Health and wellness guru Daphne Oz is a renowned chef, award-winning television host, New York Times bestselling author, the Chief Innovation Officer for Pure Spoon, and podcast co-host of Mom Brain. We recently spoke with Oz to discuss everything from what nutrition means to her to the biggest misconception about healthy eating.
Visit our sixth floor tomorrow, January 24th, from 5:30pm-7:00pm for a conversation between Oz and Van Ness entitled “Adventure in Food, Style, and Everyday Fun.”
Bergdorf Goodman: When did you first become interested in nutrition and what does good nutrition mean to you?
Daphne Oz: I grew up in an extremely health-conscious family, and yet I was verging on obesity as I prepared to graduate high school. What I realized was that information can only get you so far. Ultimately, you have to make an emotional connection that allows for the personal commitment it takes to create a permanent healthy lifestyle that works for you. I seized the freedom of college to take responsibility for my health and develop a way of eating that would put me back in control and allow me to love food while still being able to make conscious choices. I lost over 40 pounds with a few simple strategies such as counting to my age before I cheat (a way of giving yourself a few seconds to be fully aware of your food choices) and indulging for a good cause (your indulgent moments should count and they should fuel your resolve to eat well the rest of the time.)
My food philosophy is that every meal should be a celebration. If it’s not delicious, I don’t care if it’s healthy. For me, being in the kitchen is fun and relaxing, a way to adventure on a daily basis, and I would never look at a meal as purely a sum of it’s nutritional components. It’s worth so much more than that. I am all about richly nourishing my body, not depriving it. Taking care of yourself should feel like the biggest reward of all, and part of nurturing yourself fully is leaving plenty of room for worthy indulgences, too.
BG: What is the first step you would suggest an individual take in order to start eating cleaner?
DO: Remind yourself of other areas where you have been successful in your life and apply the same strategies. Maybe you’re someone who needs bite-sized steps and goals, in which case I would start simple with something like drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Maybe you’re someone who needs to go cold turkey to break bad habits and reset your norm. Every January, I take a break from bread and sugar. I am a carb fanatic so by the time the holidays are over, I am completely addicted to them. I become sluggish and uncomfortable in my skin, and I use a strict break as a way to get control over my habits again and undo some of the damage so that I can get back to feeling like I make conscious choices each time I decide to indulge. To me, clean eating means eating the bulk of my meals made fresh or at home with ingredients that look like they did when they came out of the ground.
BG: What is the biggest misconception about healthy eating?
DO: The biggest misconception about healthy eating is that in order for it to be good to you, it has to be bland, difficult, and depriving. This is not the case! Taking care of yourself should feel like the ultimate indulgence. If you make it hard on yourself, you won’t stick with it long term and you’ll be miserable. In many ways, food is medicine. We can use it to turn on and off different genes, to reverse or prevent disease, to preserve our longevity and vitality. However, eating is also one of the richest rituals we experience, and we do it multiple times daily. It can’t be something that feels like pain and suffering or we’ll miss the benefit. I’m a fan of finding meaningful ways to make healthier ingredient swaps that still allow me to have the sensation and experience with food that I crave.
BG: In your years of research, what has been your most interesting/surprising findings?
DO: One thing that always surprises me is how little we trust ourselves and our intuition around food. For all of the information overload we have, we still feel lost and like the “rules” of health are opaque. That’s because one “rule” does not work for every body. Our bodies are extraordinarily resilient, well-oiled, and unique machines. We’ve complicated “healthy” in many ways, and over the years we’ve vilified different food categories at different times. There are also entire industries that work incredibly hard to make foods that are the worst for us taste the best. Even if they trick your mouth, your body rejects those foods in so many ways. We can feel it, and we should trust that feeling. Individuals should be the foremost experts in what makes them feel best. For the most part, if you’re eating 80% of your food fresh and homemade, recognizable in shape or flavor as whatever it was when it came out of the ground, your body is going to thrive.
BG: Can you walk us through your idea of a healthy day of eating?
DO: My formula for health is to try to make sure the bulk of my meals have a balance of protein, hydration, fiber, and a little bit of healthy fat. I drink tons and tons of water, adding herbs and citruses to keep it interesting, and usually only one cup of caffeine per day. I like to start the morning with scrambled eggs, greens, and avocado; or toast with almond butter. For lunch, I like a giant salad with colorful raw veggies and some quality protein such as chicken, salmon, or legumes. I snack periodically throughout the day and try to make sure these snacks are minimally processed. Carrots and hummus, cucumbers with olive oil and salt, apples with almond butter, and various nuts are all excellent choices. Then for dinner, I love a hearty soup or fish with roasted vegetables. I always try to stop at about 80% fullness. I also enjoy a glass of wine and will always go for dessert. A great way to finish the night is with some type of detox tea.