Ellie Krieger's Tips for a Luscious -- and Healthy -- Life

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FROM THESTREET.COM: As a former model, Ellie Krieger knows all about the need to stay slim. But as a registered dietitian, she also knows how to do it right.

So, Krieger, host of the Food Network's (SSP) Healthy Appetite series and creator of an online weight-loss plan, has now come out with a cookbook that puts her ideas into practice.

In The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life, she eschews much of the fad-dieting methodologies, be they low-carb or low-fat, in favor of a practical, family-minded enjoy-your-food philosophy.

The trick? Adopting a new approach towards food so that a little flavor goes a long way and that a meal becomes an occasion.

We caught up with Krieger at the 2008 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, held last month in Miami Beach, to hear her message and break it down into five easy steps for our readers.

Step One 
Be present with your food: Krieger says to think quality, not quantity.

That means you can incorporate "forbidden" foods -- dense desserts, fried fare -- into your diet, so long as you avoid excess (the "filling a hole" syndrome, as she calls it).

But take it a step further: If you're going to indulge, make sure it's worth it. "How many inferior muffins have you come across at conference rooms that you eat anyway?" she asks. Instead, wait for the right muffin -- or better yet, make it yourself. (She's got a page in her book devoted to "building a better muffin.")

Add to that an awareness of smell and appearance -- "Be present with your food," Krieger advises -- and you have an altogether different outlook. "You're going to wind up eating less, but enjoying your food more," she says.

Step Two 
Usually, sometimes and rarely: Forget food pyramids or complicated dieting formulas. "We don't come to the table with a calculator," Krieger says.

So, she divides foods into the aforementioned three categories.

·  "Usually" foods—lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, healthy oils fruits and vegetables -- are the "backbone" of her recipes.

·  "Sometimes" foods -- white bread, meats higher in saturated fat (chicken thighs, for example) -- have a more limited place at the table, but a place all the same. ("I'm not going to go through the rest of my life without a piece of crusty French bread," she says.)

·  "Rarely" foods–butter, bacon, whole-fat cheese -- are best thought of as a component rather than a crutch. "I use them strategically," she says, noting that in her version of a warm bacon dressing, she relies on Canadian bacon (essentially, a lean ham) with the addition of a half-strip (per person) of traditional bacon "to get that deliciousness and bacon flavor."

Step Three 
Infuse food with flavor and texture: The former is all about spices and fresh herbs, says Krieger, explaining that they can deliver plenty of taste without adding much in the way of calories. The latter involves making use of the right sort of thickeners -- Greek-style yogurt, silken tofu -- to impart the creaminess and unctuousness we all crave.

Step Four 
Variety is pleasure: "Our taste buds want to have different experiences," says Krieger. That means looking past the familiar bagged lettuce in favor of something just as healthy but unexpected -- say, snow peas. That's especially important when it comes to instilling good eating habits in kids.

"The biggest favor you can do for your child is to expose them to a lot of foods," she says.

Oh, and forget about turkey-on-whole wheat as a lunchtime staple. Krieger's just-as-healthy alternative: lean roast beef on pumpernickel.

Step Five 
Celebrate food as a family: It's not just that Krieger, mother to young Isabella, turns off the TV during dinner. It's that she involves her child in meal preparation -- there are great science and math lessons to be learned in the kitchen, she notes -- and avoids too many quick solutions.

"If you're going to make cookies, take the time to make them from scratch, not from a box," she says.

The process begins way before mealtime, in fact. "Go to the market with your child and say, 'You pick out the vegetables tonight,'" she adds.

It all ends with the meal itself, which Krieger says should be a family occasion at least one or two days a week. If it can't be dinner, breakfast is OK, too. "Just share that time together," she says.

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