By: Ashley Cisneros
Hailing from Long Island, New York, Charles Mattocks AKA The Poor Chef grew up cooking with his West Indian parents.
Now living in Orlando, Mattocks has built a multi-dimensional brand around the idea that healthy eating should be accessible to everyone.
After sharing his recipes online, Mattocks decided to write a cook book. Eat Cheap, But Eat Well includes tantalizing recipes including Jamaican curry, pecan-crusted tilapia with mango-salsa salad and coconut rice, plus exotic ratatouille with couscous.
Today, his syndicated television and Internet show, “The Poor Chef,” features healthy, low-budget meals that average $7 or less. Mattocks has also been a guest on Dr. Oz, CNN, The Today Show, among other shows.
“When you have very little, you have to be very cautious to make every cent count,” he says. “But eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. You can go to a farmer’s market and get fresh vegetables and fruit at affordable prices.”
Young professionals should create good habits of cooking healthy foods that will last a lifetime, Mattocks advises. “It’s even more important for couples who are starting families to cook at home and teach their children these healthy habits,” he says. “The rituals of cooking together and eating a meal together are a form of bonding.We need to get back to eating natural foods and eating together as a family.”
There are different levels of health for every person, and Mattocks says that though we think we’re eating healthily, there are always improvements that can be made. The a-ha moment for Mattocks came when he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.
“It turned out that I wasn’t eating as healthy as I thought I was,” he says. According to the American Diabetes Association, 18.7 percent of all African Americans age 20 years or older, have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. In addition, 11.8 percent of Hispanic/ Latino Americans aged 20 years or older have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Mattocks was inspired by his experience to journey across the country to meet other people battling diabetes. The result is a documentary, “The Diabetic You,” that will be released in 2012. In addition, he recently launched a new line of sugar/gluten-free, diabetic friendly chocolate called the Charles Bar.
Mattocks encourages young professionals to ask their doctors about their risk for diabetes based on their family history, diet and lifestyle. Small changes can lead to big improvements. Trade high-calorie fruit juice for actual fruit. Cut back on rice and eat brown rice instead of white rice. Load up on veggies and think of them more as entrees instead of a side,Mattocks says.
“Plan your meals ahead of time and make a grocery list,” he says. “When you cook, make enough food so that you have lunch the next day.”