Excess that doesn’t tip the scales

We’re a culture of culinary overload.

Pizza isn’t good enough. It has to be deep dish. The single-patty burger may soon become extinct in an era when plain French fries seem like diet food compared to chili cheese fries.

Why treat ourselves to a Twinkie when we can have it deep fried?

Our love of excess has gotten us in trouble. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight, and almost one-third are obese, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The news for Ohioans is fairly alarming. A nonprofit, nonpartisan group called Truth for America’s Health publishes an annual report titled “The State of Obesity.” Ohio climbed from being the 16th most obese state in 2013 to the 8th most obese in 2014, according to an interactive map based on the group’s most recent data. The website is stateofobesity.org.

I love excess just as much as the next person, and one of my very favorite comfort foods is a fully loaded baked potato. But a generous slathering of butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon bits aren’t merciful to the midriff.

Fortunately, I found a recipe bursting with flavor and packed with ingredients that boost the metabolism. It comes from “Lose Weight by Eating” by food blogger Audry Johns. Topping out at nearly 300 pounds, Johns lost more than half her weight in 11 months by modifying her favorite recipes, including one for baked potatoes. Here’s the type of excess we can enjoy and not feel guilty about:

OVERLOADED BAKED POTATOES

1 medium russet potato

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons canned black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons frozen corn

1/4 cup shredded cooked chicken (skip this for a vegetarian meal)

1/4 cup zero percent Greek yogurt

1/4 avocado, diced

1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Wash the potato and stab with a fork a couple of times on each side. Bake right on the oven rack for 60 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until the pepper softens, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the beans, corn and chicken. Cook for 2 minutes to warm everything up.

4. Place the potato in a bowl. Slice open the top and squeeze the ends to open the potato. Top with the chicken mixture, yogurt, avocado, hot sauce (if using) and cilantro, and enjoy.

Our assessment: Make an entire meal out of these tasty baked potatoes. Each is only 420 calories.

From the book: “Lose Weight by Eating: 130 Amazing Clean-Eating Recipe Makeovers for Guilt-Free Comfort Food” by Audry Johns; 296 pages, $24.99. Published by William Morrow, 2016.

What you get: This collection covers family staples, including meatloaf, pasta, pizza, fried chicken and cookies. A serving of each recipe contains under 500 calories.

In her own words: “This book is all about making the naughty nice. The foods you crave may make you gain weight, but you can give them a delicious makeover with some simple (and inexpensive) ‘Smart Swaps’ so you can eat them every day.” — Audry Johns.

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