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Saugus eats up nutritional advice from a Hilltop chef

Don Doward, President of New England Fitness Design, presents an informative slide show entitled “Fitness and Nutritional Meal Design” to an audience at the Saugus Public Library. (Paula Muller)

SAUGUS — From sizzling steaks to nutritious shakes, former Hilltop Steak House chef Don Doward is using his knowledge of food to help others lead healthier lives.

In an hour-long seminar sponsored by the Friends of the Saugus Library, Doward, who now works as a fitness, diet, and lifestyle consultant, offered tips for purchasing food in a restaurant and a store, and talked about the basics of fitness.

“Little things make a huge difference,” Doward, who was a chef at the Hilltop for 36 years, told the assembled crowd. “If you’re eating out a lot, the first thing you should do is cut your meal in half when you get it and put half in a take out container right away.

Portion control goes a long way, he said. Even at the Hilltop, the steaks had to look proportionate on the massive plates placed in front of hungry patrons.

He stressed the importance of eating the right kinds of seafood twice a week; People should eat wild salmon, not farm raised, and Gulf shrimp only, he said.

“Even when there was oil in the Gulf (of Mexico), it was safer to eat Gulf shrimp than the stuff from Indonesia and other countries,” he said.

During his more than four decades of experience in the restaurant industry, Doward learned about the chemicals and antibiotics are added to shrimp and other seafood that take a toll on the human body, he said.

He recommended fresh tuna, but cautioned amateur cooks not to overcook the fish.

“It cooks quickly because there’s no fat,” he said. “Give it two to three minutes.”

Rather than switching from white rice to brown, Doward swears by quinoa, which is about 19 percent protein as opposed to the 6 percent in rice. He recommended bison over hamburger because it has less calories and cholesterol. He also suggested grinding the bison rather than cooking it as a steak because of how easy it is to overcook.  

“If you overcook a bison steak, you might as well just eat the chair you’re sitting on,” he said.

Doward also cautioned the three dozen people in attendance to be wary of eating out too frequently.

“Right now, if you go into a restaurant, especially a chain, there’s a good chance there’s not a chef there at all,” he said. “There’s an executive chef in an office who tells kids what to do.”

He said he was grateful Frank Giuffrida turned him away for lack of experience the first time he applied for a Hilltop position.

“He made sure people in there were good at their jobs,” Doward said. “Thirty-six years later I was running the place.”

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