Ask an Expert Interview: Daphne Oz

We need to stay strong and healthy all year round! So, for this AskAnExpert feature, we asked Daphne Oz, an in-demand expert on health, diet, and lifestyle issues, for her advice on leading a healthier lifestyle. Besides being a co-host on ABC’s The Chew, Daphne is a regular contributor to media outlets and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “Food for Thought.” Check out Glitter’s exclusive interview with Daphne to find out how you can be stronger and healthier this summer too!

GLITTER: What do you find most interesting about being on ABC’s The Chew?
DAPHNE: Learning something new every day! I still can’t believe it’s my job to sit around, laughing and chatting with friends while eating some of the most delicious food on earth. It’s my dream come true!

GLITTER: What was the inspiration behind your book, The Dorm Room Diet?
DAPHNE: I grew up in an incredibly health-conscious family and still struggled with my weight until I was 17. None of the fad diets I tried worked; they just gave food way too much power in my life. I realized that sometimes, we don’t need more information – we need a better way to understand and connect with the information we already have. I developed a healthy lifestyle plan that allowed me to permanently, easily and safely lose over 30 pounds simply by rebalancing my relationship with food so I could actually enjoy my life! I decided to write The Dorm Room Diet to share the tips and tricks I developed that helped me get happy and healthy.

GLITTER: What are some ways for teens to adapt your healthy eating program for their needs and bodies?
DAPHNE: I wrote The Dorm Room Diet when I was 17, so it is very much tailored for the young adult who has a ton going on and might not have much time to spend thinking about how to eat healthily. I focus on how to navigate “danger zones” – those places where you know you’ll be tempted to eat out of boredom, stress or just because food is around – and how to plan ahead so you’re never forced to make bad decisions out of desperation. Essentially, The Dorm Room Diet will give you my easy, essential tools you can use to make the best possible decision in any situation. But at the end of the day, nothing is off-limits, so if you want to indulge and enjoy a special treat or be part of a celebration, you can! The idea is that creating a healthy lifestyle is permanent, so it has to be flexible. I like to think of it is as having your cake and eating it, too.

GLITTER: Teens often have to eat on the run as they shuttle to and from various after school activities. What are some quick and healthy meals they can prepare to avoid eating fast food?
DAPHNE: I always carry a small bag of about 10-20 raw almonds or walnuts in my purse so I don’t end up running into a convenience store to buy a bag of chips when I’m starving if that’s all that is around. Some citrus or hard fruit – like an apple, pear or orange – is also a great snack to have around. At home, keep pre-cut veggies and fruit around so they’re the first thing you reach for when you want a snack, and you can pair them with different flavored hummus, cottage cheese or yogurt dips. For fast meals, I like to have complex carbs, some fat and some protein with breakfast, so I do oatmeal or brown rice with bananas and walnuts or a piece of whole grain toast with a thin spread of almond butter and sliced fruit or an egg with salt, pepper and Tabasco. For lunch and dinner, the easiest solution is to plan the bulk of your meal around vegetables and a little bit of protein – either a big salad, or a lightly sauced steamed or sautéed veggie, with some beans, lentils or lean animal protein like fish, chicken or turkey – and then you can have whatever else you like as a small side or taste. That way, you won’t feel deprived but you’ll also be getting your body plenty of nutrients and keeping any unhealthy foods to small portions. The trick is to plan ahead so you don’t end up making unhealthy choices out of desperation when you’re already starving and fast food is the only thing around. Pack your salad in a plastic container or bag and bring it with you. And make your own salad dressing! This is a huge source of unknown calories, and a really easy way to lose some fat, sugar and salt in your meal without sacrificing flavor. One of my favorite combinations is olive oil with balsamic, red wine or apple cider vinegar, a little bit of Dijon mustard, some orange juice and soy sauce or salt and pepper. Shake it up and you’re good to go!

GLITTER: For someone looking to change her eating habits, what is a good first step?
DAPHNE: The first step is to remind yourself that you can always eat the foods you love, they’re not going anywhere! The hardest thing for me was to think about having to give up the foods I loved, but with a healthy lifestyle plan, nothing is off limits. When I want to indulge in a special treat, I just have a small portion and make it count (ie. I don’t eat stale, store bought cookies every night. Instead, I wait until I can have my favorite homemade cookies and really enjoy them.) It helps to remember that every bite after the first tastes the same, so you only really need a small bit to feel satisfied. And start drinking half your body weight in ounces of water – so 75 ounces of water, or about 8 glasses, if you weigh 150 pounds. It will help you feel full, hydrate your body, and give your skin a glow from the inside out.

GLITTER: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
DAPHNE: Right now, I’m full-steam ahead on The Chew and writing my next book, out in Spring of 2013. It’s all about how have fun living your life right now.

GLITTER: What do you see is the most pressing health concern for teens today? And what can they do to meet that
DAPHNE: The biggest thing for our generation to be focusing on is health access. Every time you buy a meal, you vote for the kind of food you want to see on our grocery store shelves and in restaurants. Our priority needs to be on making healthy food available and affordable to everyone so that we can start taking personal responsibility for our health and really enjoy our lives. If we let food producers know that we value organic, whole, healthful foods, they will provide it. Right now, we’re telling them we want cheap, processed, junk that makes us sick and fat, so that’s what we’re getting. We can do better.

GLITTER: Tell us about HealthCorps. What are some of its current projects?
DAPHNE: HealthCorps is a non-profit I helped my parents start that provides health education in over 50 schools around the country. We send in recent college grads who lead classes in everything from nutrition to cooking to stress modification through transcendental meditation. It’s an awesome program that gives kids a way to feel empowered about their own health. Even better, they take their new knowledge and spread it at home and in their communities. Kids and young adults are the most important change makers because our habits haven’t been set in stone yet, so we are better able to make smart changes when we get new and better information. It’s up to us to lead the way for our parents so we can all enjoy quality – not just quantity – of life.

GLITTER: What are some good ways for teens to get involved in their communities?
DAPHNE: If you live in an area where you can go volunteer on a farm or somewhere where food is produced, go get to work. It’s an incredible experience to actually be a part of the growing process, and see how fresh food really tastes. We need smart people rolling up their sleeves and figuring out how to make small, sustainable farming work on the large-scale without sacrificing quality. Even better, you get to be outdoors! Trust me, you will feel so much better after an hour working with your hands in the soil than an hour spent tapping on your keyboard.

GLITTER: What advice can you offer other Girls Who Rock interested in pursuing a healthier lifestyle?
DAPHNE: It’s OK to be the first person to change. Don’t wait for someone to tell you it’s the right thing to do. You know it already. Get ready to be happy and healthy!