Chef Devin Alexander, bestselling author of The Biggest Loser Cookbooks, gives SHAPE the inside scoop on The Biggest Loser Flavors of the World Cookbook with 75 ethnic recipes. Like the other cookbooks in the series (including The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook and The Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook), Flavors of the World has lower-fat, lower-calorie, all-natural versions of your favorite dishes. Devin, who appeared on Season 3 of The Biggest Loser, has personally triumphed over obesity: she lost 70 pounds and has kept them off for 16 years.
Q: Why did you decide on a "Flavors of the World" theme for the next Biggest Loser cookbook?
A: It was the whole team at The Biggest Loser who made the decision. Avid viewers can’t help but notice that contestants like Italian mother-son team Mike and Maria and Tongan Cousins Sione and Filipe talk about the struggles they have when it comes to participating in their cultural or family food faves. It seemed to be a theme that popped up season after season, so it seemed the obvious choice.
Q: How does home cooking with healthy ingredients help promote weight loss?
A: It's no secret that most restaurant dishes are packed with way more fat and calories than needed to make dishes taste great at home. In a restaurant setting, the chefs are required to get food on the table fast and looking great so they don’t necessarily have time to watch a dish closely enough to make it look or taste perfect using an olive oil sprayer and a non-stick pan. Throwing a ton of butter or oil in the pan makes it so much easier to insure things won’t stick and they’ll taste good. Plus, as a chef who’s consulted with and even created recipes for restaurants, I know how much more difficult (and even more expensive) it can be to source healthy, decadent alternatives. So they often just don’t. By cooking at home, it’s insane how lean yet ridiculously delicious dishes can be – even when made with all-natural ingredients. That’s what we prove with this new book, The Biggest Loser Flavors of the World. You can still have your lasagna, your Thai noodles and even your Chorizo nachos without consequence!
Q: How did you select and refine the recipes for this book?
A: Some of the recipes came directly from contestants' cravings. Others were inspired as I flipped through popular ethnic take-out menus. After I compiled the list of dishes that I knew had to be included, I spent days (literally) in Whole Foods looking at every label trying to find everything from an all-natural marinara sauce that was low in sugar, salt, fat, calories, etc and that tasted great; to a cheese that fit Biggest Losers’ nutritional criteria that also melted well (I landed on almond mozzarella); to a low-sodium soy sauce with no chemicals or preservatives. Once I found them, I hit the kitchen and ran test after test until I arrived at finished dishes I knew folks would crave.
Q: What's the best way for women to use this book and integrate it into their own weight-loss efforts?
A: Just jump in! Seriously. When the cravings hit, before picking up the phone to order take-out, open the book. Or better yet, they should flip through the minute they get it and stock up on the ingredients needed to make the dishes they know they’ll long for before the craving is too strong. Since I include comprehensive nutritional information, it’s easy to fit the meals into any weight loss plan too. These dishes are so much leaner on all levels that it won’t only help weight loss efforts, it’ll help those struggling with cholesterol issues.
Q: How is it possible to avoid deprivation while losing or maintaining your weight?
A: Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve kept 70 pounds off for close to 20 years because I create dishes that focus on cravings. I don’t just make simple substitutions like swapping veggie sausage for chorizo. Instead, I season extra-lean ground pork like you’d season the full-fat pork, then I add moisture and body (in the case of the chorizo, I add egg substitute and oatmeal – don’t worry, you can’t taste it!) to make it close to the texture of fatty chorizo. I save about 25 g of fat per serving, yet it’s just as craveable as the traditional stuff! I’m not a tofu-and-carrot-stick chef and I don’t believe in depriving yourself. Let’s face it, if you’re craving Steak au Poivre, you want red meat and cream sauce. Well, I deliver that…and not by putting yogurt on a tofu or a mushroom “steak."