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Lose Weight and Celebrate with Louisiana Seafood

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Louisiana Seafood Celebration kicks off March 9

Born in New Orleans and raised on its food, Karol Brandt gained about 80
pounds in the years after the levee failures.

“I really packed it on; there was a lot of emotional eating,” says Brandt, now
the manager of sponsorships and entertainment for Harrah’s New Orleans
Casino and Hotel. “But my biggest challenge was my work environment
and entertaining clients.”

After seeing an unflattering photo of herself taken at a Harrah’s Sugar
Bowl event, Brandt knew she had to lose weight—and so she has, at the
rate of a pound a week. Her secrets? She works out often, even training for
and running in two half–marathons, and she eats Louisiana seafood about
three times a week.

“I eat clean, and what better way to eat clean than with seafood out of Lake
Pontchartrain?” says Brandt. Eating pure Louisiana seafood as part of her
weight-loss strategy also makes her an ideal candidate for the Louisiana
Seafood Celebration, which kicks off March 9.

“It’s a second chance for those who missed their New Year’s resolutions and
ate extra King Cake along the way,” says Ewell Smith, executive director
of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, which is
sponsoring the seafood-based fitness initiative.

Smith invites anyone with a diet goal—whether it’s to shrink body mass
index or a pants size, or see a lower number on the scale—to check out the
Louisiana Seafood Celebration web site for tips to reach that goal in 90
days, relying on a core strategy of integrating more Louisiana seafood into
the diet.

“It’s a way to revive the [Louisiana] seafood industry and to play up the
healthy aspects,” says Smith. “Diet is the key to getting back in shape.”
Smith should know: He dropped his body fat from 22 percent to 6 percent
in 90 days.

The time is right for a seafood-focused program, as the USDA recently
advised Americans to eat more “nutrient-dense foods” and to eat more
seafood at the expense of some meats and poultry. The recommendations
were made in a dietary guidelines report released jointly with the
Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 31.

“You want to highlight the seafood,” says Louisiana cookbook author Holly
Clegg, who will advise Louisiana Seafood Celebration participants on how
to make low-fat switches to seafood dishes. Clegg’s popular line of Trim and
Terrific books includes healthier recipes for Gulf Coast favorites, such as
crabmeat au gratin, crawfish étouffée and shrimp rémoulade.

“Seafood is healthy on its own, and we have it fresh,” says Clegg, who
thinks seafood’s natural, mineral goodness shouldn’t be disguised with
heavy sauces or the deep-fat fryer.

“Don’t change what you eat,” says Clegg. “Change how you prepare those
same ingredients.” Instead of making a classic roux, for instance, Clegg
coaxes the same nuttiness and mahogany color by browning her flour in
the oven, with no added fat. Or for étouffée, she uses oil instead of the
common stick of butter.

“You never sacrifice flavor,” says Clegg, adding that the Louisiana Seafood
Celebration is a “great fit” for her philosophy.

With experts like Clegg on board, the seafood initiative’s web site will
become an online resource and community for all Americans who want to
lose weight.

Participants can enter before and after photos, and track their diet results.
If you’d like to be considered as a Louisiana Seafood Celebration role
model (and be eligible for prizes such as free airline tickets, spa packages or
Harrah’s vacation packages), then you should share your story in a 400-
word essay and maybe a video short.

“A role model will have made realistic lifestyle changes and be inspirational
to others,” says Smith. “It’s about creating new habits and incorporating
Louisiana seafood into your diet.”

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board will announce the
seafood initiative’s male and female role models on Jan. 1, 2012.
To maintain her own spectacular weight loss, Karol Brandt enjoys local
seafood grilled, baked, broiled or blackened, courtesy of her father, who
fishes almost daily, and her boyfriend, NOFD Capt. Mike Gowland, a
skilled cook who runs a seafood booth at Jazz Fest.

These days, when Brandt entertains clients at lunch, she’ll order a salad
with grilled shrimp. “Seafood is the best source of protein,” says Brandt. “It
sustains you all day long.”

Partners in the Louisiana Seafood Celebration include Harrah’s, Ochsner
Health System, BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana, Rouses Supermarkets,
the NBA Hornets team, the Louisiana Diatetic Association and Louisiana
State University’s AgCenter.

For information, visit louisianaseafood.com and hollyclegg.com.