Eat this, Not that! 9 Questions for David Zinczenko

David Zinczenko is the author of 14 New York Times best-sellers, with more than 10 million books in print, including Zero Belly Diet: The Revolutionary New Plan to Turn Off Your Fat Genes; Zero Belly Diet Cookbook (out Sept. 8, 2015); and Eat This, Not That! Currently, Zinczenko is the nutrition and wellness editor for ABC News and a regular contributor to Good Morning America. As president and CEO of Galvanized, he specializes in building, launching and growing life-changing franchises for a healthy world and currently spearheads the Random House lifestyle books imprint Zinc Inc.

1. Do you have any daily rituals?

No matter how bitter cold or brutally hot it gets in New York, I walk to work each morning— it’s about the only 25 minutes of alone time I get. And it’s how I prepare and prioritize for all the elements that will make for the best day ever. The exercise doesn’t hurt, either.

2. What is your favorite plant-based meal?

The recent research I’ve done for my Zero Belly Diet plan convinced me to make plant-based smoothies a part of my daily routine. I’ve traded in whey protein for vegan protein powders, because more and more studies show that plant protein is critical to longevity. Something simple like half an avocado, some almond milk, chocolate protein powder, and a little ground flax makes for a totally satisfying breakfast or snack (or even dessert)! Here’s a recipe for my favorite one.

3. Can you give us your favorite, fool-proof recipe?

There are 150 amazing recipes in my new Zero Belly Cookbook. It’s hard to pick one. But I bow to the opinion of my coauthor, Chef Jason Lawless. He thinks the masterpiece of the book is Black Pepper Shrimp with Creamy Oats. It’s incredibly simple: You marinate the shrimp in olive oil, brown sugar, ginger, shallots, garlic, black pepper, cumin, and coriander seeds. Set that aside for an hour, then cook up some oats using vegetable broth instead of water. Sauté the shrimp, and when they’re done, you deglaze the pan with a little water, take it off the heat, then add some chopped cilantro, cherry tomatoes, cubed avocado, and cooked asparagus. Stir it up and serve it all over the oats.

4. Americans are stuck in an eggs, bacon, and cereal mindset for breakfast. What’s an ideal breakfast in your mind?

Without a doubt, it’s a Zero Belly Smoothie. Basically, any smoothie that combines protein (I like plant protein), some fiber (from fruit), and some fat (usually a nut butter or avocado). Something really simple like vegan chocolate protein, a frozen banana, and a tablespoon of peanut butter is a knockout. I use almond milk or coconut water for the liquid base.

5. How do you incorporate physical activity into your daily life?

I get into the office early, usually by 7 a.m., which allows me to get to the gym before the lunchtime crowd. I have a very intense high-intensity interval workout that takes me about 40 minutes. It’s so effective I’m incorporating it into my next book!

6. How do we turn off the fat gene?

There are a number of fat genes that have been identified, and chances are we haven’t discovered all of them yet. But there are three keys that fit those locks and turn those genes to OFF: Number one is nutrient-dense whole foods — I list the nine key foods in Zero Belly Diet. Number two is physical activity. And number three is getting enough sleep.

7. What do you think is the key to health and longevity?

Not settling. Don’t settle for any less than the best job, the best relationship, the best life. If you’re pursuing that, you’re going to stay young.

8. What is your position on carbs? 

Don’t think about carbs. Instead, think about fiber. If you’re eating something with fiber —whole grains, fruit, vegetables, cereals — then you’re good. Eating something that’s a carb that doesn’t have fiber — sugar, cake, processed foods, white bread — that’s bad.

9. From all of your research, what is the best single piece of health advice you can give people?

Eat really healthfully 80 percent of the time. The 20 percent  you don’t worry about will help you stay sane and on track. I eat very healthfully throughout the day and then don’t feel bad about blowing it out a couple times a week at dinner. Some people eat very smartly Monday through Friday and then eat what they want on weekends. Any diet is easier to stick to if you don’t put so much pressure on yourself.

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