With over 1 million cookbooks sold, national best-selling cookbook author Holly Clegg has become a culinary expert on easy, healthy and practical recipes through her nationally recognized best-selling trim&TERRIFIC® and Eating Well cookbook series. Clegg has appeared on Fox & Friends, NBC Weekend Today, QVC, The 700 Club, USA Today, Web MD and on Walmart healthy cooking videos.
Here she offers her advice on easy ways to transform our diets. Read on:
Tell us your story. How did you become so passionate about health eating?
Food and cooking have always been my passion! After attending the Cordon Bleu Cooking School and being a gourmet cook, I started to believe there was a correlation with what you ate and health; but all the “diet” recipes at that time tasted like cardboard or diet food. I made the decision to take a risk and write a healthy cookbook (very ahead of my time) and I self-published my first trim &TERRIFIC® cookbook in 1993. My intention was to show that I could create a cookbook with “good” food that was “good” for you.
My career took off with numerous book deals, spokesperson opportunities from Teflon to Walmart, and national TV appearances: QVC, Today Show, Fox & Friends, and The 700 Club preparing my easy, healthy recipes. I was very passionate about making a difference in a people’s lives by creating healthy, everyday recipes that were prepared in 30 minutes; so people would start cooking!
I am still passionate about food, and cooking healthfully and have become a culinary expert on practical easy, healthy recipes through my best-selling trim&TERRIFIC® cookbook series, including the more health focused Eating Well cookbooks on cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
Why would you love to see more people embrace a healthier diet?
A healthier diet is not about losing weight, dieting, not eating or eating the super food of the day! My definition of eating healthier is about a lifestyle, making subtle changes in your life that become a way of life while still enjoying food. With all the statistics and information about the correlation of food and health, it is so important that people get healthier from the inside out!
My goal is to give people the recipes and tools for a healthier diet and not have to give up their favorite and familiar foods. A healthier diet is about balance and not being deprived!
I cook trim and terrific daily, but I’m always going to enjoy a chef’s food preparation, gourmet foods online or sometimes I just like to order desserts online like my favorite coconut cake (I LOVE Coconut cake), Cooked Coconut Smith Cake, on FoodyDirect.com.
What are the biggest misconceptions you find people have about cooking and eating healthy?
There are plenty of daily stressors but a healthy homemade meal to feed and please the family shouldn’t be one of them. Good food doesn’t have to be time extensive, complicated or expensive. With the same passion and appreciation for good food as in all my cookbooks, my Trim and Terrific recipes include all your favorite foods (from lasagna to white chocolate cheesecake) – I like to say I trim the recipes up while keeping them terrific! I also am a firm believer in convenience to supplement your meal with food by mail or pre-made items.
Cooking and eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy food or you have to give up sweets and bread. Eating healthy is about a balance which means you can enjoy the finest steaks but pair with healthier sides. Eating healthy is not about one meal or one day; it is about a lifetime!
What are some easy ways we can start transforming our diets?
Start small. A diet overhaul sounds overwhelming and we can easily talk ourselves out of it before we even begin. Start with one new recipe a week. When we cook from home, we are not only cooking cost-effective meals, but we also know every ingredient going into our food – no sneaky added fat or sodium.
Work up to collecting several go-to favorite healthy meals in your repertoire so you can keep your pantry stocked with the ingredients. You will easily have a quick nutritious meal to whip up in a flash!
My best advice is to keep a well-stocked pantry; think of this as a permanent shopping list to be able to whip up meals quickly. I advise people to eat healthier 80 percent of the time and 20 percent enjoy your less healthy favorites.
What do you wish more people would cut out of their diets right now?
Fast food – I make healthy recipes quick and easy using the abundance of convenience pre-chopped fresh fruits and veggies (rotisserie chicken, pre-cut veggies, quick brown rice).
Cooking from scratch is great but not if it keeps you from cooking at all. I am all about easy, using the best shortcuts to help us get that healthy homemade meal on the table and fast! Don’t let time be what holds you back from whipping up that homemade meal. With a few of my favorite time-saving healthy ingredients or using the convenience of online shopping, you will be surprised at how fast you can put a delicious meal on the table – faster, healthier and more budget friendly than you can grab takeout!
What’s one of your go-to kitchen tools?
I would have to say a hand-held immersion blender. Whether you are making soups or a smoothie, this gadget can mix, cream or puree in the same pot or bowl without getting out a heavy mixer or blender and clean-up is simple.
How do you approach food shopping? What’s always on your list?
With me, I like to make it easy. If it’s not easy it is so much harder to continue healthy habits. Keep a fully stocked pantry to pull from so you don’t need that drive-thru meal as an option.
I make sure to keep several healthy ingredients on hand at all times which helps to make whipping up a hearty, delicious meal so simple. Chicken broth, frozen corn, canned beans, tomatoes and green chili’s – combined with chicken breast makes a pretty outstanding Speedy Chicken Chili.
Other favorite pantry stocking items include olive oil, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, couscous and various nuts. Keep a stocked freezer with seafood, ground sirloin and chicken breasts.
Can you share one of your go-to mid-week-rush healthy recipes?
I love this Chicken Lasagna recipe from my trim&TERRIFIC® KITCHEN 101 cookbook, as it uses rotisserie chicken, no-boil lasagna noodles, frozen spinach and healthy marinara sauce that I keep stocked at all times.
Makes 8-10 servings
2 (25-ounce) jars marinara sauce
1 (8-ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles, divided
1 (15-ounce) container low-fat ricotta cheese
2 1/4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, cut into pieces (about 3 cups)
1. Preheat oven 375˚F. Coat 13x9x2-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Spread about 1 cup marinara sauce on bottom of pan. Top with one-third noodles, all the ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella, half the chicken and 1 cup sauce. Repeat layering with one-third noodles, remaining chicken, and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with remaining noodles and sauce.
3. Bake, covered with foil, 1 hour. Uncover and top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and continue cooking 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Nutritional info per serving: Calories 351, Calories from Fat 27%, Fat 10g, Saturated Fat 4g, Cholesterol 70mg, Sodium 907mg, Carbohydrates 36g, Dietary Fiber 4g, Total Sugars 13g, Protein 27g, Dietary Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 vegetable, 3 lean meat
Terrific Tip: Try adding sliced mushrooms, baby spinach and black olives to this basic recipe for added flair.