Interview by Anna Hudgins, nutrition student at Texas A&M University and intern at Nutrition Awareness
Ellie Krieger is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian most commonly known for hosting The Food Network show Healthy Appetite. Ellie has had a diverse and impressive career in the nutrition world. Before she was a host she was a professor at New York University in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and ran her own private practice. Ellie has a passion for writing and has written several New York Times Bestsellers including, The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life and So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week. Ellie is also a weekly columnist for USA Today and USA Weekends, and has been featured on dozens of popular shows and networks including The Today Show, CNN, and Live with Regis & Kelly. Ellie also took part in the “Let’s Move” campaign with First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010.
When did your passion for cooking and nutrition begin?
My passion started as early as I can remember. My mom put it best when she said that me becoming a dietitian was like a pyromaniac becoming a firefighter. I started cooking when I could reach the stove. I was overweight as child and I struggled with balancing my desire for food. Throughout my teens, I resented the way I ate and looked so I tried eating healthier and incorporating more fruits and vegetables. I loved science and majored in nutrition as part of my pre-med program. It was then that I realized the depth and breadth of the nutrition field and stayed with it. I minored in journalism while getting my masters in nutrition to learn how to better communicate health and nutrition messages because my eventual goal was to work with the media.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day varies greatly and depends on my latest project- my life is often oriented around the task at hand (I just finished writing another book). My days consist of developing recipes and writing copy and headnotes, shooting a show, doing public appearances, traveling, and media appearances. I love the variance! I am currently writing two columns for Washington Post- both are recipe driven. Every day is completely unpredictable, exciting, and stressful- but something fun is always around the corner.
Where do you get inspiration for your dishes? Are your recipes all original or do you have help collaborating them?
A lot of my inspiration comes from laying in bed and thinking about what I wish I had to eat right then and how to make it better for me. Sometimes I get inspiration walking through the market and see an ingredient that looks stunning and beautiful so I start with that ingredient. New York City restaurants have so many great artists in the kitchen. I’ll go out to eat and fall in love with combinations the chefs have used and then I think of ways to bring this flavor profile to a home menu. Following the Twitter and Instagram feeds from other artists also inspires me.
How do you embrace or work with popular trends or fad foods (gluten-free, kale, quinoa, flaxseed)? Do these trends affect what you choose to cook on your show?
When the public is interested in a particular food, I look for different ways to prepare it. Kale has always been a favorite of mine but has not always been as accessible to others. When people’s minds are open to it, it’s easy for me to use it in recipes.
How often do you cook at home for your family?
Cooking at home is a priority; it’s an important part of a happy life for me. Most weekdays I come home and cook dinner. On weekends, I will eat out, embrace the restaurant city life and get new inspirations.
What was it like to work with First Lady Michelle Obama and cook in the white house kitchen?
Amazing – just to be in the white house kitchen with the chefs was an out-of-body experience. It was a great honor to be part of a larger movement toward healthy eating in America.
Do you have any advice for a new RD looking to make a mark in the community?
My number one rule is to follow your passion. Of course, you are not going to feel passionate about every single thing you do to get where you want to be, but follow what drives you. There are certain things you will do that give you energy and have you walking away with a heightened since of being alive. Learn to recognize what part of your field give you that feeling and move in that direction. My other advice is that great ideas are great, but need execution- there is never a substitute for seeing things through from beginning to end and making it happen.
A HUGE thank you to Ellie for taking the time to be part of The Dietitian Spotlight Series! She is a glowing representation of our profession and a great example of how to use nutrition expertise and education to help others on a national level.