Tim Zintz has been an Aramark chef for 31 years. He’s a well-seasoned pro when it comes to cooking and something of an artist in the ways of creating healthy dishes that are full of flavor.
Tim took time from his busy schedule to share some expert advice about the sometimes daunting idea of cooking healthier meals. Tim shares his tips below from shopping techniques to recipe ideas that will please you and the whole family.
Q: What are some shopping techniques you can share with readers to get them started down the right path for making and preparing healthy, quick meals at home, ideally on a budget?
A: A lot of people have the misconception that they’ll have to spend more money in order to eat healthy, but that’s not necessarily the case. One of the keys to that is seasonality. If it’s in season, produce will taste better and generally be less expensive. For example, apples in the fall and pears in the winter. If you buy when the produce is seasonal, it will be more affordable and at its peak flavor.
Also, a tip when you’re shopping, be sure to read the label. Most foods now have much cleaner labels than they once did, and they’re much easier to understand.
Q: What’s an easy, go-to meal for a beginner cook?
A: When I get home late and have to put something together, I always reach for whole grain pasta. The whole grains are satisfying and it’s a quick six minutes of cooking pasta then only a few more minutes to make a healthy meal. Once you drain the pasta, you add it back into the pan with a little olive oil, garlic, and chicken broth. If you choose, you can add some red bell peppers and top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Delicious.
Q: What’s your favorite healthy meal right now?
A: Anything with Brussels sprouts. It’s great how versatile they are these days; you can get them shredded for salads, use them for coleslaw, or chop them up and cook them. I like to make myself a bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts topped with a little chopped bacon and onions.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration?
A: So, in my role, we develop recipes for menus throughout Aramark. Chefs are always out looking for the next best thing. The young chefs I work with really help me stay on top of all the great food trend information out there. And with the advent of the internet and the Food Channel, there’s inspiration everywhere.
I will say, watching Julia Child do French cooking in the sixties … she started it all. That was inspiring.
Q: What’s your favorite healthy snack?
A: Banana and peanut butter. It’s usually in every household, it’s easy, and doesn’t require a lot of utensils to make. Since it’s packed with protein, it fills you up when that afternoon snack craving kicks in. Blueberries, apples or pears are also great snacks, when they’re in season.
Q: How’d you end up working as a chef?
A: At the age of 6, I wanted to be chef. So at 15, I got a job at a restaurant and have done nothing else since then. I’ve been at Aramark for 31 years and I’ll probably have another 12-15 more years in the industry.
Q: What motivates you to eat healthy?
A: Well, I’m a dad with 9-year-old twins. I want to be around to see my kids grow up. And I am glad to say my healthy lifestyle has caught on at my house.
Q: What’s a food temptation you can’t resist?
A: Dark chocolate – whether it’s for a birthday or a special occasion, the kids know I like my 70% dark chocolate. It’s a nice sweet indulgence and better for you as far as a sweet goes. It doesn’t hurt that it pairs well with red wine and can be good for you – in moderation.
Q: How should families deal with children not wanting to eat fruits and veggies?
A: I have a rule in our household that you don’t have to eat it, but you have to try it. And I guarantee you’ll see it again in six weeks even if you didn’t eat it the first time. Your taste buds change, especially with children, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity.
For example, my daughter never ate eggs, but my son eats them all the time. So I asked her, when was the last time you tried them? To no surprise, I got the “Hey, these are actually pretty good,” response, which is great because they’re a good source of protein.
Another route is to allow them to pick a few options of healthy foods they actually enjoy – we will rotate between broccoli, green beans, carrots, and corn, for example. Every so often, we pick something new and swap it into the rotation. But I think this helps empower them to make healthier choices and learn about it at all stages.
Q: You volunteer in the community. What’s the number one question you get when volunteering?
A: “Can I have the hat!?” The next question is “What are healthy easy meals?” I try to show everyday items with a different spin on them. For example, simple things like an overnight oatmeal. It’s made by mixing Greek yogurt, [apple] juice and oatmeal, with diced apples and homemade granola on top. Let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, and it’s ready to grab in the morning. Another favorite is an apple grape Waldorf salad. That one has apples, sliced grapes, Greek yogurt, celery, and honey.
Q: What’s one last thing you want to share?
A: [Healthy eating] is not as hard as you think. It sounds daunting. But my success, and others’ success, show it’s not a drag in this day and age. You won’t sacrifice great tasting food by eating healthier.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.