Whether your interest is in deep-fried butter or ridiculously oversize hamburgers, exotic foods, “Top Chefs,” or restaurants on the verge of failure, in French food, budget food, Southern food, hopeless cooks, or food trucks, there’s probably a TV show out there to satisfy your cravings. But if you want to know more about how the food you eat affects your health, you may find yourself channel surfing in vain.
Stefanie Sacks, a culinary nutritionist who lives in Montauk, aims to change that, starting in East Hampton Town, where her new show, “Chew on This,” began airing this week on LTV.
Ms. Sacks works with clients whose health issues range from severe allergies to cancer and chronic illness. Her goal, according to her Web site, is to “help prevent illness and restore health through personalized nutrition therapy and culinary guidance.”
“I’ve been devoting my career to working one on one with people, but feeling frustrated that I haven’t been able to reach a larger audience with my messaging,” Ms. Sacks said Friday. Her message: Smart food choices and healthy eating not only support good health but can also help people live better with their health challenges. The show is her way of spreading the word beyond her individual clients and the workshops she leads at Urban Zen, the New York Open Center, and the Kripalu Institute.
She wants to change people’s way of thinking about food, and also to change the field of nutrition, “so we’re not just looking at clinical environments, but looking at all the different aspects of a person’s life and how it relates to food.”
“I love listening to people’s stories, and seeing how I can use my personal experience and professional expertise to help others in a way that’s nonjudgmental and nonthreatening,” Ms. Sacks said.
She first wrote the show eight years ago with hopes of finding a national audience for it, but as she has two children and a full schedule of clients it sat on the back burner until this winter, when she decided to take an LTV producers and directors class and make it herself.
“I didn’t think I would do it on LTV, but I said, ‘I’m not waiting until some television executive wakes up and realizes this is a good concept.’ ” With her husband, Rich Dec, as co-producer, she filmed the first two episodes on Feb. 13.
“I live with illness and have used food to help me get well and feel better, so my goal here is to teach you to do the same,” Ms. Sacks says in the introduction to the show, alluding to her own genetic kidney disease, which she manages through diet.
On each episode a guest will join her to discuss a different health concern and cook dishes that work with his or her dietary needs or restrictions. On the first, airing this week and next, she and her 6-year-old son, Jack, talk about developing good eating habits from an early age. Then they cook turkey tacos and sautéed kale with garlic. Getting kids involved in cooking or assembling their own food helps them to eat well and broaden their culinary horizons, Ms. Sacks said. Her tip for cutting the bitterness of kale to make it more palatable to kids? Add a little apple juice.
She talks with her second guest, Marilyn Behan, also of Montauk, about Ms. Behan’s sulfite allergy, which she developed as an adult and which forced her to radically rethink how she cooks and eats. Ms. Behan is still learning how to avoid the many foods that contain sulfites, which can be found in everything from wine to marinades to dried fruit, and to enjoy a diet without those foods.
“Doctors tell people they have allergies, but then they don’t give them any resources,” Ms. Sacks said Friday. “I want to be that resource . . . in a way that’s not hokey and too granola-crunchy, that’s accessible to different socioeconomic levels.” People learn what ails them, they’re told to change their habits, but without much guidance, many feel paralyzed, she said. In her work and on her show, she wants to move them past that.
She has guests lined up for her next few shows and is also inviting viewers to get in touch if they’re interested in being a guest. On episodes she’s filming next week, Ms. Sacks will cover irritable bowel syndrome and healthy weight gain for athletes. On another, she’ll talk with the mother of an infant who has kidney cancer about how the family “about-faced their lives and changed their way of eating and the products they used in their house.” The culinary segment of that show will focus on developing children’s palates and introducing new foods.
“I’m fascinated by all of this,” Ms. Sacks said.
“Chew on This” can be seen on LTV’s Channel 20 in East Hampton Town on Mondays at 1:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 9 p.m., Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. It can also be viewed on Ms. Sacks’s Web site, stefaniesacks.com.