Christina Tosi, Elizabeth Falkner, and 13 more award-winning chefs dish on how they stay healthy and happy amongst all the tempting treats
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Chef: Gaby Dalkin is the mastermind behind the uber-popular blog What’s Gaby Cooking, where you’ll find everything from a guide on how to do a juice cleanse to her recipe for irresistible Slutty Brownies. The L.A. resident has degrees from both culinary and pastry school and also authored the book Absolutely Avocados.
How she stays healthy: “I've recently become mildly obsessed with boxing! I've been mixing it into my normal workout routine of SoulCycle and Pilates and it's incredible to see the changes in my body. My mom and sister also got me hooked on the whole Fitbit craze so I'm always on a daily mission to get to 12,000 steps! I've learned over the past few years that diet is all about balance. I can't say no to a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, but if I've been loading up with colorful salads, lean protein, and plenty of vegetables, then I don't feel guilty about the occasional indulgence.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Basil Vinaigrette
Photo: Gaby Dalkin
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Chef: Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., is an award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families.
How she stays healthy: “I always keep whole, seasonal, and fresh fruit in my fridge, like apples, pears, bananas, and grapes. When I travel, I bring a tuna pouch for a savory, nutritious protein for after I land, and pair it with 100 percent whole-grain crackers. In my purse, I keep snack bars made with nuts and dried fruit and minimally-added sugar for when I’m out and about. And I always keep my insulated metal reusable water bottle with me to stay hydrated.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Buckwheat Noodle Bowl with Edamame & Ginger
Photo: Michelle Dudash
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Chef: Katie Weinner, who competed in the most recent season of Bravo's Top Chef, is a Salt-Lake-City resident who received her culinary diploma from the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. Two years ago, she created SLC POP, a pop-up restaurant and catering business.
How she stays healthy: “I set up my schedule so I can snowboard everyday. When I'm able to spend time in the mountains all day, working at night seems less like a job and more like the trade-off to another day of doing what you love. I constantly crave change! When our snow dries up, I find a lake and go wakeboarding or swimming or I hike around the same places we ski and admire the wildflowers and wildlife.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Sri Lankan Beet Curry
Photo: Katie Weinner
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Chef: This year, Jamie Leeds is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Hank’s Oyster Bar, which she opened in 2005 in Washington D.C. Since then, it’s won numerous awards and expanded into two other locations in D.C. and northern Virginia. But that’s not the only excitement in her life: After undergoing Duodenal Switch (DS) surgery over a year ago, Leeds has lost 160 pounds—a feat that has overhauled her entire outlook on eating.
How she stays healthy:“I am very nutrient- and protein- focused now. All my meals have protein and vegetables, and I try and focus on the spices. I’m lightening dishes up a lot too—no more butter and cream sauces, but instead relishes and salsas. I’m also a big fan of marinating and dry rubbing meats to increase the flavor of the dish instead of adding fat. I also eat a lot of oysters, which are surprisingly healthy—packed with protein, tons of zinc, a dozen oysters is only 110 calories.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Grilled Tuna with Olive Tapenade
Photo: Jamie Leeds
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Chef: Christina Tosi is the chef, founder, and owner of Milk Bar in New York City. She was also the 2012 recipient of the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award and a finalist for the 2014 James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef award. Her new cookbook, Milk Bar Life, comes out April 7.
How she stays healthy: “I love to move around. It keeps me sane and feeling fresh, even when weeks go by and I don't have time to actually set aside for intentional exercise. I build it into my every day: I always take the stairs. I walk when it’s reasonable instead of the subway or a taxi. I make dates with friends and family that are active, like a walk along the river, playing in the park, riding bikes down the west side highway to dinner. When there's time, I love to run. I never run with a clock or for a given distance. I listen to what my body says when it's ready to crush a run, or if it's been awhile since I've hit the open road, I take it a little easier on myself.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Blueberry Miso Smoothie
Photo: Christina Tosi
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Chef: Sonja Finn is the owner and chef of Dinette Restaurant & Wine Bar in Pittsburgh. She’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and Columbia University. Since opening Dinette in 2008, Sonja’s been a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year twice, in 2009 and 2010.
How she stays healthy: “I eat real food—nothing processed, nothing pre-made, nothing that comes in a wrapper or frozen. At the end of the night, when my work is finished, I sit down and order a dish or two. And at Dinette the food is real food. We make everything from scratch, focus on plant-based ingredients, use meat sparingly, use only olive oil, and there’s no added sugar, so it’s easy to stay healthy eating at my own restaurant.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Grilled Belgian Endive Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Photo: Sonja Finn
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Chef: Leah Cohen, a former Top Chef contestant and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is the chef and owner of Pig & Khao on the Lower East Side of New York City. The menu features bold flavors of Asian street food combined with her experienced culinary technique honed in New York’s top kitchens.
How she stays healthy: “Being a chef means I’m always tasting food before it leaves the kitchen. To stay in shape, I stick to juicing and salads when I’m not eating out. And I work out at least five days a week by taking spin, barre or Pilates classes.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Beef Lettuce Wrap
Photo: Leah Cohen
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Chef: Brooke Williamson was the first runner-up on Top Chef: Seattle and star of MTV’s cooking competition series House of Food. She was also featured on Top Chef Duels. She owns and operates multiple restaurants in California, including gastropub The Tripel and Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey, and the Hudson House in Redondo Beach.
How she stays healthy: “I have pretty much anything I want to eat at my fingertips at any time of day. I just have to constantly remind myself that snacking is a privilege, not a requirement, and that all of the delicious food within my restaurants will still be there next week if I can’t get it out of my head by that time. I try to never to get to a point during the day where I'm starving and all rational thought has left me. I always travel with a banana and a protein bar for those days when I don't have time to make myself something sensible to eat.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Coconut Chia Seed Pudding
Photo: Brooke Williamson
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Chef: Alexandra Thomopoulos is a former stand-up comedian who now runs her own catering company. Although she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2010, Alex never focuses on the few ingredients she can’t eat, but celebrates the never-ending list of ones she can enjoy. She shares her recipes on her blog Alex T Cooks and hosts two Youtube cooking shows, “Bites and Booze; Gluten Free” and “Gluten Free with Alex T.”
How she stays healthy: “I eat a lot, so I make sure the foods that I have around me are healthy and packed with flavor, such as baby tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and zucchini. These are so versatile—I can eat them raw dipped in hummus, a Dijon vinaigrette, or roasted. I also make sure to exercise almost everyday. Three days a week, I hike with my friend, so we both hold each other accountable on getting that hour of cardio in. Having a workout buddy changed everything for me. I do Pilates the other three days and rest on Sundays.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Zucchini, Spinach and Jalapeno Soup
Photo: Alexandra Thomopoulos
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Chef: Maria Hines was a contestant on Food Network's Iron Chef America and is now executive chef and co-owner of the Seattle-based restaurant Tilth. Hines is also a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef of the Northwest, and takes part in America Cooks with Chefs, a healthy initiative that pairs celebrity chefs with contestants to learn to "make under" their favorite meals to under 800 calorie recipes. Her restaurant focuses on organic and sustainable ingredients—she makes jam, butter, ketchup, mustard, fresh cheeses, pasta, vinegar, and other products from scratch.
How she stays healthy: “I always pack my own lunch for work so it’s easy to make the right choice—whole food, plant-based options. Then I supplement by tasting dishes at work. I also stop eating at 6 p.m. and count calories using an app on my phone.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Chicken Adobo with Garlic-Ginger Brown Rice and Long Beans
Photo: Maria Hines
Mary Sue Milliken
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Chef: Mary Sue Milliken is currently the co-chef and owner of Border Grill Restaurant & Truck in both Las Vegas and Los Angeles. She trained at Michelin two-star restaurant, Paris, was the first female chef at Chicago’s Le Perroquet, and successfully progressed to the final stage of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters Mary is also participates in the healthy cooking initiative, America Cooks with Chefs that pairs celebrity chefs with contestants to learn to "make under" their favorite meals to under 800 calorie recipes.
How she stays healthy: “I have never been a fan of drinking water, but I made a conscious effort to increase my hydration a while back. I had read that sometimes when you’re hungry, you may actually be thirsty and being hydrated helps stave off that gnawing in your stomach. Sure enough, after many, many months of forcing myself to drink 40 to 60 ounces of water each day and shifting from coffee to weak but delicious black tea in the morning, I now find that I crave plain old water and will go out of my way to drink it.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Colorful Chile Relleno with Watercress and Jicama Salad
Photo: Mary Sue Milliken
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Chef: Elizabeth Falkner is one of the culinary world’s most recognizable chefs and a leader in the culinary scene in both pastry and savory cooking. For more than twenty years, she wowed the San Francisco/Bay Area with two Michelin-recommended restaurants. In 2012, she moved to New York and successfully launched two independent restaurants within a year. She’s a James Beard Foundation Award nominee and has competed in Food Network’s Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs, in which she was a finalist and runner-up.
How she stays healthy: “After 28 years of playing competitive soccer, I put away my cleats and took up kickboxing, Jungshin (a type of swordfighting), yoga, CrossFit and spin. I love sports and am disciplined about being physically active because it makes me think clearly, makes my body look hotter, and allows me to cook and eat what I want most of the time.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Quick Roasted Sweet Potato with Yogurt, Walnuts, and Cilantro
Photo: Food Network
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Chef: Brittany Baldwin started cooking professionally at age 15. For a decade, she worked primarily in fine dining restaurants while attending college and culinary school. In 2005, Brittany founded Portland Home Chef, where she caters private dinner parties, cocktail parties, and provides a weekly meal service for Portland families. She also owns and runs a small farm that sources produce and eggs for the company.
How she stays healthy: “When I cook for myself I tend to use the garden and home-preserved items as much as possible. I purchase only meat, produce, and maybe a nice cheese to snack on at the grocery store. For sweets, I have a little ice cream after dinner. I'm obsessed with natural flavor, and I try to find the best-tasting produce from week to week in the store. I talk to the store clerks on a daily basis in almost every department to find the most flavorful ingredients. Having the right whole foods on hand prevents me from snacking or relying on processed foods.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Butter Lettuce Bites With Comice Pear, Goat Cheese Mousse, and Pistachios
Photo: Brittany Baldwin
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Chef: Melissa King earned a spot as a finalist in the most recent season of Top Chef. She graduated at the top of her class from the Culinary Institute of America, trained under several Michelin star and James Beard award-winning chefs, and currently works as a private chef in the Bay Area.
How she stays healthy: “Despite being surrounded by delicious food all day long, I stay healthy by running outdoors and doing vinyasa yoga. The mix of cardio, muscle toning, and stretching seem to work well for my body type. I also try to walk whenever possible, rather than rely on public transportation or my car. Those San Francisco hills will get you after a while! I love ice cream and cookies, but will rarely buy it for my home. If it's in my fridge, I'll end up eating it all! I prefer to save those items for occasional date nights to the creamery.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Roast Chicken with Lentils and Turnips
Photo: Melissa King
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Chef: Michelle Bernstein is a James Beard Award winner and co-owner and head chef of Michy’s and Crumb on Parchment in Miami. She relies on seasonal ingredients and works with local farmers and fisherman to create whimsical dishes she describes as “luxurious comfort food.” Bernstein is also the author of the cookbook Cuisine a Latina: Fresh Tastes and a World of Flavors from Michy’s Miami Kitchen. She also takes part in America Cooks with Chefs, a healthy initiative that pairs celebrity chefs with contestants to learn to "make under" their favorite meals to under 800 calorie recipes.
How she stays healthy: “I always make sure I’m well fed before the day begins and definitely before events to prevent grazing, a bad habit that is so easy to do! The one thing I make sure to do after working all day is stretching when I get home. Some good yoga stretches help get out all of the aches from standing for 14 hours a day.”
Favorite healthy recipe: Crispy Chicken Over Arroz con Cerbeza, Peas, and Peppers
Photo: Michelle Bernstein