Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Signing Off

Hey all,

I'm running out of things to say about the Brentwood Diet, so will make this my last post, unless there's some earth-shattering news to share.

Want the skinny on the Brentwood Diet? Basically, getting through the first phase requires intense discipline. But, the diet works--and it works fast. Phase Two seems about committing to a healthy lifestyle and striking a balance. Everything is a choice.

Writing for this blog and managing the second phase of the Brentwood Diet put health news on my radar. For me, Phase Two isn't just about keeping on track with the diet, it's also an ongoing learning process.

Unlike most Brentwood Dieters, I'm not currently diabetic, pre-diabetic or someone with metabolic syndrome. I'm married to the patient. So, I don't experience the physical symptoms of those health conditions or know exactly what patients are going through, emotionally. While I've lived the Brentwood Diet and feel better because of it, the greatest benefits relate to my husband's health.

And no doubt about it, managing one's health is a life-affirming act of love--for oneself and one's family. And that's something to consider when the going gets tough on the Brentwood Diet.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Real Brentwood Dieters Eat Quiche

OK, the quiche they eat isn't quite authentic. Real quiche calls for eggs and milk or cream in a pastry crust with some goodies like cheese, veggies and ham thrown in. Mmm. Phase One of the Brentwood Diet permits only eggs and vegetables. And definitely, any kind of crust is out. It involves the "F" word--flour.

So, perhaps a baked omelette or faux quiche might be more appropriate a name for the crustless concoction that true-blue Brentwood Dieters might indulge in during the first phase of the diet. Here are some recipes:


• Preheat oven to 350˚

• Lightly grease a 9" cake or square pan with olive oil

• Chop and microwave 2 or 3 kinds vegetables for few minutes. Or cook them in chicken broth and reduce the liquid. For example: onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, garlic, etc.

• Put pre-cooked vegetables in the prepared pan

• Beat 6 eggs, add pepper or spices to taste and pour on top of vegetable mixture

• Cook for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and the middle is done. 4 servings


• Use recipe for Phase One, but if you'd like, saute the vegetables in a little olive oil. Also, once in a while, consider adding in a few ingredients forbidden in Phase One, like:

• Grated cheese such as cheddar, goat, gruyere, monterey jack, etc.
• Chopped ham or prosciutto
• Chopped sausage: chicken, turkey, chorizo, Italian
• Crumbled bacon
• Splash of skim milk

Of course, these ingredients (except the skim milk) contain scads of sodium and saturated fat, so use sparingly.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

News Brentwood Dieters Can Use

Recently, there's been a lot of press about the importance of lifestyle changes for those with the diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Many of the stories have to do with preventing, reversing or managing Type 2 diabetes.

The Los Angeles Times ran several stories on diabetes in its health section on October 26, 2009. One article showcased lifestyle strategies of diabetics who successfully managed their conditions enough to reduce or eliminate insulin and medications. One patient went on a low-carb diet, a la the Brentwood Diet.

Another LA Times' article talked about the doctor-patient relationship and stressed the importance of a partnership/team approach to managing diabetes. It also discussed non-compliance and the notion of being "in control" of blood sugar numbers. Sometimes patients who do everything right--diet, exercise, et cetera--still have high blood sugar readings.

A third LA Times' story mentioned a current study at USC's Keck School of Medicine about reversal of Type 2 diabetes ( through lifestyle changes. They want to know what methods patients have used to reverse their diabetes. That same piece touted the consumption of coffee, nuts, moderate alcohol and fiber to prevent the risk of diabetes.

Likewise, a U.S. News & World Report emphasized diabetes prevention. It noted that a recent study found that diet and exercise can delay the onset of diabetes in at-risk individuals for 10 years.

The good news is that Brentwood Dieters are right on track. You're doing everything in your power to manage your health.,0,7525276.story,0,3604643.story,0,6593991.story

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fill Up On Good Vibes

When it comes to your health, it's not just what you put in your mouth that matters, it's also what you put in your mind.

According to researchers, stress and holding on to negative emotions like anger, can seriously impact your health and damage your brain. Neuroscientist, Dr. Andrew Newberg, and therapist Mark Robert Waldman, both of the University of Pennsylvania, along with cardiologist, Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School, have spent years studying this phenomenon.

Apparently, one of the biggest culprits found with stress and negative emotions is the hormone, cortisol. Prolonged cortisol in the system can lead to lowered immunity, increased blood pressure, blood sugar imbalances, increased abdominal fat and other health problems.

Fortunately, just 12 minutes a day of mediation can reduce stress, anxiety and depression and may even slow the aging process, too. Yoga, journalling, deep breathing, guided imagery, deep breathing, other techniques and even yawning (who knew?) are also beneficial. Using the loving-kindness mediation to give a shout-out of love to yourself and to others--especially, to people you're having difficulties with--can reap rewards on many levels.

It seems like meditation and relaxation practices are just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wired For Health

Recently, Wired Magazine ran two pieces that might interest Brentwood Dieters.

The first article titled, "12 Shocking Ideas That Will Save The World" featured a whole slew of controversial planet-changing actions. But, one of the simplest ideas dealt with common sense: that people must take responsibility to save themselves or as the subhead explained, "Cheat Death." According to Ralph Keeney of Duke University, "55% of deaths for people age 15 to 65 can be attributed to poor decisions." Choices like not wearing seat belts, smoking, drunk driving, obesity, etc. The article went on to detail ways to incentivize or penalize people into making smarter choices.

The second article, titled, "The Buddy System," explored 50 years of medical data to reveal that our social networks effect our health and happiness. For example, researchers Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler reviewed the famous Framingham Heart Study to delve into the power of social networks. They found that overtime people got fatter--in 1948 10% of the population was obese and today, 40% is. But the kicker was that the key factor that predicted obesity was close, personal relationships. People were, "Fat by association." On the flip side, heathy habits were also contagious. In the 1970s, 65% of people aged 40 to 49 smoked and that number dropped to 22% by 2001. It seems that the company we keep really matters and influences our lives on levels we might not even be aware of.

Basically, the stories in the high-tech magazine backed up some tried-and-true wisdom with hard data. They related that both personal responsibility and other people impact our health immensely--and there's something both obvious and ironic about that. (Check out

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Phase One, Round Two

We're on the 10th day of our return to Phase One of the Brentwood Diet and doing all right. OK, it's really a quasi comeback: tomatoes, salmon and hangar steak made it past our lips. And I don't feel any guilt except for the steak. No sirloin or ribeye, the lean cut we tucked into still came with some saturated fat.

So far, I lost a little over four pounds. David did not weigh himself at the beginning, but thinks he lost about the same amount. That's just under half a pound a day--which isn't a world record for the Brentwood Diet, but isn't shabby, either. Certainly, we're tracking well, even with our cheats. We plan to return to Phase Two on Wednesday.

Although I'm fantasizing about fruit and yogurt at this very moment, things have not been so bad this time around. Hunger isn't an issue and cravings aren't intense. Again, we were pretty low-carb to begin with, so the adjustment was not huge. And mentally, two weeks or so is not a lot to endure.

Anyway, we'll go the distance to five pounds. That doesn't sound like much. But, it's funny: shedding just a few pounds makes a difference in how you feel.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Entertaining Shalts & Shalt Nots

I'd like to add an 11th commandment to the Brentwood Diet: inflict not the Brentwood Diet upon your guests.

While in Phase One, you may find it easier to cook for others than to be a dinner guest. You have total control over what's served. You don't have to make a big deal about your dietary needs. And don't need to ask if you can bring something. But unless you have a sadistic streak or want to discourage certain guests from ever eating over again, do add some civilian food and drink to the mix. Odds are that health-conscious guests will appreciate any low-cal, non-processed offerings. Course after course of Brentwood-Diet-only food might not win the cook compliments, though.

Most hosts ask about food prohibitions and preferences; and would keep carb-loving buddies in mind when making up the menu, anyway. But it's easy to slip up. Once we served a brunch and included whole slew of normal food, including dessert, but forgot to buy bread. Luckily, we had crackers on hand. Remember, people expect the basics--like bread, salt and butter. Of course, chocolate comprises an essential, fifth food group for some, if not one of their primary reasons for living.

Handling the temptations of leftovers is as easy as making up goodie bags for your guests. This worked well when we hosted Thanksgiving. People seemed happy to take home stuffing and pumpkin pie, etc. And hopefully, they shalt return for future dinners.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to Square One

We began the Brentwood Diet in April 2007. Phase One lasted for three months for both of us--and every moment felt like gastronomic boot camp. David lost 30 pounds and I lost 25. While our weight-loss stories didn't come with jaw-dropping before-and-after pictures, David's blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol numbers testify to the diet's life-changing effects.

The good news is that we've pretty much kept the weight off. I've strayed from the diet more than my husband and returned twice already to Phase One, each time for less than two weeks at a clip. Hey, it's a lot easer to take off five pounds than twenty. And certainly less painful to adhere to Phase One's hardcore restrictions for a short time.

Right now, we're going back to Phase One, again. For David, it's the first time since 2007. Which seems amazing to me, when you think about the yo-yo effects of most diets. For sure, it won't be as difficult as two years ago, because instead of giving up everything, we only have to close the eat-whatever-you-want-10%-of-the-time loophole and forgo a few Phase Two staples. For us, that means daily consumption of red wine, skim milk, low-fat yogurt and fruit. The fruit will be hardest for me. David only indulges in nightly blueberries with yogurt. (Blueberries being low in sugars and high in antioxidants and flavor.) Yesterday, we chowed down on Chinese food in a typical pre-diet binge. And today is sort of a transition day, because I didn't want to throw out a papaya and we're finishing off the remaining milk with our coffee. But, tomorrow it's back to square one.

Anyhow, we each want to lose five pounds. And there's no doubt that we will do it. The Brentwood Diet works. And once you've been on it, you have the confidence that you can control your weight for life--and that's quite powerful.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Travelers Tips

Traveling during Phase 1 is tough. Your eating-out strategies come into play, but keep portability in mind. If traveling by car, keep water and your bag 'o vegetables near by. If you're staying at a motel without a fridge handy, buy Persian cucumbers and mini peppers for snacking. They don't need to be chopped, which is nice, too.

When you fly, plan ahead. My husband, David, was so militant during the first phase of the diet that he once travelled to Toronto without eating anything on the plane. A few weeks later, we made the same trip together. This time, we ate at home and each ordered a salad with chicken chunks on the plane (sans dressing, of course). I brought unsalted almonds to nibble inflight, too. (Yes, they're banned from the Brentwood Diet, but they were OK by Atkins. David didn't crack, though.) Upon arrival, we devoured a veggie omelette, which for some reason, required some negotiation at the coffee shop. Hard-boiled eggs and pre-packaged crudite trays from the grocery store helped a lot during our stay. We navigated shiva meals as best we could. For example, we both removed the bread from our tuna-salad sandwiches. David didn't realize that they contained mayo. I chose not to tell him. There are times when life calls for flexibility.

People in the second phase of the Brentwood Diet can relax a bit. They also can prepare for the trip by going back to Phase 1 before they travel. The idea is to lose weight in anticipation of a slight gain. Of course, the Brentwood Diet lifestyle isn't just about watching weight. It's about keeping blood sugar, cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc. in check. So, don't go hog wild on your vacation or business trip.

How To Avoid Becoming A Social Pariah

Unfortunately, the first phase of the Brentwood Diet can put a dent in your social life. The ninth commandment of the Brentwood Diet states: when going out, eat first. Heed it and you'll go a long way. Here are some more strategies you might consider to help you stick to the Brentwood Diet and avoid becoming a buzz kill.

Mineral water, unsweetened iced-tea, black coffee. Needless to say, you will not be the life of the party.

Yes, you can order a salad with chicken chunks and oil and vinegar on the side. Grilled white fish and chicken breasts are a safe bet, too. But, most things on the menu come with salt. You'll need to consult with your food servers and have them check with the chefs to find if everything complies with the Brentwood Diet. Fortunately, for those living in the LA area, many restaurants are used to special orders. They don't upset us. Or at least, not too much. They can irritate your dining companions, though.

This is much trickier than eating out. First, let your friends or family know that you have special needs. Your hosts may be happy to meet them. Of course your hosts can hear low-carb diet, whip you up something from the South Beach Diet Cookbook and be disappointed when you don't eat it. So, please be clear on things.

Offer to bring your own food. Your hosts may be OK and even relieved if you do. But, ASK first. Toting your own turkey meatballs might offend someone who's shopped and cooked something off-diet for you. And if you do bring your own food, don't just bring it for yourself: make enough to share. FYI: even non-Brentwood Dieters must deal with this. A friend's little boy is allergic to everything and she goes through this every time her son gets an invitation to a birthday party or play date.

Avoid talking about the Brentwood Diet at length. It's boring. Shortly after we went on the diet, a friend went on it, too. We went over to his house for a Super Bowl party. His wife not only added Brentwood-Diet-compliant food to the mix, she also made up signs for the buffet table forbidding guests to talk about the diet. Zealous converts to the Brentwood Diet, we'd also become pains in the ass.

Load your plate with them at every opportunity.

Remember the 90% on / 10 % off rule for Phase 2? Eating out and traveling are when it really comes into play. But, when you eat out and go off-diet, keep things in perspective. You might choose to have a beer, but forgo the Buffalo chicken wings dipped in blue cheese dressing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Observations On Skinny People

I've made a lifelong study of skinny people. And not the kind who wage war on fat, no. I'm talking about the naturally thin, the effortlessly svelte, the slender types who've never dieted a day in their lives. Brentwood dieters may not be among their ranks, but they can learn something from the super slim. Here's what my unofficial research shows about them, including the different shades of skinny:
Eat Anything Without Gaining An Ouncers: These folks lucked into revved-up metabolisms and can down strawberry milkshakes and gobble up large orders of chili-cheese fries without super-sizing their waistlines. They are the happy few. Although, a subset of this group actually struggles to keep weight on. Some underweight individuals even suffer health problems. Others must endure unwelcome advice or snarky remarks about their skeletal status. Also, food-related medical conditions like high cholesterol can plague the Eat Anything Without Gaining An Ouncers. However, they don't have much to teach Brentwood Dieters.

• Cruise Controllers: They possess built-in common sense or an internal regulator when it comes to healthy eating. They can limit themselves to three potato chips. They can keep a chocolate bar for a week and nibble a small piece of it every night. And it would never occur to Cruise Controllers to eat an entire package of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies in a single sitting. They don't need willpower. Occasionally, they may tabulate what they eat. For example, if they want dessert, they'll forgo the Margarita and appetizer. But mostly, moderation in all things edible is automatic for them. The good news: Brentwood Dieters can compensate for the lack of natural-born culinary cruise control. Phase 1 is no problem: it's so structured and restricted, you don't have to think; just endure. It's like boot camp. Follow orders and you'll do fine. But, Phase 2 Brentwood Dieters can cultivate balance and accountability with good food choices, portion-control awareness and by adding exercise into the equation. 

• Sloooooow Eaters: They don't wolf down their food. They tend to be mindful eaters, savoring every morsel. They relax and converse at the table, too. Incidentally, since these people linger over meals, their brains send satiety signals their bellies in time to stop them from overeating. That's internal portion control in action. Slow seems like a good way to go, all around. (Hmm. There may be an overlap between Cruise Controllers and Slow Eaters. More study is needed.)

• Anti-Foodies: These freaks of nature could care less about food. OK, maybe that's a bit harsh. Perhaps, they're simply cursed with palettes that don't respond to flavor. It could be that the aroma of freshly baked bread does not arouse their appetites. Quite possibly, they are immune to satisfying textures like the silky frothiness of a chocolate mousse. It's almost as if Anti-Foodies lack the gene that permits the sensual enjoyment of food. Which is kind of sad, if you think about it. Certainly, these folks don't live to eat. They eat to live. Interestingly enough, Dr. Mizrahi mentioned "eating to live" when we first went on the Brentwood Diet. That notion didn't inspire me at the time. But, there is something to learn from the idea, on a whole lot of levels. 

Eventually, Brentwood Dieters enter the ranks of the skinny. But, Brentwood Dieters are converts: those skinny by choice, not by chance. And that's a big difference. Each and everyday, Brentwood Dieters consciously choose a better, healthier life. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Super Seasonings

Banish bland eats and enhance your health at the same time.  After the first two weeks of the Brentwood Diet, you can break out the seasonings and return flavor to your food. You'll also add some health benefits. Because, many of the items in your spice rack and pantry do double duty as "functional foods." That means they deliver health-promotion or disease-prevention in every sprinkle or dash. The following faves make the list of super seasonings: 

Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and lower both triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol 

Garlic: Boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol and fights against cancer and heart disease among other things--garlic is the super hero of seasonings

Ginger: An anti-inflammatory high in antioxidants, it may also lower cholesterol  

Olive Oil: Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol without lowering HDL (good) cholesterol

Parsley: Chuck full of cancer-fighting antioxidants

Turmeric: Fights inflammation, lowers cholesterol and may help prevent Alzheimer's disease

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cardboard Chicken

Biting into a piece of chicken with its crispy, golden-brown skin is one of life's simple pleasures. According to the Brentwood Diet though, only skinless, white-meat chicken is allowed. Unfortunately, this lacks the flavor punch  that a chicken roasted whole delivers.  

What's a Brentwood Dieter to do? Get used to it. Chicken skin for all its goodness, packs in a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol--all things to avoid on the Brentwood Diet.  And dark-meat lovers just have to wait for Phase Two for the occasional drumstick or thigh. 

Also, make the best of things. Although bland, the nude-looking lozenges of boneless, skinless chicken breasts are ultra convenient. First, they cook up in no time. It takes just 25 minutes at 400˚F and wham, they're out of the oven. Chopped up, they're a great addition to soups, stews and stir fries (Phase One folks: instead of using your tablespoon of olive oil for salad, use it to stir fry vegetables and chicken.) Why not cook up a bunch of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and use them later? Chilled, they make great additions to salads. They're great to tote, too, because they're not messy and they're microwavable. 


Chunky Chicken Salad:

• 2 or 3 bell peppers diced generously
• 1 small sweet onion finely chopped (Vidalia, etc.)
• 1 regular cucumber or 4 Persian cucumbers
• 2 to 3 skinless breasts, pre-cooked and chilled and chopped into chunks
• 2 tablespoons extra version olive oil
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Mix together. Feeds 2. 

Phase Two: Add chucks of avocado and tomato,  finely chopped cilantro, a pinch of cumin and the juice of 1/2 to 1 lime instead of the vinegar for a Southwestern twist. For a once-in-a-blue-moon option, throw in a few cooked low-salt black beans and kernels sheared from a fresh ear of corn. Know that in addition to added carbs, the canned black beans come with sodium, which is a Brentwood Diet no-no.

Roasted Chicken & Cauliflower

• 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 head of cauliflower chopped into little pieces 
• Olive oil--1 tablespoon Phase One, lots Phase Two

Preheat oven to 425˚ F.  Lightly grease a large roasting pan with olive oil. Rinse chicken breasts in water and pat dry. Place in pan. Add cauliflower, preferably not onto on the chicken breasts, but in between them. Sprinkle the olive oil on top of everything--1 tablespoon for Phase One people, more for Phase Two Brentwood Dieters. Bake for 20 minutes until the chicken's golden brown. Test the chicken for doneness. You may have to remove the chicken breasts and let them rest and cook the cauliflower on its own for a while longer. The cauliflower should be toasty-looking and fork-tender. Feeds 3 to 4.

Forgo the cauliflower but add other vegetables to the bottom of the greased pan: chopped onions, chopped celery, chopped celery root, chopped summer squash, mushrooms--whatever. Place chicken on top and cook at 400˚F for around 30 minutes. Check for doneness at about 20 minutes. 

Skillet Chicken & Veggies

• 3 to 4 boneless chicken breasts chopped into chunks
• 2 or more cups of salt-free, homemade chicken stock/broth (recipe on blog) 
• 1 16-oz. bag of frozen bell pepper strips or 4 or 5 diced fresh bell peppers
• 2 large onions diced finely
• Herbs of your choice: eg: herbs de Provence, cumin, cilantro, parsley, paprika, thyme, etc.
• If you have a huge skillet, add in celery. From a few stalks to a whole bunch. 

Throw the vegetables, seasonings and the chicken stock/broth and cook covered for 15 minutes or so. Then throw in the chunks of chicken and cook covered for about 15 more minutes. Make sure that the broth doesn't all evaporate. Feeds 2 to 4 in Phase One. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

The "E" Word

Exercise. It conjures up perky, fitter-than-thou folks who get excited about sweat, spin class and workout routines. Kill me, now. Just thinking about exercise makes this potato want to curl up on her Lazy Boy and take a nap. OK, it's not so bad as that. But for some reason, even activities that leave one with a feel-good-endorphin afterglow meet with massive mental resistance. 

And that's a shame. Because, diet and exercise are a perfect pairing, a dynamic duo and a one-two punch. In  combination, they  lower weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar more effectively than either would alone. 

So, the question is: how does one remove the "Eww" from exercise? Possibly, by taking the work out of workout. Playtime sounds a lot more fun, doesn't it? Think of activities that you want to do, instead of the exercises you feel you should do. Maybe walking on the beach, riding a bike or going on a hike. How about bringing along a buddy? Then you can socialize while getting into shape. 

My husband takes the one-step-at-a-time approach. He breaks the whole exercise event down into segments. First, get the gear ready. Next, get out the door. Drive to the gym or the pool. Once there, it's not so bad. Yet, he gives himself permission to quit. Does 15 minutes or so and then sees how he feels. It works for him. 

Of course, the more you exercise, the faster you reach your goal weight and the faster you get to Phase Two of the Brentwood Diet. That's a huge inducement. Fear of a heart attack and stroke works as motivation, too. Hey, whatever gets you moving is good. And that's the word on exercise. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Turkey Meatball Mania

Here's why turkey meatballs are Brentwood Diet superstars:

• Great Snacks--When the all-access bag of cut-up veggies doesn't satisfy, nibble on a few turkey meatballs

• Fast Food--Turkey meatballs don't take to long to whip up; and if you have them on hand, all you have to do is microwave them 

• Portable--Turkey meatballs are great to go. Bring 'em to work, school or even when visiting friends. (WARNING: These turkey meatballs proved to be diet lifesavers when friends invited us over for pizza or BBQ in Phase One. But, consider alerting friends that you're bringing them over: some friends will be happy to cook something you can eat, others will be thrilled you're arriving with your own Brentwood-Diet-approved food and a minority may be offended.)


Phase One: Curried Turkey Meatballs:


• 2 lbs. ground turkey
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoons curry powder or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with olive oil. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well. Form turkey mixture into 1- to 2-inch balls. Put balls onto cookie sheets--about 24 to a sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Check that they don't over cook.

Phase Two: Curried Meatballs with Coconut Curry Sauce:

Make the meatballs using the recipe above. While the meatballs are cooking, create a sauce using a can of coconut milk, 2 cups of chicken broth, a diced onion, a pinch of curry and a pinch of saffron. Reduce mixture until syrupy. Combine meatballs and sauce and serve.

Phase One: Cumin Turkey Meatballs:

Use above phase one recipe, substituting cumin for curry.

Phase One: Mushroom & Onion Turkey Meatballs:


• 2 lbs. ground turkey
• 2 eggs
• Handful of dried mushrooms 
• 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
• One onion
• Chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with olive oil. Put dried mushrooms in a blender and chop them up on the "puree" or "liquify" settings until powdered and set aside. Puree onion in blender and add to dried mushrooms. Add a little chicken broth to the mushroom and onion mixture to form a paste. Combine with other ingredients in a bowl. Add chicken broth as needed. Form turkey mixture into 1- to 2-inch balls. Put balls onto cookie sheets--about 24 to a sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Check that they don't over cook.

Mushroom & Onion Turkey Meatball Alternatives:

Phase One: With Fresh Mushrooms:

Use about a pound of pureed mushrooms instead of the dried or mix half fresh / half dry. Morels and Chanterelles work well. Cook the mushrooms and the pureed onion in the chicken broth and reduce. You may also use some pureed or finely chopped peppers, too. Cool and combine with other ingredients. You may need to throw in an extra egg, to keep the mixture firm enough to form meatballs. 

Phase Two: Mushroom, Onion & Truffle Turkey Meatballs:

Use the original Mushroom & Onion Meatball recipe. Add a little chopped fresh white or black truffles and/or truffle oil (sometimes available at local farmers' markets). This makes for a moister texture, but adds fat so it takes you into Brentwood-Diet-Phase-Two territory. Want to be super decadent? Add a tablespoon truffle pate to the mix. And make a sauce using a reduction of white wine and chicken broth, maybe with some truffle oil, diced onion and fois gras thrown in. 

*Caveat: Some cooks use precise measurements and get replicable results every time. I'm not one of them. This often falls short of perfection, but it makes for adventure. If you ever find your turkey meatball mixture too moist to create firm, round meatballs: don't despair. Just lightly grease 2 loaf pans or a large lasagna pan with olive oil and make turkey meatloaf. 

Gnocchi Guilt

I confess: I fell off the Brentwood-Diet wagon last week. The gnocchis at Spumoni, a Santa Monica restaurant, cried out to me. Gnocchis are Italian dumplings made with white potatoes and white flour--both forbidden foods on the Brentwood Diet.

Now, the gnocchis in question were no ordinary gnocchis. They were Spumoni gnocchis, which mere gnocchis can only aspire to--chewy, tasty nuggets of yumminess that embrace sauce. Sure, there were more Brentwood-Diet-friendly options on the menu, but to pass on the gnocchis seemed almost sacrilegious. Especially since, the pesto sauce that accompanied them was inspired, as well.

Of course, when in Phase Two of the Brentwood Diet, slips are factored in to the 90%-on / 10%-off formula of maintenance. And in the case of the Spumoni gnocchis, I only ate half the bowl. Nevertheless, the sense of guilt was way out of proportion with the cheat. Somehow, a well-marbled steak grilled to perfection or a snack of goat cheese slathered on a fresh fig seemed like lesser crimes. Yet, such detours from the Brentwood Diet come with hefty helpings of saturated fat.

So, why did those low-cholesterol gnocchis create such guilt? For some reason foods high on the glycemic index felt like greater evils than those high in saturated fat. Certainly, followers of the Atkins Diet would agree.

But in my case, such thinking was flawed. In fact, after over indulging during the holidays, I went back to a modified Phase One of the Brentwood Diet: all carbs were out, but fatty red meats were in. Big mistake. I the lost the extra five pounds, but a blood test a few days later showed high LDL-cholesterol levels for the first time ever. Worse, my husband's bad-cholesterol readings spiked, too. Since he's the patient with the health concerns, I really felt guilty.

Definitely, guilt comes into play in the Brentwood Diet. Whether induced by gnocchis, cheese cake or high-cholesterol levels, guilt serves to keeps you on course. Yet, some guilt is misplaced. The 10% license to eat whatever you want in Phase Two isn't about going off the Brentwood Diet--it's about sticking with it for the rest of your life. Because after all, the Brentwood Diet really is a lifestyle change. The occasional indulgence actually helps you manage your weight and your health in the long run. So, the verdict isn't in on my gnocchi guilt.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Brentwood Diet Phase Two

What's the second phase of the Brentwood Diet? After you achieve your goal weight, you're in Phase Two. Basically, Phase Two is Phase One 90% of the time. Now, that seems like it'd be easy to figure out: you can go hog wild every 10th breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make every tenth day a vacation day from dieting. Or stay on course for 90% of each meal. 

In reality, phase two is bit harder to figure out. Unlike the Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet and even Weight Watchers, the Brentwood Diet gives you no clear-cut instructions on transitioning into the diet's second phase (there is no phase three on the Brentwood Diet). And there is no manual for maintaining your new lifestyle, after reaching your goal weight. Now, this can be both freeing and crazy making at the same time. 

Because as most dieters know, taking weight off is easier than keeping it off. Anyone who's gained and lost the same 20 or 50 pounds over and over again can attest to this. Even worse, some yo-yo dieters can screw with their bodies, going into a famine-feast mode that makes the pounds ever easier to gain and harder to lose as the cycle persists. 

And after being so strict, you're scared to eat--you don't want to gain all the weight back. But, not eating enough means losing more weight than you should. Is that possible? Yes, contrary to the adage, "You can never be too rich or too thin." Ribs sticking out is a sure sign you've gone too far. Heroine chic went out a long time ago, if it was ever really in. 

So, how is it done? Trial and error. Mostly, we stick to "cheats" when eating out or if invited to someone's home. And then, the cheat is only a partial one. It may mean saying yes to a rack of BBQ ribs and no to the beer, chips and chocolate cake that might normally accompany it. David drinks a glass of red wine at dinner, rationalizing that the wine's heart healthiness compensates for some of the added carbs and sugars. Also, yogurt and blueberries make the menu. But, the doctor said no to sweet potatoes. That's right. This super food, crammed full of antioxidants remains on the forbidden list. 

Basically, managing your weight and phase two is about keeping your numbers looking good. Weight creeping up? Back to phase one. Bad cholesterol too high? Stick with the white-meat chicken and fish. High blood pressure? Too many prepared foods sneaking in. And don't even think about ordering dessert. Also, remember to keep up with the massive amounts of vegetables. 

Anyhow, more tips on phase two to come. Bottom line: phase two isn't about surviving the Brentwood Diet, it's about thriving on it. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Expect Crankiness On The Brentwood Diet

Feeling irritable, achy, fatigued a bit out of sorts and craving carbs? These PMS-like symptoms may be "carb withdrawal," a phenomenon which accompanies the first few days of the Brentwood Diet. As with other low-carb diets, the Brentwood Diet works because the body switches over from burning primarily carbohydrates for fuel to burning fat for fuel. This fat-burning state is called ketosis. 

Anyhow, drinking a lot of water and eating plenty of vegetables and protein helps. So, does just taking it easy. After a few days, you'll feel better. Your carb cravings will diminish and you won't be so hungry--which makes sticking to the Brentwood Diet easier. 

Of course, later crankiness can't be attributed to carb withdrawal. It's more psychological. Think about it: you've just given up your comfort foods. No longer will a bowl of ice cream soothe after a long commute, a break-up or anything else. Even seemingly innocent, low-fat, no-cholesterol pretzels are off limits. Also, eating mountains of vegetables and boneless, skinless white-meat chicken gets monotonous. The sensual pleasures of eating have been dulled. 

Since the Brentwood Diet is not just a diet, but a lifestyle change, this may seem like a life sentence. The truth is, you have to commit to these new, healthier eating habits even after you reach your goal weight. But, there's light at the end of the tunnel: phase 2. What's phase 2? Sticking to the Brentwood Diet 90% of the time. (More on that, later.) 

One way to stay on track and reduce crankiness is to reward yourself with non-food goodies. For example, for every ten pounds you lose, get a massage, or buy a CD, etc. Another way is to remind yourself that the Brentwood Diet is a gift of health to yourself and your family. You'll feel better and less achy pretty quickly. Losing weight and changing your lifestyle can stave off diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Also, it might be able to keep you off medications with their added expenses and side effects. 

Basically, know that crankiness is part of the process. It will decrease. And if it doesn't, maybe the problem isn't with the Brentwood Diet.  

Monday, March 16, 2009

Satisfy Your Inner Carnivore With Bison

The Brentwood Diet isn't kind to meat eaters. We're talking those throwbacks to the Neanderthal era who rhapsodize about well-marbled steaks and appreciate the finer points of regional BBQ cookery. People like my husband, David, who grew up in the restaurant business and still reminisces about eating a steak every single day for a year during the time he managed the family's steak house. 

Fortunately, there is one red meat that's found its way on to the Brentwood Diet's list of approved foods: bison. Why? Because grass-fed, grass-finished bison boasts lower fat and cholesterol counts than turkey. Mind you, the exception to the Brentwood Diet's no-red-meat rule only applies to grass-fed bison. Other bison often involves feeding and finishing with grains, which increases the fat and cholesterol levels involved.

By the way, bison and the American buffalo are the same thing. Where does grass-fed bison roam? Not in most supermarkets, that's for sure. You can find some sources on the Internet, though. And lucky Los Angelenos can buy Lindner Bison at local farmers markets. Check out their schedule online at: Also, Lindner Bison can arrange larger orders and maybe even mail orders. 

Anyhow, bison tastes like beef, but sweeter. The texture's a bit different, too. Because bison is so lean, cuts that involve slow cooking--like brisket, chuck or hump roast--seem to work best. Sure, you can grill a bison ribeye, but the lack of fat translates into a tougher, less flavorful steak than a beef ribeye. Bison burgers grill well, though. But, if cooking bison burgers in a skillet, be sure to add a little olive oil to the pan. Otherwise, cook Bison like beef, get special bison recipes from Lindner Bison or search out bison recipes online. Whichever way you cook it, bison will be a welcome break from chicken and fish. And it will tame your carnivorous cravings for a little while. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Chicken Broth To The Rescue

Taste buds sending out an S.O.S. ?  That's typical on the Brentwood Diet. The endless parade of white fish, white-meat poultry and plain vegetables will cause that kind of distress. Plus, steamed, grilled and boiled everything gets old real fast. OK, the grilled stuff isn't bad. But, who can do it all time? And not surprisingly, the Brentwood Diet forbids frying, sauteing or cooking with wine. Luckily, chicken stock/broth adds flavor and makes for a great cooking medium as well as an excellent base for sauces and soups. 

Since salt is a concern, canned broth is out.  That leaves homemade, which tastes a lot better anyway.  Cooking up chicken stock/broth is easy, but it takes time. Open any recipe book for chicken stock or broth recipe and omit the carrot, because it's a taboo vegetable on the Brentwood Diet.  Or you can use this recipe, which makes a heavy-duty stock/broth that works great as base for sauces or soups. 


• 3 chicken carcasses (or 4 pounds necks and backs or combo of bones and whole chicken)
• 1.5 pounds chicken feet: optional, but recommended 
• 1/4 cup vinegar
• 1 onion
• 3 stalks celery
• parsley: optional 

Save the chicken carcasses from when you roast chicken and freeze them for later use. You may ask, what about the prohibition against dark meat on the Brentwood Diet? Ah, it helps to have chicken-loving dogs around to eat the legs and thighs or a non-dieting family member who prefers dark meat. Once you've racked up a few carcasses or buy the required amount of necks and backs, you're good to go. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Roast the chicken carcasses for half and hour or so, stirring once in a while, until they're browned.  You can then roast the vegetables, if  you feel like it.

Put everything into a large stock pot and add water about three inches from the rim of the pot. Boil and skim the scummy stuff that floats to the top. Reduce to a low simmer, cover and let it bubble away for about six hours. That's right, six hours. Long cooking makes for a full-bodied stock/broth with lots of calcium. After it's done, cool it down a bit, strain it and put it in the fridge overnight or for several hours until the fat on top hardens. Remove the layer of fat and discard. If all went well, you're left with chicken-flavored jello. That's good. Spoon the jelled stock/broth into little plastic containers and freeze. Use two cups of stock/broth for sauce bases or to cook with. Use larger amounts for soup. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't Resist Temptation

Resistance is futile. It's hard to say no to the chocolaty-gooey-goodness of the Milky Way Bar that calls out to you in the night. To those salty-crispy-crunchy Herr's kettle-cooked potato chips. Or even to that rubbery-tomatoey Digiorno frozen pizza wedged in the back of the freezer. What's more, your favorite snacks don't just tempt you at night. Cravings can't tell time: they can hit you 24/7.

So, what's a Brentwood Dieter to do with a cupboard full of taboo edibles? Dump 'em or donate 'em. Yes, that's harsh. And if you have non-dieters around, it may be out of the question. But, exiling your favorite foods helps keep you on the straight-and-narrow path of the Brentwood Diet. Which in turn, helps you to reach your goal weight and manage your health. Your friends, family and local food bank make good candidates for your giveaway.

Next time you forage for a midnight snack, you'll open the fridge to find a crisper full of red bell peppers, Persian cucumbers and celery sticks. Bet you'll have the willpower to turn down those crunchy-juicy-healthy treats.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

5 Survival Skills

1. Cook With Chicken Stock/Broth. Homemade, salt-free chicken broth is your secret weapon. Use it instead of oil to cook vegetables, fish or chicken. It adds flavor without the fat.

2. Eat Veggies For Breakfast. An egg or two every morning just doesn't cut it. It's also boring as hell. Mix things up a bit with microwaved asparagus, steamed spinach or a cheese-free omelette with mushrooms and onions. 

3. Don't Skimp On The Protein. Eating too little protein can cause your body to feed on its muscles instead of plowing through your fat reserves. Two skinless chicken breasts or 8 oz. of fish or turkey work well.

4. Stock Your Freezer With Vegetables. Having massive quantities of vegetables on hand is a must. Most canned vegetables come loaded with sodium. And face it, sometimes the thought of chopping yet another mountain of fresh produce is too much to bear.

5. Slurp Soup. Surprise: chicken broth and vegetables star as the main ingredients. Use your imagination or modify existing recipes. Puree the vegetables for a thicker soup. And go wild with exotic spices or turkey broth.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Salt: the pixie dust of deliciousness

Salt possesses magic powers. No lie. Sprinkle it on almost anything and guaranteed, the food's flavor shifts into overdrive. That's why it's added to everything from canned vegetables to restaurant fare to the uber-natural offerings at Whole Foods. Which makes avoiding salt all the more difficult. And while finding low-salt alternatives isn't too hard, hunting down no-salt prepared food borders on the impossible. 

That means a lot more cooking from scratch. Forget about take out. If you're the sort who thinks the microwave takes too long, or if you only use your oven to store shoes, then sticking to the Brentwood Diet and managing your high-blood pressure will be tough. For everyone else, you'll save money, eat obnoxiously wholesome meals without any added preservatives or chemicals and learn nifty tricks like how to roast peppers. 

After a few weeks of salt-free eating, your taste buds will re-set themselves to zero. So when you eventually eat something seasoned with the forbidden condiment, it may actually taste too salty. Like Grey Poupon mustard. But, everything else will taste damn good. 

Pathetically Short List Of Salt-Free Foods:
• Westbrae Natural Stoneground Mustard No Salt Added
• Alessi Balsamic Capers
• Trader Joe's Alaskan Pink Salmon No Salt Added
• Trader Joe's Tongol Chuck Light Tuna No Salt Added

(Giving up salt isn't the only way to help control hypertension. Dialing up on your potassium, calcium and magnesium intake makes a difference, too.  Learn more about it at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Losing weight on the Brentwood Diet without losing your mind or making midnight runs to Taco Bell

The Brentwood Diet* is not for wimps. It's not for someone who wants to shed a few pounds to look good in a swimsuit, either. It's a diet designed to help patients with diabetes or metabolic syndrome manage their conditions and avoid medication, if possible. Basically, metabolic syndrome consists of a scary combo of health issues--high triglycerides, high-cholesterol, high-blood pressure, insulin resistance and ample belly fat--that increase a person's risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke. So yeah, the Brentwood Diet is hardcore. But, it's that way because the stakes are high.

Created by Dr. Eric Mizrahi of the Brentwood Family Health Center, the Brentwood Diet kicks sand in the face of the Miami Beach Diet. Sort of like the Atkin's Diet without the fat, the Brentwood Diet features protein in the form of mono-chromatic meat and fish only: white fish along with skinless, white-meat chicken, turkey or ostrich. Vegetables of the non-starchy variety make up a big part of the menu. Needless to say, salt, desserts, white flour, bread and sugar are taboo. Dairy, fruit and alcohol make the the list of forbidden foods, as well. Getting the picture? 

Now, the Brentwood diet practically vacuums the fat off your body. We're talking around three to five pounds a week. But, most normal humans find sticking to it a tad difficult, to say the least. That's one of the reasons why Dr. Mizrahi insists his patients keep a bag of cut-up veggies within arm's reach at all times. It's also a reason for this blog, which explores the challenges of keeping on a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat, no-salt diet. And chronicles my husband, David, and my journey into the low-carb lifestyle. By the way, David went on the Brentwood Diet because of health concerns and I did it for support, and well, to look good in a swimsuit. 

*This is your kids-don't-try-this-at-home legal disclaimer. The Brentwood Diet is a doctor-monitored diet. And you want MD supervision on it because lots of things come into play, health-wise. Like if you have kidney issues, this or any high-protein diet is not for you. And if you don't eat enough protein while on the Brentwood Diet, your body can cannibalize your muscles for fuel. Yikes! If you're interested in going on the diet and live in the LA-area, check in with Dr. Eric Mizrahi at (310) 471-7714 and online at: