INTERVIEW: How Ellie Krieger Developed Her 'Healthy Appetite' for Life

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Ellie Krieger is just as considerate and poised on the phone as she is on her hit Food Network show, Healthy Appetite. I called her for an interview a couple of weeks ago, and surprisingly she answered her own phone. My jitters about interviewing her immediately melted away as soon as we started talking.

Krieger is a registered dietitian with degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities and is the author of two best-selling books (and another one coming out later this year). Her second book, "The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life," has been reprinted five times and won a James Beard award (think of it like an Oscar for chefs and food writers) this year for best book with a healthy focus.

Those criteria alone make her one of the most knowledgeable food TV personalities, but it's her insatiable appetite for life and experience as a busy wife and mother (of a 6 1/2 year old girl named Isabella) that make her so relatable.

"I was born loving food," said Krieger, laughing. "My mother said that me becoming a dietitian was like a pyromaniac becoming a firefighter."

She was an overweight child and stayed chubby until puberty. "Something snapped in me, and I became uncomfortable in my own skin."

'A Huge Turning Point'
In what she calls a "huge turning point in my life," Krieger swapped chips and junk for vegetables, slowed down her snacking and really started developing a love for healthful, whole foods.

During her late teens and early 20s, while working as a model, Krieger saw the other side of the coin and became "almost overly conscientious" of food before finding her balance in life.

Her books and her show are characterized by healthful, flavorful recipes made from unprocessed foods that really let the natural flavor shine. It's no gimmick, said Krieger, now 43.

"I'm always looking for solutions for me, and (my cooking style) evolved from just feeding myself and my family," she said. "I'm working and I'm juggling all the things that a busy person does."

Having spent years in private practice as a dietitian, she saw her clients struggle with the same issues: getting a healthful dinner on the table each night, incorporating more vegetables into their meals and trying to resist the temptation of quick-fix junk foods and emotional eating.

So what does a world-famous dietitian feed her husband and daughter when time is tight?

"I've got certain go-to's. Something can be super simple and delicious. My latest favorite is Dijon mustard and honey spread on salmon fillets."
She bakes it for 15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, steams some broccoli or broccolini and drizzles it with olive oil and lemon.

Eating Vegetables--No Excuses
As for that familiar struggle to get more vegetables into one's diet, the key is to make vegetables a part of your life and a crucial component of your daily meals, not an afterthought or garnish.

Her suggestions:
  • If you have scrambled eggs for breakfast, cut up tomatoes and add them.
  • Add strawberries, bananas or orange wedges to any meal.
  • At each meal, ask yourself: "Where's that color, what's that produce?"
  • For an afternoon snack, start with a piece of fruit and add some cheddar cheese or peanut butter.
  • At dinner, devote half your plate to fruit and vegetables. Place the focus of the meal on great produce.

    She's passing along those good habits to her daughter, she said.

    "Cooking and eating with her is one of the biggest joys in my life," said Krieger.

    Getting Kids on Board
    When it comes to getting kids to eat right, "you can't make it a battle. Rather, introduce food as this wonderful joyous part of life that's up for inspiration."

    To eliminate struggles over vegetables, she capitalizes on a trait that most children possess: a desire to be in control.

    She takes Isabella to a farmers market or supermarket and lets her choose the vegetable for dinner.

    "She's picked up this massive stalk of Brussels sprouts," said Krieger, who lives in New York. Getting them involved and in the kitchen is key to getting them to try and eat new foods.

    She started Isabella out with a plastic knife and a few other kid-safe tasks. Now mom and daughter love making pancakes together.

    "She can measure," said Krieger. "It's just so much fun."

    They create just one meal for the entire family--Isabella eats what the grown-ups eat without fuss.

    "I believe in making one dinner that's the family dinner. We have family meals."

    Touting Liquid Sunshine
    Krieger recently became the first registered dietitian to be part of the "Milk Mustache" campaign, the magnitude of which humbled her.

    "It was a huge honor, such an iconic honor," she said.
    "There are so many resources that go into promoting foods and drinks that are so nutritionally void," so to actually be able to "influence people to drink a beverage that's incredibly nutritious," was an irresistible opportunity.

    Krieger's focus was the importance of Vitamin D, which combines with calcium to help strengthen bones. She shared recipes and tips for incorporating "Liquid Sunshine" into your daily meals.

    Her ad touts the importance of this underrated vitamin: “When it comes to wellness, little things really make a difference. Like drinking three glasses of lowfat or fat free milk a day. It’s loaded with Vitamin D, the sunny super nutrient whose preventive health benefits have everyone buzzing. Just think of it as liquid sunshine.”

    Vitamin D works with calcium to keep bones strong, but despite its importance, researchers estimate most of us aren't getting enough of it.
    According to recent government data, only 4 percent of men and 1 percent of women over the age of 51 meet vitamin D recommendations from food. The researchers found that even some infants and small children seem to be failing to get enough vitamin D. Experts suggest the chronic low intakes of vitamin D have been behind the resurgence of rickets – a severe vitamin D deficiency that results in bone deformities.

    The new vitamin D ad featuring Krieger is part of a new initiative to draw attention to vitamin D deficiencies.
    Eighty-eight percent of Americans believe they get the vitamin D they need from the sun, according to a recent survey commissioned by the “got milk?” campaign. For most people, vitamin D is not even on their radar screen. Seventy-five percent are not sure how much vitamin D they need and there is significant confusion about where to find it – 23 percent believe exercising regularly will increase their vitamin D and one in five Americans believe a good night’s sleep will replenish their vitamin D.
    Visit to take a vitamin D quiz, and find tips and recipes from Ellie Krieger.

    Do you worry about your own vitamin D intake? Will you check out Krieger's recipes?

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    No I don't get enough vit d I plan on being out side in the sun much more now that it is getting warmer. Spring is my favort time of the year. Report
    Ellie is practical and easy to follow...I like her show on Food Network Report
    I love Ellie's show and books. I have them both and now excited to learn she has a new one coming out later this year.

    Yes, I am deficient in vitamin D and been taking a supplement for a couple years now. It's amazing how it makes you feel. I usually have it rechecked every year. Report
    Ellie looks like she eats healthy! She has some excellent recipes in her books and online...... Report
    I think it's funny that the article mentions that most people don't know how much vitamin D they need, and then the article doesn't actually tell us how much we should target each day. Report
    I love Ellie but have not been able to find her show on the Food Network recently. Think I'll look for her book at the library today. Report
    Even though I do get enough Vit D from my meals and summertime sunshine, at the advice of a friend, started taking a D3 supplement this past winter - the usual dismal MIchigan winter was much easier to take!! Once again, Ellie is right on the mark!! Report
    Remember you need vit. d but it doesnt have to come from milk for all those lactose rs out there Report
    I love Ellie Krieger, and this is such a great article! If you don't have Ellie's books, there worth the investment. Her show on Food Network is really great. I've picked up all kinds of tips and new ideas from her. I love the way she come up with fresh combinations ... all of them healthy and good for you! Report
    love her!! keep going
    I've always drank a lot of milk, so I'm not worried about my Vitamin D. Report
    I have made many of Ellie's recipes. It's one of the first places I start when looking. I am going to be more mindfull of my vitamin D intake. Maybe I will even track it on my nutrition tracker! Report
    I know about the importance of Vitamin D. What I didn't know was that I was severely deficient. On a whim (sort of - my sister had tested severly low) I asked my Dr to test my levels. OMG

    My Dr prescribed a supplement...after two weeks it was as though a fog had been lifted from my life. I retest my levels in a couple of weeks, I'm very interested to see what the level is. Report
    I took the quiz. I must say I was surprised by the results. I thought I was alright. Wrong! Now that I am aware of it I need to get back on my shakes that I used to take. They were full of vit. & min. Come to think of it I don't know why I even stopped taking it?! Report
    I have never been a milk drinker, I just have never liked the taste of it, not even as a child. It makes me gag. However, I have no problems with using it as a recipe ingredient. I've always used calcium supplements, and for almost a year now I have been taking 1000 IU of D3 twice per day as recommended by my oncologist. I have breast cancer, and he wants all of his breast cancer patients to take vitamin D, and he says D3 is the best.

    I haven't watched Ellie's show yet, but I definately want to check it out now, and maybe try some of her recipes. Report
    Love Ellie! She has such great meals. Real food for real people.

    Both my husband and I take D supplements at our doctors' advice. Report
    I love the inspiration that Ellie's show provides for me. I often get stuck making the same old thing over and over; her show and her recipes give fresh ideas, not just for veggies but entire meals. Thanks for the article!! Report
    I started taking Vitamin D when I was reading up on my hubby's Lymphoma-It's one of the things cancer patients are very low in. I like Ellie's show on Food Network and you can get some of her recipes on the website. Report
    I have to monitor it- most Thyroid Patients are likely to have a low D count. Everyone should be concerned, as it is a factor in Breast Cancer. Report
    I have never drink 3 glasses of milk a day. When I was growing up I never drank that much milk. The only time that I would have milk was in my cereal, and I didn't even use that much milk then. I was lucky if I even had a half of a glass of milk a day.Even to this day I don't drink that much milk, I do get a cup of milk daily. Report
    I get almost too much vitamin D every single day, so I definitely don't worry about getting enough! I'll have to check out her book from the library, I like reading new books! Report
    I am going to check out her cook book great blog !!! great information Report
    Very insightful interview. I was unaware of Ms Krieger but I will definately find out more from her books and the cooking show.

    No, I no longer worry about Vitamin D now that I'm a Sparkie and follow the meal plan.

    Yes, I plan on trying her recipes.
    Do you worry about your own vitamin D intake?
    Well, I hadn't been concerned about it - I have been monitoring my calcium intake with the food tracker. I guess I will need to check vitD as well!

    Will you check out Krieger's recipes?
    I sure will! I will look for her show on the FoodNetwork and see if I can find her book in our local library. Report
    gosh I didn't know this much about Ellie. I checked out her latest cookbook, but did get to try anything in it. I will have to get it again.

    In terms of Vitamin D I am excellent. I was tested in December and my doctor asked me if I had been tanning because my vitamin D level was so high for a person in Kansas in December. I think it was the vitamins I was taking. Report
    Thanks MIMI B. I have not read this before. (Makes me wonder why we care about having vitamin D fortified milk.) Report
    I love Ellie's most recent cookbook and have made many of her recipes. They are unfailingly delicious. What a great cook to have on the side of people who want a healthy lifestyle. Report
    PLSTIVER... from the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements... "It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis"

    Look for yourself...
    The statement "you can get vitamin D from the sun" is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

    You get vitamin D by eating foods that contain vitamin D. You need to be exposed to the sun to activate the vitamin D within your body. (There was some hubbub a few years ago about clear plastic milk containers because they left the milk exposed to fluorescent lights in the store, activating the vitamin D before it was ingested, which rendered it useless once ingested.)

    To get the benefits of vitamin D, you need to eat food that contain it, and you need to activate it by being exposed to enough light. Report
    Thank you for this interview. I have been enjoying Ellie's show and I guess part of the reason is that she seems so genuine. The food she prepares is really just great, natural foods prepared in a healthy manner. Report
    My mom and I both LOVE Ellie! I've gotten my mother all her books for various gifts over the last few years. And luckily, I'm a morning person, so I'm able to catch her show on Saturday mornings. It really makes waking up before 8:30 am on a Saturday worth it! Report
    I take a vite D supplement plus make sure I get plenty of sun(when it is shining here in WNY).
    I will check out Ellie's recipes amd books too. Report
    Ellie tells us that milk is a great way to get vitamin D. She's wrong. Or I should say partially wrong.

    Milk is a source of vitamin D because vitamin D is ADDED to the milk. Milk contains very little vitamin D on its own. Ellie should tell us that FACTORY FARM SUPERMARKET milk is a source of vitamin D. Of course that is what most people drink, so maybe she didn't think it was necessary to say anything.

    I work in a dairy farm store. Our milk is different from supermarket milk. There are no additives in our milk, including no vitamin D additives. (Although there is no added vitamin D and we need to get our vitamin D elsewhere, our milk is still better than supermarket factory farm milk because the cows are grass-fed and not given bovine growth hormone.) Report
    I'm not at all worried about getting enough vitamin D, because I work outdoors. Sun exposure gives me plenty, and food sources even more. Report
    Hey Stepfanie! I also got to interview Ellie back in March. She's a delight to speak with, isn't she?
    I'm a huge fan of her show and cookbook and cannot WAIT for the new one! In fact, I actually made 3 Ellie recipes yesterday: muffins, a roasted red pepper/walnut dip, and ranch dressing. I was so excited to find an easy and low-cal recipe for ranch dressing so I can make it myself. Most of the she stuff they sell at the store is crap, and it's so easy to make at home. All of Ellie's recipes look beautiful and delicious. I haven't tried them all but I've loved everything I've tried so far. Go Ellie! Report
    As a post-op gastric bypass patient, I get my blood tested regularly, and Vitamin D is one of the things I am tested for. It's extremely important to get Calcium AND Vitamin D, and I take supplements when I am low. Report
    Oh my what a way to keep your child at your side and help to learn about healthy eating too! I am not familiar with this book will look for it though lots of good things here. Report
    Along with a daily 'multi-vitamin', I've been taking a supplement for Calicum w/Vit D as well. I try to eat healthy...but this way I'm sure to get my basic vitamin needs in. Enjoyed the article on Elle Krieger...going to check on her books.
    Thanks for the info. :o) Report
    Great article. Report
    Reasonably priced vitamin D home test kit here ($65ea or $220/4):

    I read somewhere about a test for $32, but I can't find the reference :( . My nurse practitioner uses this lab for other tests.

    Even if you live in sunny FL you still may be deficient - my DH (who is working there) was lower than me and I have a malabsorption disease! You need to test your levels before supplementing so you know you're not getting too much because it's a fat soluble vitamin. Everyone I've suggested get checked has, and they've been low (I've read Quest labs is not reliable - google that for references - fyi). When I was diagnosed low my doc recommended Posture D as the ratios for complimentary minerals were good; this was in addition to vitamin D3 and calcium. I stopped taking it and my levels dropped - I try to never miss a day now - it helped take me out of a LIFE of depression! yay! has great info.

    And I never heard of this woman - I hope to in the future - thanks for the clue!
    Ellie has some great recipes and I can't wait to check out her new book. I'm not worried about my Vitamin D intake. I get plenty of sunshine and I take my vitamins everyday. Report
    I just checked her second book out at the library, flipped through it for about five minutes and had to have it. I bought it immediately. I'm so glad you interviewed her! She's an inspiration and her love of life and food make her a joy to watch and her cookbooks a joy to read. Report
    most definitely i will try her recipes. Report
    I absolutely love Ellie's show on Food Network. It's one of the few healthy cooking shows on TV, and the food is practical and delicious!! Report
    I absolutely adore Ellie. She is a fabulous role model. I met her at a food show/book signing a couple of years ago, and she's even more luminous in person. She was also very kind--and she loved that I had my Ellie books marked with post-its to show my favorite recipes. I had my picture taken with her as well--it's on my SparkPage!

    Oh, yeah, and I love milk. ;) Report
    I know I get enough vitamin D. I take 3 500 mg. of calcium fortified with vitamin D every day. Report
    Thank you for featuring one of my favorite Food Network stars!! :) Report
    I believe I am Vitamin D deficient but I do try to get my share.
    Yes I will check out her book Report
    what I like about her is she doesn't get sucked into the fat free this fat free that sugar free this sugar free that crap that is all too popular... She takes a common sense approach to eating... Something that's really lacking in too many... Report
    I am Vitamin D deficient and have to take extra Vitamin D every week. So I will definitely check out Ellie's recipes. According to Dr Oz most people in the northern U.S. are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D also affects your hormone levels and your calcium intake. Report