The Health Man
By Charles Stuart Platkin

   Copyright 2006 Charles Stuart Platkin

Charles Stuart Platkin - The Health Man
Charles Stuart Platkin is a writer and a researcher in areas related to behavioral change, specializing in health, weight loss, and fitness. He is the founder of the Nutricise weight loss program, as well as a certified personal trainer.


Diet | Detective:


By Charles Stuart Platkin

The following are interesting food terms from the ultimate foodie reference guides -- The New Food Lover's Companion, by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst, and The Science of Good Food, by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss. The idea is to guess – is the food being described a healthy one? Check out your culinary lingo skills:

According to Greek mythology, ambrosia (meaning "immortality") was the food of the gods on Mount Olympus. More recently, the word designates a dessert of chilled fruit (usually oranges and bananas) mixed with coconut. Ambrosia is also sometimes served as a salad. (NFLC)

Verdict: Healthy.

This crispy, rich snack is made from pork skin that has been deep-fried twice, once in 325-degree oil, then again in 375-degree oil, making it balloon into a honeycombed puff. It is available in Latin American markets. (NFLC)

Verdict: Not Healthy.

Known as a vegetable tray in catering parlance, crudités is the French term for raw vegetables served as appetizers, usually with dips. The vegetables are thinly sliced or cut into sticks or bite-size pieces as finger food. Dips may include vinaigrettes or mayonnaise-based sauces such as aioli (garlic mayonnaise) or remoulade (mayonnaise with mustard, capers, pickles, anchovies and herbs). The term comes from the Latin word “crudus,” meaning raw. (SGF)

Verdict: Healthy, unless you use unhealthy dips.

A method of stewing white meat, traditionally chicken or veal, in a creamy white sauce. Unlike most stews, the meat for fricassee is lightly sautéed, typically in butter, but not browned. The sauce is usually chicken or veal stock thickened with a starch such as flour or cornstarch, often with the addition of cream. The term now generally applies to almost any food gently cooked in a creamy white sauce. (SGF)

Verdict: Not Healthy.

hollandaise sauce
A rich, creamy sauce made from clarified butter emulsified with lemon juice, enriched and stabilized by the proteins and emulsifiers in egg yolk. It is frequently served with poached vegetables or fish and is the classic sauce for Eggs Benedict. (SGF)

Verdict: Not Healthy.

A Southern specialty of bite-size deep fried cornmeal dumplings typically served with fried catfish. If the frying oil is the right temperature (375 to 385 degrees) the batter firms on contact with the oil, and most of the fat stays on the outside. (SGF)

Verdict: Not Healthy, but fat content varies, depending on how well they are fried.

To cook food gently in liquid, usually just under a simmer, at about 190 degrees. Chicken breasts and salmon fillets are typically poached in stock; fruit is usually poached in an acidic sugar syrup; and eggs are poached in water laced with vinegar, which accelerates the coagulation of the protein in the egg, helping it to maintain a uniform compact shape. (SGF)

Verdict: Mostly Healthy.

Italian for “spring vegetables,” the term is used for dishes garnished with a vegetable medley that usually includes asparagus, artichokes and peas. Pasta primavera is one of the most popular dishes prepared in this manner. It can have a tomato sauce, cream sauce or just vegetables tossed with olive oil and cheese. (SGF)

Verdict: Healthy, but can easily become unhealthy if you use too much oil or serve in a cream sauce.

puttanesca sauce; alla puttanesca
Generally served with pasta, this sauce is a spicy mélange of tomatoes, onions, capers, black olives, anchovies, oregano and garlic, all cooked together in olive oil. A dish on a menu described as
alla puttanesca signals that it's served with this sauce. The name puttanesca is a derivation of puttana, which in Italian means "whore." According to one story, the name purportedly comes from the fact that the intense fragrance of this sauce was like a siren's call to the men who visited such "ladies of pleasure." (NFLC)

Verdict: Healthy, unless you use too much oil. Keep in mind that just 1 tablespoon has more than 100 calories.

It's no wonder that saffron — the yellow-orange stigmas from a small purple crocus (
Crocus sativus) — is the world's most expensive spice. Each flower provides only three stigmas, which must be carefully hand-picked and then dried — an extremely labor-intensive process. It takes over 14,000 of these tiny stigmas for each ounce of saffron. Thousands of years ago saffron was used not only to flavor food and beverages but to make medicines and to dye cloth and body oils a deep yellow. Today this pungent, aromatic spice is primarily used to flavor and tint food. Fortunately (because it's so pricey), a little saffron goes a long way. It's integral to hundreds of dishes like bouillabaisse, risotto Milanese and paella, and flavors many European baked goods. Saffron is marketed in both powdered form and in threads (the whole stigmas). Powdered saffron loses its flavor more readily and can be easily adulterated with imitations. The threads should be crushed just before using. Store saffron airtight in a cool, dark place for up to six months. (NFLC)

Verdict: Healthy, unless used in unhealthy, starch-based dishes like risotto Milanese or paella.

[skah-luh-PEE-nee, ska-luh-PEE-nee]
A term in Italian cookery describing a thin scallop of meat (most often veal), usually prepared by dredging the meat in flour before sautéing it. Scaloppine dishes are generally served with a sauce based on wine or tomatoes. (NFLC)

Verdict: Healthy in theory – the thin-sliced veal or chicken cooks quickly, using very little oil. The problem is that the term is typically used to describe a food that is breaded and/or fried, often served in an unhealthy sauce.

Score Card

9-12 correct ...... Master Foodie

7-8 correct ....... Food Maven

5-6 correct ...... Cook

2-4 correct ...... Food Network Viewer

0-1 correct ...... Study Up

CHARLES STUART PLATKIN is a nutrition and public health advocate, founder and editor of, the health and fitness network.  Copyright 2008 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter and iTunes podcast at