slimming down iconic Canadian recipes and turning them into healthy and delicious options. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO - Food Network Canada

TORONTO - Eating healthily doesn't have to be complicated — especially when you learn to slim down recipes and prepare foods that take advantage of the season, says Canadian chef Corbin Tomaszeski.

The Food Network Canada star has teamed up with Weight Watchers Canada to help dispel the myth that food that's good for you has to be challenging to make.

"As a trained chef, you know the foundation is French cuisine. We're talking fat and cream and butter, duck fat, all that good stuff, which I still enjoy," says Tomaszeski, host of "Restaurant Takeover" and "Dinner Party Wars.

"I can still satisfy my palate with a little less fat," he adds. "It's not about depriving yourself. It's just heightening flavours in another way."

To help better understand Weight Watchers — which recently marked its 50-year milestone — and to develop healthy recipes, Tomaszeski recently tried the program himself. In the process, he became more aware of what he was eating and lost more than 18 pounds.

"Initially, I was a little reluctant because I thought, 'No. 1, I don't need to lose weight' because that's how I associated it, and No. 2, I thought I was going to have to starve myself to do it. Both are wrong.

"I think that's probably one of the biggest kind of hurdles people face when they look at a program like this is that it's not a diet. That's the bad word because diet means starve yourself, deprive yourself. Eventually you lose the weight, but then you fall off the wagon and gain it back plus tenfold. This is a program that suits your life, allows you to eat everyday foods, allows you to enjoy food for what it is and you lose weight along the way."

Tomaszeski says he hears from many people who think it's difficult to cook and time-consuming to eat healthily at home.

"Untrue. Follow the rule 'less is more, keep it simple' (and) you'll be successful every time."

Tomaszeski recommends making food from scratch to be in control of the ingredients. Then assess how much oil or butter is needed in the recipe — that is, if any is needed at all.

"When you buy everything out of a box and you buy stuff that is pre-prepared and prefabricated you don't have that control. You may feel good when you eat it, but what does it do for you in the long run?" he says.

Another misconception is that cooking healthily is expensive. Tomaszeski says by cooking foods that are in season and planning ahead, individuals can stay within budget — probably even below.

The chef says there are also tricks to ensure you leave the table full, without suffering hunger pangs and cravings shortly afterward.

He has revamped four iconic Canadian dishes for Weight Watchers, including the classic burger, pulled pork sandwich, ginger beef and the Nanaimo Bar.

For the sandwich, he swaps lean chicken for pork. He uses spices for flavour, adds sweetness to the ginger beef with honey and nixes frying. For the sweet treat from the West Coast, his tricks are egg whites to incorporate volume to the Nanaimo Bars batter along with cocoa, while unsweetened applesauce provides moisture.

When it comes to burgers, those keeping an eye on their waistline might do well to forgo the condiments that add extra calories, fat and sodium to prepare a healthy simple dish that will satisfy the taste buds.

"The burger is all about the right toppings and I find that too many people put the wrong toppings on the burger. For example, cheese, bacon, condiments, sauces. You don't need it. If you have a burger with blue cheese, what happens? All you taste is the blue cheese. I want to taste the beef."

He heightens the beef's flavour with just a touch of homemade barbecue sauce and tops the burgers with black bean hummus, which is "really easy, super healthy and high in fibre."

Instead of filling up on a bun, he suggests using half a bun, preferably whole wheat as the additional fibre helps individuals stay fuller longer between meals. Alternatively, they can use a lettuce wrap or whole-wheat pita.

— Follow @lois_abraham on Twitter.

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