Because personal chefs are instrumental in assisting clients address health issues through diet, we’ve asked members who actively create special diets to help the rest of us understand them. It’s the first step in learning more so that if clients approach you with special dietary needs your first instinct will be to say, “Yes, I can help.” This week Monica Shoemaker of Home Plate Personal Chef Service in Portland, Oregon, is introducing us to the basics of the anti-inflammatory diet.

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Creating beautiful meals for busy families, professionals, individuals is not all we do as personal chefs. People often come to us with health issues that they recognize can be made better by the foods they eat. And often times, they aren’t able to cook for themselves or don’t have the energy to do so because of an ailment or serious disease. That’s where we come in. The anti-inflammatory diet seems to be the latest trend that I think is going to stick around for a while. Created by Dr. Andrew Weil, the Harvard-educated pioneer of integrative medicine, and based on the Mediterranean diet, this approach to nutrition is centered around his belief that certain foods cause or fight systemic inflammation. He views inflammation as leading to diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and heart disease. To reduce the risk of age-related disease, Weil counters it with healthy fats, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, a lot of water, and limited amounts of animal protein, except omega-3-rich oily fish.

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That’s a preventative approach, but the diet can also be employed to treat issues clients already are dealing with. Stress, lack of exercise, smoking, can all lead to inflammation. Inflammation occurs naturally when there’s an injury. For those with diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, joint pain, and auto-immune conditions like fibromyalgia, the anti-inflammatory diet can be a salve and calm the body. Common culprits to avoid are sugar, wheat, dairy, and too much red meat. I know what you’re thinking… no fun! But it’s our job to create delicious and creative ways to prepare foods that nourish and heal when the challenge arises. Eating an array of colorful fruits and vegetables that are loaded with antioxidants can ward off the oxidative stress put on the body, as well as avoiding salt, and refined and processed foods. We can add beans, nuts, olive oil, onions, salmon, tuna, anchovies, and other cold-water fish to the client’s diet. What we’re stressing here are fiber, anti-oxidants, monounsaturated fats, and omega-3-rich foods.

Additionally, there’s a theory that too much acid-producing food can cause inflammation and that increasing alkaline-promoting foods can counteract negative effects and promote better health. Alkaline foods are primarily fruits and vegetables. And, no, that doesn’t rule out citrus. Fruits like lemon are acidic in their natural state, but when metabolized by the body, they have an alkalizing effect and healing can occur more rapidly.

I have a client for whom I’ve been cooking for six years now who has multiple sclerosis. When he first came to me he had consulted with a naturopath and a nutritionist about how to manage his newly diagnosed disease. Not only does he take medication, but they recommended an anti-inflammatory diet which can improve symptoms and slow the progression. They provided me with a list of foods, herbs, and spices that are acidic and a list of foods that are alkaline. With that information, I was able to customize menus for him that influence good health. In addition to that, I recently cooked for a new client who is a breast cancer survivor and hired me to cook for two other families going through chemo and radiation. She wanted them to have a month’s worth of meals just as she had when she was undergoing her treatments. She said that it was such a blessing to have lovingly prepared meals for her family that were nutritious and ready to eat.

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I feel that it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves about the anti-inflammatory diet, and other health conditions that can benefit from healing foods. Since special diets are a large part of our business. What’s great about our jobs, is not only do we get to do what we love, we also provide a service that people really appreciate. We help clients by giving them nutritious meals and we help them save time so that they can do the things they love.

You can easily find information about anti-inflammatory diets on the internet and there are a lot of great books on the subject. It’s very important to ask our clients to consult with their doctor about their health, but this is a way of eating that everyone can benefit from.

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Here’s a recipe that I created and have made for clients for years. It is quick and simple to make. It has fresh ginger, which is anti-inflammatory, as well as the other components. This was my son’s favorite soup when he was young and still is.

Vietnamese Chicken Ball Soup

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

8-10 cups chicken broth
1 ½ pounds ground chicken
1 knob (about 3 tablespoons), fresh ginger, minced
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons tamari
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups snow peas, sliced on the bias into thirds
2 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, sliced on the bias
2 green onions, sliced on the bias
3 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Bring the broth to a boil while assembling the meatballs. Gently mix the ground chicken, ginger, sesame oil, tamari, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Form into a 1½-inch ball, roll in cornstarch, shake off excess, then drop into the boiling broth. I do these one at a time and drop them into the broth as I make each one. It goes quickly. The cornstarch helps keep them together. The meatballs are somewhat loose, but they firm up in the hot broth.

Add the sliced carrots, let them cook for a few minutes, then add the shiitakes. Cook for a few more minutes, then turn off the heat. Add the snow peas and green onions once it starts to cool a bit, otherwise the snow peas will get overcooked. Add the spinach. Garnish with a little chopped cilantro and serve.

This freezes well too!

Vietnamese Chicken Ball Soup

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Caron Golden

About 

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

2 Comments »

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    But a Half of a cup of cornstarch, how possibly can you say this does not create inflammation?

    Comment by Beth — March 17, 2018 @ 6:12 pm

  2. Avatar

    Hi Beth,

    The cornstarch is not added to the soup. The chicken meatballs are rolled in the cornstarch and then you shake off the excess before dropping them in the hot broth. But I have made this soup without using the cornstarch and it comes out well. It’s purpose is to help keep the meatballs in tact. It can be omitted. Hope that helps.

    Comment by Monica — February 20, 2019 @ 10:54 pm

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