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A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie

Steven Sullas  knows his calories.
He also knows his carbs, sodium, gluten, and fat. Better yet, he knows how to modify popular dishes for people with particular dietary needs. You don’t feel like cooking and you want a gluten-free dinner? A low-sodium entre? Call Norwell’s Gimme the Skinny before noon and you can pick one up later that day. And all the meals come with caloric breakdowns.
Sullas, chef and owner of Gimme the Skinny, also caters large events offering his customized menus. Tucked behind a small strip mall about 100 yards south of Queen Anne’s corner, the hybrid catering/take out business was named a Best of Boston caterer in ’05 and ’06 by Boston Magazine.
Last week, as people buzzed around his kitchen, timers went off, and the counters overflowed with food, Sullas calmly took a salmon filet from the refrigerator and striped off its skin. Cutting it in half, he laid the two, six-ounce filets on parchment paper atop a baking sheet. He then gave each a quick spritz of oil, topped them with a couple tablespoonfuls of his miso glaze, and slipped them into a 320-degree oven for 20 minutes.
The fish was very good. I’m glad to have learned the recipe – it’s quick and simple. Salmon is high in protein and a great source of the essential fatty acids known as Omega-3s. And the dish cost — in calories (I think like this) — just under 300.
So, what I like about Gimme the Skinny is that no matter which specialty diet Sullas is cooking, his real focus is making tasty dishes that pack the most nutrition into every calorie.
That means that he doesn’t use heaps of sugar and refined flour to lend flavor to recipes whose fat has been axed so they can be labeled low fat. Instead, he lightens the load using a range of ingredients. He’ll coat his light chicken parmesan with egg whites, rather than whole eggs; use applesauce in baked goods to stand in for butter; and make sauces with broths, herbs, and vegetables instead of cream.
Understanding that good fat is essential to good health, and even to weight loss, he uses mostly extra virgin olive oil – an all-around high quality fat. He uses whole grain penne, unless he’s making a gluten-free dish, in which case he doubles the veggies. He offers brown rice, another healthy food packed with fiber, B vitamins, and other micronutrients. He uses sugar when it’s called for and none of the sugar-free substitutes. He bakes a lot rather than sautéing or frying.
And he is a big proponent of portion control.
“You’re better off eating six small meals instead of three, that way you don’t get so hungry you’re likely to eat a 10-ounce steak with a baked potato and tons of sour cream,” said Sullas. His typical portions are six-ounces of meat, fish, or fowl; half-cups of rice and pasta; and larger portions of salads and vegetables. Small portions eaten often provide the body with a steady flow of energy and work well for some people. And no matter how often you eat, smaller portions — which necessarily have fewer calories — are a key to maintaining, or achieving, a healthy weight.
A note about calories: I think of them as the units of energy, or fuel value, in foods. We eat calories and then use them like a car uses gas, burning them up at different speeds depending on our metabolism and level of activity. If we take in more than we use, they get stored as fat. Just to give you an idea of the range: A cup of cooked broccoli has about 45 calories; a cup of cubed chicken breast, approximately 300 (depending on its weight); and a cup of olive oil 1,908.
So, for the same, say, 900-calories, you could eat three Snickers bars or sit down to a meal of chicken, brown rice, broccoli with olive oil and garlic, and salad with a good dressing. The difference would be that the candy bars — while sometimes just the thing to feed your soul (which I absolutely believe to be the nourishing thing to do sometimes) — wouldn’t deliver the protein, essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that you’d get from the meal. It’s always up to you how you want to spend your caloric budget.
Eating foods that give me the biggest nutritional bang per calorie is the backbone of my diet. That way, I get most of what I need and still have room, so to speak, to eat high calorie and nutritionally empty foods when I really want them.
To have Gimme the Skinny mail or email its monthly menu to you, or to order a meal, call 781 871 1804 or email