For author and Food Network star Ellie Krieger, preparing heart-healthy, nutritious meals isn’t just an activity: it’s a way of life. The “Healthy Appetite” star’s passion for both eating well and sharing the knowledge she’s gleaned from her experience as a dietitian compelled her to partner with Campbell’s to promote the company’s extensive line of heart-friendly products. In observance of Heart Health month, Examiner spoke exclusively with the affable Krieger on Feb. 18 on a variety of topics, from her thoughts on the modeling industry’s view of food to her sad tale of the blender and the ill-fated spoon.
You’re clearly very passionate about eating well and maintaining a truly healthy lifestyle. What are a few small things we can do to make better choices in the kitchen?
Krieger: It’s really incredible: it’s not that hard to have delicious and healthy food…. Because February is Heart Health month, and heart disease is the number one killer of women in this country –one in four women die of heart disease– I’m teaming up with Campbell’s soup to bring this to the forefront of people’s awareness…. What’s good for your heart is also what’s good for the rest of your body, so eating better will also improve your skin, reduce your risk of cancer, and make you feel more energetic.
[She shares a recipe for viewers to copy; see video to follow along. As she cooks, Krieger recommends using lean meats, a variety of vegetables, and olive oil for heart-health benefits, and suggests purchasing Campbell’s products that have earned the American Heart Association’s heart check mark.]
I know you’ve done a lot of different things, but we probably know you best from the Food Network. What is the best part of starring in “Healthy Appetite”?
Krieger: I love food. I was born loving food. I was overweight as a child and I struggled with a lot of different issues with nutrition. I learned how to love food in a healthy way. So to be able to help other people do that –to love food and enjoy it, but do it in a way that’s also helping them live their life really fully and feel good– that is a total joy to me. The Food Network show has really given me a platform to do that.
Some people may not realize that you were once a fashion model. My outsider’s view says that a lot of the girls currently modeling today in the industry are kind of thin, but I’m just an outsider. But you’ve been inside. From your experience, how is food viewed within that particular industry?
Krieger: Oh my gosh. Well, when I was modeling, it was terrible. It started off as a summer job after my freshman year of college. I was studying nutrition and I needed some work and had some friends in the fashion industry who said I should try modeling. It wound up being this 15-year career that paid for my Master’s degree. It was really wonderful.
But I did see so many unhealthy attitudes toward food. It’s hard in that pressure cooker, where you’re being evaluated and you have to be really skinny to do the shows or whatever –I never did those; I was more like a catalog kind of model but I made a good living, traveled the world. But yeah, I think there’s a lot of pressure, but it’s an extension of how much pressure is on women in day to day life –for all women– to live up to a certain ideal. I think learning how to cope with that and seeing beyond that is really important…. My knowledge of nutrition [and its benefits] helped me to be successful.
Okay, so let’s say you had carte blanche to create a reality cooking series. What would it be about, and who would you want to work with on it?
Krieger: Oh wow, that’s a good one. So I want to work with regular people and intervene in their daily lives…. It would be fun to do shopping cart makeovers. You know: interrupt people, look in their shopping cart and say ‘why are you buying this?’ and ‘I have a better choice.’ I think that would be fun.
That sounds like a good idea! I like that one.
Krieger: Don’t do that show without me! Call me up when you’re ready to do that show!
Oh of course! So no one likes to admit it, but we all have funny kitchen disaster stories under our belts. What’s one of yours?
Krieger: Haha, I actually blogged about this. I love this one. I say it was the $149 smoothie because I had my blender, and I was making a smoothie, and I put in my fruit and I put in my milk and then I took a scoop of peanut butter and I put it in but then the phone rang. So I dropped the spoon in the blender, went and answered the phone, and then I rang the blender, and I’m like ‘what is that clanking noise?’ [Laughs] All the sudden my blender burns out and I’d actually apparently tried to blend my spoon, which I do not recommend. It was one of those things where it’s like ‘blender, $149. Smoothie, priceless’ or whatever.
I’ve done that. I’m ashamed. Okay, so to close it out, just a couple of quick little questions for you. What’s your appetizer of choice?
Krieger: Oh boy. [Pauses] I love dips. I feel like they get everyone kind of going. But healthy dips, like white bean and garlic or avocado dip.
Can’t-miss TV show?
Krieger: “Downton Abbey.” I am not missing that one. No way. No way no how! I hope Isis is okay!
Your other passion?
Krieger: I really love to be active. I love to do yoga, I love to hike, I love to be outside. So any chance I get, I love to go kayaking… and just be active.
For recipes and information about heart-healthy cooking options, visit Campbell’s Kitchen online.