Photo courtesy of Foodnetwork.com
Ellie Krieger is a nutritionist, best-selling author and host of the Food Network series, Healthy Appetite With Ellie Krieger. She’s like a nutrition guru. She’s also an all-around nice person who I had the pleasure of working with several years ago.
Her views on health and nutrition — eschewing fad diets in favor of balance and moderation — have always made a ton of sense to me and influenced the way I live my life (the majority of these posts notwithstanding… I don’t write much about the healthful stuff I eat during the week).
Ellie was kind enough to do a Q&A with me about a variety of topics, including keeping it healthy on Super Bowl Sunday — something we’ll all be struggling with.
HT: Are you currently shooting episodes of Healthy Appetite?
Ellie: We have a bunch in the can still. And I actually just shot a dozen new web episodes for the Food Network website, which I’m excited about. All original and new recipes, they’re all kind of the favorite comfort foods, made better for you.
How do you come up with the recipes for the show?
You know, sometimes I’m just laying in bed thinking about, oh I feel having meatball heroes… and it’s literally like what I’m craving, and then I say, oh I can find a way to make that so it’s better for me, and still satisfies my craving. So sometimes it’s really as simple as that.
But what we really do in terms of the process of creating the show, is we pick a scene for the show, so whether it’s romantic food or the fastest meals ever for busy days, or whatever it is, and I’ll have some recipes already developed that would fit that theme, like my meatball hero if we’re doing comfort food or something.
But then we’ll sort of fill in based on the theme, what else is really romantic? And then we’ll just brainstorm like, eating with your fingers is romantic and feeding each other. And so then I’ll think about finger foods or chocolate or red foods, and kind of just creatively say, ooh what are my favorite red foods? I love pomegranates, and they’re good for you, let’s put pomegranates in some kind of fabulous chicken dish or something. So it’s a really great creative process.
How long does it take to shoot an episode?
One and a half days. And that includes going on location for the tips. And we shoot each recipe basically three times — different angles, stuff like that.
What’s the most challenging aspect of shooting the show?
Oh, completely the intensity of the production schedule. It’s scheduled for 12 hours a day, and we usually run about an hour or so over, so it’s like for a month I feel like I kind of crawl into this production cave and I really can’t think about anything else but that. So keeping that kind of energy up for 13 hours a day for a month is I think the most challenging part of it. And the thing that gets me through it is that I love the food, I genuinely do. And I just keep telling myself, hey, you get to tell people about this. And that’s what gives me a little fire when I feel like I’m flagging.
Have you always been a healthy eater?
I mean I had a very interesting history, when I was a child I was an overweight child. The doctor told my mother, “You need to stop feeding her so much.” And so I was aware and had a very bad body image my whole childhood. I would say up until I was like 13, where I had a real turning point and just changed my diet, with the help of my mother, I just sort of decided I’m going to eat healthier, not snack as much, and eat a lot of vegetables, and she really helped me, and it just melted off me, and suddenly this young woman came out of this body.
I thought of myself as the fat kid. I mean looking at pictures of myself I was not, I was just a little chunky you know, but I think I was really hard on myself about it, and I feel what that stigma is like, and that never leaves me, that empathy that I have for people struggling with their weight. And I feel like studying nutrition and understanding what my body needs and understanding how I can make healthy food really helped me find the healthy balance I needed. And then I feel like since in my adulthood I’ve been able to stick to that because I have that balance.
Speaking of “balance,” that’s what your philosophy’s all about. And you don’t believe in diets?
Don’t believe in diets because a diet mentality I feel like makes diet a four-letter word. Sort of puts you on the roller coaster. I was on the roller coaster, so I know. It’s a terrible place to be. It’s terrible emotionally, it’s terrible for your body, and I feel like being just more moderate, you don’t have to be rail thin, and you can also avoid being super heavy. And being reasonable about your expectations of your body, and treating your body well, and eating healthfully, but never saying really “never” or making anything off limits or being super regimented or strict, I think is a great place to live and a healthy place to live.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Fried potatoes in any form. I love fried potatoes. I truly do. French fries, home fries… I love fries. And in my book I have a recipe for just baking them, and it totally hits the spot. Cause I can’t eat fully fried potatoes very often. Every once in a while I do.
The Super Bowl’s coming up… Any tips on how to eat healthy at a party?
I’m having some friends over for the Super Bowl, so I can kind of tell you my strategy for being the one preparing the food… I’m making buffalo chicken tenders with, I have a blue cheese dressing in my book, and it’s a lighter version with real blue cheese. And then with big chunks of celery. You can have that buffalo kind of chicken flavor, but not have it be like all the fattening wings. Guacamole’s a must, and avocados are great for you, and I’m gonna serve some chips, baked chips. But also I’m going to serve radishes because it’s delicious to dip radishes in guacamole. Or you can do just other cut vegetables as well.
And then I’m doing little mini chicken sausages. You can just grill up some of those, and serve those on a stick. I’m going to do my mac and cheese, I’m going to bake it in mini muffin tins, so they’re like individual. So doing a healthier spin. But if you’re going to a Super Bowl party, bring a dish that’s healthier and at least you know you can kind of fill up on that. And then the big thing is the alcohol. Set a limit on how much you’re going to drink.
You’re working on a new book that’s coming out next year. What’s it called?
It’s called So Easy, and it’s basically my style of food. People see healthy and delicious as two separate circles, and I’m basically finding the intersection and saying there is this great intersection where you can have both. So it follows that course. But this is called So Easy because everything in the book, that was sort of the litmus test, I had to be able to say, “Oh my god, that was so easy” after I made it. And then it’s laid out instead of as like appetizer, entrée, side, I lay it out as complete meals, so it’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it’s complete in terms of balance, in terms of taste and texture and nutrition.
Anything else on the horizon?
I have something exciting coming up in March, so keep an eye out. Big secret. Secret reveal.