Sometimes "health food" is just plain awful. And it's this simple fact that drives some folks away from eating healthy altogether.

While I lament this fact, I have to admit I feel most sorry for those poor folks who decide to lower their heads and keep at it — those who keep eating miserable tasting food because they want to lose weight or accomplish some other health or physique-type goal.

And I feel sorry for them because they don't even know there's a better way.

You see, every day, there are people out there eating healthy, easy-to-make meals that might easily be found in gourmet restaurants. Meals that could impress the most discerning foodie. Meals that could fool a first date, a reluctant spouse, or picky-eating kids. Meals that just plain taste good. Meals that, when planned and eaten consistently, can improve and even completely transform your body.

And how do they do it?

With the principles of what I call "gourmet nutrition."

Traditionally, the worlds of gourmet cooking and healthy nutrition have been at odds. The gourmands have sacrificed all (including nutritional value) at the altar of flavor and the "artistic presentation of food."

And the nutritionists have sacrificed all (including flavor) at the altar of physiology and nutritional value.

Yet flavor and nutritional value are not mutually exclusive. I prefer to think of them as absolutely reconcilable. And by using the principles of "gourmet nutrition" you can create meals that both taste great and are healthy, too.

To this end, a "gourmet nutrition" meal must conform to the following:

It must taste great.

Simply put, to be considered "gourmet nutrition," meals must taste great, and not only to your weightlifting friends. They must taste great to everyone from chefs, to foodies, to guys and girls whose idea of "gourmet" includes chocolate-mint flavored protein shakes.

It must contain lean, complete protein.

Protein is the building block of muscle. And even if you don't want to build more muscle, you definitely want to preserve the muscle you have for as long as you can. This helps to keep your metabolism revving, improve your fat loss profile, and reduce cardiovascular disease risk. And that's why I encourage you to eat a lean, complete protein source with each gourmet meal.

It must be low in sugar and processed carbohydrates.

Sugar isn't always the demon ingredient it's made out to be, but there are valid and strong reasons to limit sugar and processed carbohydrates in your diet. These types of carbohydrates (when ingested outside the workout window or in the absence of complete meals designed to slow digestion and absorption) digest too quickly, leading to erratic blood sugar, energy levels, and hormonal responses — none of which do your health or physique any favors.

It must prioritize healthy fats over bad fats.

Whenever possible, the goal of every health-conscious individual should be to eliminate the nasty trans fat we hear so much about. But even beyond avoiding trans fats, it's important to keep our saturated fats in check while prioritizing healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Gourmet nutrition means eliminating trans fats while balancing out your saturates, monos, and polyunsaturated.

It must control calorie intake and density.

One of the major reasons many people gain fat as they age (aside from lack of exercise) is the fact that their daily meals are often too high in calories. Indeed, many popular food choices can be quite calorie dense. And this means that even though you don't feel like you're eating a lot of food, you're packing in too many calories with each meal. To this end, "gourmet nutrition" meals should be designed with calorie density and portion control in mind. This helps you avoid sneaking hundreds of extra calories into your diet with each meal, unknowingly.

It must include fresh, natural, additive-free ingredients.

In general, the fresher the ingredient, the better it is for you — and the better tasting. So, when choosing your meals, ask yourself if you've ever seen what you're about to eat growing in the ground or running around on a farm somewhere. If the answer is no, you're about to eat processed food. Ditto for anything that comes in a box or plastic container.

Be wary of processed foods masking themselves as healthy.

Please understand it'll be next to impossible to avoid all processed foods. In fact, there may be some processed foods that you want to include in your diet. That's okay. Really, you just want to make sure your daily diet draws mostly on fresh, whole foods.

It must offer you carbs only if you "deserve" them.

You've probably read all about high carb vs. low carb dieting. In my opinion, this high vs. low carb debate is a little misunderstood. As the body handles carbs best when it's in an exercised state, the best carb strategy is this: eat carbs only if you've earned them.

Have you exercised? If so, you've earned a higher carb meal. Have you exercised a lot? If so, you've earned even more carbs. However, keep this in mind; if you haven't exercised, your carb intake should probably be lower. Therefore "gourmet nutrition" means having two categories of meals — higher carb meals (for when you've earned them) and lower carb meals (for when you haven't).

Post Workout vs. Anytime meals.

My meal classification strategy uses the distinction between post workout and anytime meals. Why does this classification exist? Well, research shows us that the body handles carbohydrates best during and immediately after exercise. From this, we know that it's a good idea to consume most of our daily carbohydrates during and after exercise (Post Workout). Likewise, if we haven't exercised, it's best to avoid higher carb meals during this time — instead focusing on proteins, good fats, and fruits and veggies.

Please note that this rule is a general rule of thumb that works well for most as a starting point. Now, I should mention that some people are actually able to tolerate higher carbohydrate intakes outside of the Post Workout period. These individuals generally know who they are. They're often naturally very lean, and sometimes very skinny.

If you don't fit into that category, you're best off consuming carbs only in the two to three hours after an intense workout, or at least using that as the starting point for some trial and error, slowly introducing carbs outside that window and measuring the results.

So there you have it — 8 criterion for designing "gourmet nutrition" style meals — meals that both taste great and can help improve your body. And now that we've defined this criterion, I'd like to share with you some wicked recipes that personify "gourmet nutrition."

The Protein Shake

Popeye Fruit Smoothie (Post Workout)

Servings

1 large or 2 small

Prep Time and Cooking Time

Prep time: 5 minutes

Prelude

Spinach is a super-food high in anti-inflammatory nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and alkaline potential in the body. (No wonder Popeye ate it to boost his strength.) As a result, we try to include spinach in many of our meals, including our shakes. And while spinach doesn't seem like it'd be a great smoothie ingredient, this shake tastes awesome as raspberries, goji berries, and cashews lend their unique flavors to the mixture.

Ingredients

1 cup raspberries (frozen)

1 cup spinach

1 cup low-fat plain yogurt

1/2 cup low-fat milk

1/4 cup cashews

2 scoops Vanilla Low-Carb Metabolic Drive

2 tablespoons fresh goji berries

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a countertop blender. Blend on high until mixture is a smooth consistency.

Variations and Options

  • If you're lactose intolerant or wish to avoid dairy, replace the 1 cup of yogurt and 1/2 cup of milk with 1 cup of lactose-free yogurt and either 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk or 1 cup of water and 1/2 scoop protein. Alternatively you can substitute with non-cow's milk dairy (i.e. goat milk, yogurt, etc.)
  • For a major vitamin boost, add up to 3 cups of spinach to the recipe.
  • If you can't find goji berries, you can substitute with goji berry juice or raisins.

Nutritional Information

Per serving

large

small

Calories (k/cal)

780.0

390.0

Fat (g)

20.0

10.0

SFA (g)

3.7

1.9

MUFA (g)

9.1

4.6

PUFA (g)

3.7

1.9

omega-3 (g)

0.2

0.1

omega-6 (g)

3.0

1.5

Carbohydrates

80.0

40.0

fiber (g)

15.8

7.9

sugars (g)

36.7

18.4

Protein (g)

70.0

35.0

Approximate Caloric Ratio

Carbs (%) 40
Fats (%) 20
Protein (%) 40


Popeye Fruit Smoothie

Breakfast

Eggs Benedict with Grilled Onion (Any Time)

Servings

1 large or 3 small

Prep Time and Cooking Time

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Prelude

Eggs benedict is a high carb, high fat breakfast tradition; delicious but not so friendly to the waistline. So with this recipe, we've decided to cut the carbs, replacing the English muffin with grilled onion slices. We also decided to cut the fat with a low-fat Hollandaise sauce. The net result is a veggie-packed breakfast that's not only delicious, it's nutritious, too.

Ingredients

Eggs Benedict

Olive oil cooking spray

3 onion slices (1/4 inch thick each)

5 oz (140 g) smoked chicken breast low-fat deli meat

3 cups spinach

3 tomato slices

1.5 oz parmesan cheese (grated)

3 whole omega 3 eggs (individually poached or fried)

Hollandaise Sauce

2 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise

1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard

pinch of salt

pinch of Splenda

pinch of chili powder

Instructions

Preheat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Lightly coat with spray and gently place the 3 whole onion slices in the pan. ** Tip: The onion slices are in place of an English muffin, so it's important not to break them.

Cook until the bottom is nicely browned and then gently flip each slice. Cook until onion is nicely browned on both sides. Carefully remove from pan and set aside.

While the onions are cooking, whisk all hollandaise sauce ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add mixture to a small saucepan and gently heat until mixture is warm but not boiling and set aside.

Once onions are done, re-spray pan and add the spinach. Cook until spinach shrinks to at least half its original size. Remove from pan and set aside.

Place three onion slices individually on a plate. Put a tomato slice on top of each onion slice. Place 1/3 of the chicken, spinach, and cheese on top of each onion slice. Top with an egg and garnish with hollandaise sauce.

Variations and Options

  • Post Workout Option: Add two slices of whole grain toast or any Gourmet Nutrition oatmeal recipe.
  • For a meat variation, substitute chicken with 2 oz (70 g) of lox or 5 oz (140 g) of turkey ham
  • For a cheese variation, substitute parmesan cheese with slices of havarti or aged white cheddar
  • For a veggie variation, substitute the spinach and tomato with other vegetables such as sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, or red peppers.

For a sauce variation, replace Hollandaise sauce with fresh home-made Pesto (recipe provided in Gourmet Nutrition V2).

If you'd like to avoid Splenda, you can replace it with a small amount of Stevia.

Nutritional Information

Per serving

large

small

Calories (k/cal)

687.0

229.0

Fat (g)

38.1

12.7

SFA (g)

13.6

4.5

MUFA (g)

10.6

3.5

PUFA (g)

9.5

3.2

omega-3 (g)

2.0

0.7

omega-6 (g)

7.7

2.6

Carbohydrates

20.2

6.7

fiber (g)

2.8

0.9

sugars (g)

10.5

3.5

Protein (g)

66.0

22.0

Approximate Caloric Ratio

Carbs (%) 10
Fats (%)50
Protein (%) 40


Eggs Benedict

Lunch

Pesto Chicken Pizza (Post Workout)

Servings

1 large or 2 small

Prep Time and Cooking Time

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes

Prelude

Pizza seems to have an almost primal draw with people in all cultures eating some form of the dish. Of course, regardless of its widespread appeal, pizza has never been known as a "healthy" offering, owing to the fact that it's typically high in processed carbs and saturated fats. With this dish, we've lightened it up by using our own home-made pesto, chicken, and a host of veggies — all on a whole wheat tortilla. If you like pizza, you'll certainly come back for seconds of this thin crusted alternative.

Ingredients

6 oz (170g) boneless skinless chicken breast

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Olive oil cooking spray

Whole-wheat tortilla shell

3 tablespoons pesto

1/4 cup broccoli florets (small)

1/4 cup sundried tomato (thin sliced)

1/2 cup asparagus (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

1/2 cup aged white cheddar

Instructions

Season chicken with salt and pepper and then sauté. Set aside.

Preheat oven at 400 degrees F.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with spray and place the tortilla shell on the tray. Spread the pesto base evenly around the shell leaving the outside inch free for the crust.

Combine all of the other ingredients except for the cheese in a mixing bowl and toss until mixed together. Spread evenly covering the pesto. Top with the cheese and bake until cheese is melted and shell is lightly toasted (about 10 minutes).

Variations and Options

For a flavor variety, try using home-made pesto, hummus, tzatziki, or rosemary eggplant (all provided in GN V2).

Use seasonal vegetables whenever possible as they not only taste better, but have healthier nutritional profile.

For a cheesy variety, try using mozzarella, feta, havarti, or Swiss instead of cheddar.

Nutritional Information

Per serving

large

small

Calories (k/cal)

658.4

329.2

Fat (g)

20.8

10.4

SFA (g)

4.9

2.4

MUFA (g)

11.1

5.5

PUFA (g)

1.2

0.6

omega-3 (g)

0.7

0.3

omega-6 (g)

1.1

0.6

Carbohydrates

50.9

25.5

fiber (g)

15.9

8.0

sugars (g)

7.4

3.7

Protein (g)

67.0

33.5

Approximate Caloric Ratio

Carbs (%) 30
Fats (%) 30
Protein (%) 40


Pesto Chicken Pizza

Side Dish

Coconut Cauliflower Mash (Any Time)

Servings

1 large or 2 small

Prep Time and Cooking Time

Prep time: 2 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes

Prelude

If you like mashed potatoes but worry about the high carb content, worry no longer. Mashed cauliflower tastes just like mashed potato, but has far fewer calories and packs a bigger nutrient punch. In this recipe, we've included a crunchy twist to mashed potatoes by adding cashews.

Ingredients

3 cups cauliflower (rough chopped)

1/4 cup cashews (crushed)

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 pinch salt

1 pinch pepper

1 pinch cinnamon

Instructions

Add all the ingredients to a pot and turn on medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 15 minutes and then remove from heat.

Purée in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time if necessary to get the mixture moving.

Variations and Options

  • For a great anytime meal, serve with homemade Sirloin Burgers or Shrimp Skewers (see Gourmet Nutrition V2.0 for recipe)

For additional flavoring, try adding your favorite herbs to the mash. Paprika, safflower, or coriander are awesome spices to try in this recipe.

If you don't have a food processor, you can mash with a fork.

Nutritional Information

Per serving

large

small

Calories (k/cal)

409.4

204.7

Fat (g)

27.3

13.6

SFA (g)

13.3

6.7

MUFA (g)

8.6

4.3

PUFA (g)

2.8

1.4

omega-3 (g)

0.0

0.0

omega-6 (g)

2.8

1.4

Carbohydrates

27.8

13.9

fiber (g)

8.6

4.3

sugars (g)

9.2

4.6

Protein (g)

13.3

6.6

Approximate caloric ratio

Carbs (%) 30
Fats (%) 60
Protein (%) 10


Coconut Cauliflower Mash

Dinner

Spaghetti Squash Pasta (Post Workout)

Servings

2 large or 4 small

Prep Time and Cooking Time

Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 45 minutes

Prelude

If you love eating spaghetti but hate what it does to your body fat %, you're not alone. Yet spaghetti squash can act as an excellent pasta substitute. So why not simulate your favorite spaghetti recipe with this take on spaghetti with a meat sauce.

Ingredients

4 cups spaghetti squash

1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter (melted)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Olive oil cooking spray

12 oz (340g) ground sirloin or extra lean ground beef

1 cup onion (small diced)

2 cups tomato sauce

1/4 cup cashews (crushed)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut squash in half and clean out the centre and seeds. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil or butter. Season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon and then place in the oven.

Bake squash for 45 minutes or until squash is tender enough to stick a fork into it with minimal resistance. Remove from oven and allow to cool a little.

While the squash is baking, preheat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, lightly coat with spray and add the ground sirloin. Sauté the sirloin in batches if necessary, until lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes more.

Remove from heat, add in the tomato sauce and cashews, and set aside.

Once squash has cooled a little, scoop the flesh out of the skin with a spoon, measure and add it to the meat sauce. Next, reheat in the frying pan on medium until warm.

Garnish with the parmesan.

Variations and Options

Make this a chicken recipe by substituting sautéed chicken breast for the ground beef.

For a lower carbohydrate anytime dish, reduce spaghetti squash from 4 cups to 3 cups.

For a more gourmet approach, plate the warm squash first, top with the hot meat sauce and then garnish with the parmesan, adding some chopped basil on top.

Nutritional Information

Per serving

large

small

Calories (k/cal)

709.1

354.6

Fat (g)

31.2

15.6

SFA (g)

15.6

7.8

MUFA (g)

10.3

5.2

PUFA (g)

2.8

1.4

omega-3 (g)

0.4

0.2

omega-6 (g)

2.2

1.1

Carbohydrates

52.4

26.2

fiber (g)

9.7

4.8

sugars (g)

22.9

11.4

Protein (g)

54.7

27.3

Approximate Caloric Ratio

Carbs (%) 30
Fats (%) 40
Protein (%) 30


Spaghetti Squash Pasta

Home-Made Protein Bars

Peanut Crunch Bar (Any Time)

Servings

4 large or 8 small

Prep Time and Cooking Time

Prep time: 10 minutes

Prelude

If you're addicted to peanut butter like I am, you'll absolutely love these peanut crunch bars. They're chewy, creamy, and chunky — all in the same bite. Just be careful, you might not be able to eat just one.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon pure honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup water

1 cup all natural peanut butter (chunky)

5 scoops Vanilla Low-Carb Metabolic Drive

1/2 cup oat flour

1/4 cup almonds (sliced)

Instructions

Add the honey, vanilla, cottage cheese, cinnamon and water to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

Transfer to a mixing bowl along with the peanut butter. Stir to combine. Add the protein powder and stir to combine (this may take a minute). Add the oat flour and stir to combine again.

Using a 9" x 9" baking pan for measurement, pull out a piece of plastic wrap about 2x the length of the pan. Then cover the baking pan with the wrap, allowing the extra plastic length to hang over the edge of the pan.

Scoop the mixture above onto the plastic wrap inside the bake pan. Next, lift the corners of the extra plastic wrap and fold over the top of the mixture. Spread out the mixture with a spatula, making sure it fills the pan and that there's a layer of plastic wrap above and below the bars.

Next, uncover the top of the bars and press the sliced almonds into the top of the bars.

Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours.

For a large bar, cut into approximately 4" x 4" pieces, and for a small serving cut into 2" x 2" bars.

Variations and Options

If you're lactose intolerant or wish to avoid dairy, replace the 1/2 cup of cottage cheese with 1/2 cup plain, lactose-free yogurt. Alternatively, you can replace with non-cow's milk dairy (i.e. goat milk, yogurt, etc.).

You can make your own oat flour by adding rolled oats to a food processor and pulsing until a fine, grainy flour is achieved.

If you like a smoother bar, choose smooth peanut butter. If you like a chunkier bar, choose chunky.

For some variety, replace the peanut butter with almond butter.

Post Workout option: Add some mini marshmallows and chocolate chips for a peanut smore bar.

Nutritional Information

Per serving

large

small

Calories (k/cal)

747.0

373.5

Fat (g)

44.1

22.1

SFA (g)

6.2

3.1

MUFA (g)

21.9

11.0

PUFA (g)

12.0

6.0

omega-3 (g)

0.1

0.0

omega-6 (g)

11.9

6.0

Carbohydrates

34.3

17.1

fiber (g)

9.4

4.7

sugars (g)

11.6

5.8

Protein (g)

53.2

26.6

Approximate Caloric Ratio

Carbs (%)20
Fats (%) 50
Protein (%)30


Peanut Crunch Bar

Want More Awesome Recipes?

Look, I've been there. I've eaten more bland, dry, terrible food than I care to remember. All in the name of looking good.

But at a certain point, it got tiresome. It got old. So instead of trying to overcome the protests of a thousand unsatisfied taste buds, I decided to do something about it. I sat down with my good friend and noted recipe maestro, Dr. John Williams, and created the ultimate physique-friendly cook-book, Gourmet Nutrition.

Originally appearing as an e-book, Gourmet Nutrition Volume 1 instantly became an Internet best-seller. The feedback was exceptional. It seems people really get behind the idea of eating great tasting food that's great for them.

Go figure.

Yet there were two problems with Gourmet Nutrition Volume 1.

First, it was an e-book. And people wanted it as a hardcopy, as an in-the-flesh book they could hold in their hands and lay flat on their counters while they cooked.

Second, Gourmet Nutrition readers wanted photos. I know, it seems so "Martha Stewart." But, as they say, a photo says a thousand words. And, admit it — even you high-Testosterone men got a little hunger pang from the Pesto Chicken Pizza photo.

In response to these two requests, I decided to get back to work and create another volume of Gourmet Nutrition. This time I enlisted the help of gourmet chef, Michael Williams and his culinary counterpart Kristina Andrew. And between the three of us, we came up with over 120 additional Gourmet Nutrition recipes — each of them presented in Gourmet Nutrition 2, a beautifully photographed hard-copy that you can lay out flat on your counter top.