• My Interview with Ellie Krieger

    March 12, 2012

    Remember when I had lunch with Ellie Krieger in New York City back in January? Our lunch was pretty informal, so it wasn’t really an opportunity for an interview, but Ellie’s publicist got in touch with me to coordinate a Q & A with her. So cool!

    A couple of weeks ago, I chatted with Ellie on the phone for a solid 30 minutes about food, fitness, cooking, and her televison show. I even asked her what she thinks about the Paleo diet. I recorded our conversation and transcribed it below. Enjoy!

    What is a typical day of eating like for you?

    So, I usually workout in the morning, and I can’t workout with a lot in my stomach, so I will start off with coffee, some whole grain toast or half of a whole wheat bagel, and then I workout. My breakfast is in two parts. When I’m done working out, I’ll usually have a smoothie that I make myself. I love to do banana, blueberry, milk. If it’s the weekend, my daughter will actually make me a smoothie, which is kind of fun since she’s only 9 years old. I like having her cook for me. Or I might have a hard-boiled egg and an orange, something like that– a protein and a fruit. So, put it all together, and it’s a well-rounded breakfast. I just kind of break it up.

    Then, lunch… gosh, I guess there’s no such thing as a typical day. But, one could be whatever I am testing that day because I’ll try to plan testing a recipe around lunch. Today I had… oh, I probably can’t even say since it’s for a magazine, Shape magazine, for a story that I am doing with them, so I ate that for lunch, and it was delicious. If it’s not what I’m testing, it might be a nice arugula salad with some Italian tuna and whatever vegetables I have hanging around… maybe another piece of toast… whole grain sourdough bread that I get from this place Le Pain Quotidien. It’s this little bakery here. So, that’s kind of typical.

    And, dinner, gosh… let’s see… it’s really anything because I love experimenting. I almost never eat the same thing twice. But, on a simple night, like last night, I just made some roasted halibut with an herbed breadcrumb topping with roasted asparagus and rice. It could be super simple like that. Or I might go out. I live in New York. I love to eat out. We order in, like Indian food, something like that. So, that’s pretty much a typical day. The only thing I’m missing from that is I usually have a snack in the afternoon, like almond butter and an apple or something like that or some chocolate. Usually, I fit chocolate in there somewhere. I just had a chocolate-covered graham cracker.

    How do you stay in shape?

    I feel like I always have to be aware. First of all, I have to exercise. I mean, I love exercise, and I think I completely have to do it or I wouldn’t be fit or happy. So, I do yoga. I do spinning. I do weight lifting. So, that’s my basic kind of thing I do, but I am active whenever possible. So, if I’m on vacation, we’ll do kayaking or skiing or snowshoeing, depending on the season, or bike riding. I really try to be active almost as much as I can, so that’s a big part of it. That’s a huge part of the equation. I’m around my food all the time, so, luckily, that helps a lot because I’m always cooking really healthy stuff. And I feel like a big thing for me is just watching my portions. I sometimes, when I finish lunch, feel like I can eat another lunch, but if I just wait 20 minutes, I’m totally satisfied, and if I just practice that, it usually works for me.

    What happened to your cooking show? Will you be back on TV soon?

    So, my show is now on Cooking Channel. Not everyone who gets Food Network gets Cooking Channel. Most people don’t even realize Cooking Channel is the sister network of the Food Network, so it’s owned by the same company. It’s currently on Monday through Friday at 9:00 AM Eastern and Pacific on there, but it’s probably not going to be on the Food Network again, unfortunately. And I have no idea why. I can’t figure it out, and I don’t make those decisions. I don’t really understand how those decisions are made exactly.

    What is your favorite meal to cook?

    I love cooking a big pot, like stews and soups, because you can change them as you go easily. I just find it very freeform. Oh, I’ll make a chili. I have half of a cup of corn in the refrigerator. I’ll throw that in. I just feel like it’s fun… there’s a lot of room to play.

    Where do you find your inspiration for your recipes?

    Mostly, I feel like I am inspired by going to the market and looking at great ingredients and thinking ‘what can I do with that?’ I do feel like I am inspired by ingredients, but also I sometimes literally feel like, ‘I want a meatball hero,’ and I just get a craving, and I want to make it my way. I feel like sometimes I can’t even go out and get it the way I want it, so sometimes the motivation to develop a recipe is literally that’s what I feel like eating.

    Who are your role models and inspirations in the culinary world?

    I mean, it sounds so trite to say this, but Julia Child, of course. Her spirit inspires me all the time, and especially on television because she has fun on television, and she wasn’t trying to be perfect all the time. And she was able to inspire other people to try new things and feel like they could do it, and I feel like part of that. The reason why she was able to do that is because she wasn’t Miss Perfect. She was dropping chickens and recovering from that on TV. I always feel like on TV that is always my inspiration. Her and Lucille Ball, I guess, and they’re connected, like this sense of willingness to be vulnerable and make mistakes and not be perfect. I feel like you can connect to people better that way.

    So, culinary… this really isn’t culinary, but a person who influenced my worldview very profoundly was Joan Dye Gussow, and she wrote a book, This Organic Life. So, she was my professor at Columbia in my Master’s, and she was one of the very first people talking about local, organic, sustainable food when it was sort of a freaky thing to talk about. People thought she was crazy… you know, she was out there. And she’s so groundbreaking, but when she taught the course, called Nutrition Ecology, it literally blew my mind open, like I couldn’t believe it. I had been studying nutrition from a science perspective or from a clinical perspective. I studied Clinical Nutrition as an undergrad, so I understood what Vitamin B did in the Krebs Cycle kind of thing, but I get into her class, and nutrition is politics and nutrition is ecology and nutrition is agriculture and nutrition is sociology. It made me love the field even more than I already did.

    What’s your best piece of career advice for someone interested in health and nutrition, who might want to do something similar to what you are doing?

    It’s hard. I call it ‘planting the seed,’ and you just need to keep planting the seed and starting with small seeds. If you want to be a writer… I basically started writing and doing TV stuff by reaching out to local public access television and reaching out to local newspapers, who didn’t even pay you to write, but just so you could get a byline and then building on those relationships and literally pitching ideas, but not starting with Glamour magazine and USA Today… kind of being realistic and starting and building from a smaller market, but you’re going to be able to build your skills. So, my first article that I wrote and got a byline and actually paid for was for New York Runner’s magazine, which is a magazine published by the New York Road Runner’s Club, so, clearly, a small publication. But, I got my byline and from there, I worked with the editor and ended up… she ended up becoming an editor at Woman’s Day. Then, I got another article with her there and then it just sort of build, so that’s an example of starting and you can hone your skills as you do it.

    When I was starting out, there was no such thing as blogs and stuff, so now at least it’s democratized, like write just like you’re doing. The more you write, the better writer you’re going to be. I used to keep a journal and everyday throughout college and my Master’s. I had these books and books of journals. Now you can do this in a public way and find your voice. And even if three people are reading it, you’re at least getting that practice and more and more people will come.

    And the other thing… this is a little further along. I did a little video thing as part of a talk that was given this year about marketing yourself for the American Dietetic Association, and one thing that is so important is to know what you stand for, and it takes time to figure out what you stand for, but I think we all know in our hearts, in our guts, what is meaningful to us… why we do this job… what matters… and how we think we can help people and stick with that. If you know what that is and stick with that even though it’s sometimes hard to because you’ll have opportunities to compromise that. I feel like that’s always something I feel grateful and have never regretted, but not in a rigid way. But, in a way that is understanding what my core values are. And, for me, that’s always been about real food.

    What do you think of the Paleo diet?

    I don’t see any reason not to eat grains. Eat grains. They’re yummy. They’re the basis of civilization. I mean, I think that if people are overeating loaves and loaves of bread and mounds and mounds of pasta and they’re relying completely on all of these carbohydrates, then, okay, they probably need to change that or need to bring that down and find balance. I don’t think Paleo is the answer to that.

    I was in private practice for 10 years, and one of the things I really always said is if it works for you and it’s not hurting you, go for it. But, I think for a general public health statement, do I believe in the Paleo diet, I would say no for a variety of reasons. Reason #1 being there’s no reason why you can’t eat quinoa. And I’m assuming, as I understand Paleo, you can’t have any cultivated grains, so, yea, it’s unnecessary. I think some people feel like they have to draw strict lines in the sand for themselves in order to make change. That might help some people, but, ultimately, I think it could hurt you thinking you have to be all or nothing.

    And, also, it’s funny because the arguments for the Paleo diet, like, ‘that’s how we’re meant to be,’ then we should be living outside really. Like why don’t you just go live in the park or something because that’s what you’d be doing, so the whole argument is kind of silly. And my husband could totally live in the park, by the way. He’s like a bowhunter and a survivalist guy. If anyone could do it, he could, but he chooses to live in a house with me and eat my quinoa.

    What’s your favorite vegetarian meal that would also please hardcore carnivores?

    One of the things I make all the time is… I guess I have to go in the direction of pasta because there’s no hardcore carnivore that I know that doesn’t love pasta. I love to toast garlic in a little bit of olive oil, a couple tablespoons, and you slice it thin and toast it until it’s just golden brown and then you throw a vegetable in there. It could be zucchini or… in my So Easy book, there’s a recipe for Penne with Zucchini and Mint. Basically, it’s like toasting the garlic, putting in a vegetable, and covering it. I love to do this with cherry tomatoes, and then you just cover it and kind of let the cherry tomatoes almost burst… you know, kind of soften and then you just toss it with pasta and basil, and it’s so delicious… and I guess you could put cheese and white beans in there for extra protein. It’s really good.

    The other thing: chili. My husband is such a carnivore, but I could totally make a black bean chili with chipolte, avocado, cilantro, lime, and little yogurt sour cream on top kind of thing… you know, Greek yogurt on top, and he’s a happy camper.

    What’s your go-to meal when you don’t feel like cooking?

    What I did last night with the halibut or a piece of salmon and you just put salt and pepper on it and your put it in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then you take it out and put lemon on it and it’s delicious. I mean, it can be literally that simple. And while that’s in the oven, I could be steaming broccoli or sautéing. Last night, I put some asparagus in the oven with a little olive oil and a touch of balsamic. I feel like that is one of the simplest things to do or same thing with grilling. But, I think lemon, salt, and pepper with chicken is just delicious. It sounds ridiculously simple though, huh?

    What ingredients do you think are worth the extra money and which ones do you think you can save your money on?

    Really good Parmesan cheese. Totally worth it. Totally worth it and you can get more flavor with less. Grate it yourself; it’s totally worth it. I think also for salad dressing, a really nice olive oil, but don’t buy an expensive olive oil for cooking. You can use the big box store kind of thing of olive oil. I don’t think it’s worth spending a lot on finishing, like there’s no reason for using an expensive salt. It’s very popular right now. Unless it’s like a smokey salt or a salt that you’re going to use at the end to finish a dish to give it something. If you’re just going to put it in a stew or cook it into the dish, you may as well just use regular salt, unless it calls for Kosher salt then it measures out different, but I don’t know if Kosher salt costs more. I don’t know… anyway, regular salt for cooking and not expensive oil for cooking.

    Also, for cooking, if you’re going to put wine in a dish… I saw something in the New York Times… I forget who the author was, but they did a little test to see if they could tell the difference between the expensive wine or a cheap wine in their dish, and they totally couldn’t tell. You don’t want to use a bad, undrinkable wine, but anything drinkable. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes, I keep those little almost slightly larger than those mini bottles in my cupboard just for using in a dish.

    If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

    That’s not a good question. I can’t decide that. Impossible. It would be impossible to decide that. I couldn’t. Three foods? That would be terrible. So, I’d have to think very practically… I guess I might… alright, I’ll say salmon, salad, like a really delicious salad, and I’m going to throw in pizza because I really do love pizza. I often joke that the reason I had a child is so I’d have an excuse to eat more pizza, which I am making tonight, actually. I guess then I got all of the food groups in there anyway.

    Giveaway time! Ellie’s publicist offered to giveaway a copy of her newest cookbook, Comfort Food Fix. If you’d like to enter to win, just CLICK OVER TO THIS POST and leave a comment.

    Thank you so much, Ellie, for taking the time to chat with me!

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    { 39 comments… read them below or add one }

    Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio March 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    She is such a wholesome woman. I love her perspective on life, food, and fitness. Thanks for sharing the interview Tina!

    Reply

    Corrie Anne March 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Great interview!! I loved reading her views on Paleo!! Fascinating… and hilarious! :)

    That penne with zucchini/mint recipe sounds awesome!! Definitely a good one to have in your repertoire!

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    Katrina @ 'Sota is Sexy March 12, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Great interview! I totally agree with Ellie on SO many things!! Yes you SHOULD eat grains! And invest in GOOD parmesan cheese!

    She knows her stuff :)

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    Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife March 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    AWESOME interview!! I love her thoughts on the Paleo diet, b/c I totally agree…..grains are a part of life. What is not okay is the crap food manufacturers have pretended to make as “grain food” (think most cereals)…..

    I too love fish as an easy go-to meal when I don’t feel like cooking :)

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    Janna March 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I have definitely heard of Ellie Krieger but had no idea she was a Columbia Nutrition grad! I’m doing my Masters in Nutrtion there right now and last semester had Joan Dye Gussow as my professor. What a great thing to discover!

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    Khushboo March 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Love her outlook and approach to food! Thanks forsaking the time to transcribe the interview :)

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    Hope @ With A Side Of Hope March 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    This was a great interview! I love Ellie! I met her a couple of years ago at one of her book signings. She was by far one of the nicest people I’ve ever met! She has some really great recipes :)

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    Katie @ Peace Love & Oats March 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Haha I like that she couldn’t pick a food to eat for the rest of her life! what a neat interview, and I like her! She’s got some good opinions and I like opinionated people! I also like grains, haha especially my oatmeal!

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    Lindsey @ Sound Eats March 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    What a lovely woman she seems to be! I love her perspectives. Also, I enjoyed her thoughts on the paleo diet. I’m actually a dietetics student, and just last week we had a guest speaker whose lecture was about evolution & evolution’s role in obesity. One of the things that she touched on was a paleolithic diet – like a legit paleolithic diet, not the current fad now, and how things like carbon dating in the skeletons, presence of different minerals, etc., can determine what a paleolithic man or woman ate. So interesting! Some similarities with the current fad paleo diet, but differences, too.

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    Hillary March 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    @Lindsey @ Sound Eats:

    I would be interested in hearing the differences between the “fad” paleo and what the actual people ate. The Paleo diet has always seemed unnecessary to me; I love my carbs!

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    Lindsey @ Sound Eats March 14, 2012 at 10:14 am

    @Hillary: Hey Hillary! Basically, they still ate a lot of carbohydrates, although it was predominately unrefined carbohydrates. They ate things including corn, they were very active so they ate around 3000 kcal/ day, protein was a moderate amount (around 30%), their diet was very low in fat (especially sat. fat – even their meat animal sources were very lean – i.e. fish, or very lean animals like deer). Also notable was the high fiber content – around 100 g! Very interesting! I don’t know a huge amount about the current “paleo” fad diet, but from some friends that have done it, it seemed to be very high in fat (incl. sat. fat — hello bacon), very high in protein, and very limited in carbohydrates/ unrefined carbs. Yes, fruits & veg. are made up of carbs, but calorie wise when you look at the percentage of diet these types of carbs are contributing, it’s generally little compared to the high protein and fat. But like I said – that’s just my observations I’ve made from friends who’ve been on it. Their diet wasn’t anywhere close to 30% protein & even less fat.

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    Melanie March 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I LOVED this post! She is extremely inspiring to me. Thanks, Tina!

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    Anne P. March 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    What a great interview! She sounds awesome – very down to earth. And her thoughts on Paleo are exactly my thought – there’s no need for such an all or nothing approach. Everything in moderation!

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    Amy March 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Love her! So down to earth and rational.

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    Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl March 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Salmon is my definite quick I don’t wanna cook meal too! And its so yummy. I throw EVOO + lemon pepper. Steam some broccoli. It’s all good.

    That is a great interview, Tina. Thank you chatting with Ellie. ;)

    I did get to chat with Tyler Florence this weekend. But unfortunate, it was not a one on one… more of a press briefing. Very informative though.

    Reply

    Tara March 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Dr. Oz had a segment on Paleo diet when he was guesting on another talk show. There was a popular RD and Dr. Oz and they said the paleo diet was a good “detox’ or cleanse…they said it has great merits (protein, healthy fats, veggies, nuts, etc), BUT there is no reason to do it long-term. LONG – TERM studies (the legitimate ones) and even in cultures that live the longest and strongest grains and dairy and fruits are all welcome parts of the diet.

    The evolution theory is really bizarre. Kind of absurd really. You have to look at what we’ve been eating for millions of years. Humans have eaten grains and dairy for centuries. If you dig back ultra-far , then you see caveman-style. No, we have NOT been eating twinkies and kfc for centuries (hence those are not the right kind). But grains and dairy, etc, fine. And desserts and more for sanity ;)

    Evolution. Human beings evolved for a reason. The idea that the human body in this era TODAY is built to withstand something from dinosaur age is absurd. We evolve and our bodies evolve with it.

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    Tara March 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    p.s. I think that a lot of allergies and intolerances that develop in life are due to overconsumption of those particular items. That’s why balance I think is so key. balance and no elimination of food groups. (also why some people will “slack” off on a certain food for a while and after a while come to tolerate it full force again)…same with things like pregnancy and transitions in life…there are times when things change.

    Me, I eat everything (probably too much and not the best, but what can I say…it is what it is).

    Reply

    melissa March 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Really loved this interview! It showed ellie’s humor even more than her show! LOVE.

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    Sarah March 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Wonderful interview! I’ld love explore the recipes in her book!

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    Jessica March 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Great interview! She is so down to earth and such a breath of fresh air. Love her thoughts on the Paleo diet and couldn’t agree more.
    I miss her show on Food Network and don’t get the Cooking Channel :(

    Reply

    Rachel March 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I’ll agree to disagree with Ellie–first, quinoa isn’t a grain, it’s a pseudocereal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudocereal like buckwheat. That said, true grains have a lot of problematic elements that disturb the gut absent specific treatments (see, e.g., http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/03/grains-as-food-update.html). I think the vast majority of people do not need grains, but if they choose to eat them (for reasons of cost, preference, etc) they should be minimized as part of the diet and prepared in a way that addresses their problematic elements.

    And don’t even get me started on the marketing reasons that grains are considered “part of a healthy diet” — all I would say is look at the cost of production/profit ration of any grain product (including “wholesome” quaker oats) and question whether or not you’re getting information heavily influenced by ConAgra, General Mills, etc., who DO not have your best interests at heart.

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    Rachel March 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    “Ratio” not “Ration”

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    Erin H March 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    What an excellent interview! I loved watching Ellie on the Food Network and her sense of humor really comes out in this interview. I loved her comment about her husband choosing to live in their home and eat her quinoa. On a more serious note, it IS good to read her take on the Paleo diet. I have friends on it and the propaganda they share is as bad as some of the mistruths I’ve heard tossed around by some of my more militant vegan friends. It’s always good to hear someone who has real knowledge in nutrition echo my intution.

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    Jessica March 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I find her comments on the Paleo “diet” a little over-simplistic to the issue of grains and how they have been modified and processed in the Western diet, even in just the last 100 years. Eating grains is an individual choice that I respect, but I have a hard time taking seriously anyone who who likens people who can’t/don’t eat grains as crazy extremists who should live outside barefoot.

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    Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon March 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Love her shout out to Le Pain! It’s one of my favorite places!!!!

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    Kerry @ Totes My Oats March 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    What a great interview! As a future RD, I really looks up to her. Love her!

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    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama March 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Wow, great interview! She seems very down to earth and likeable. I loved that she answered every question straight on and didn’t side step anything. I’ll have to try Penne with zucchini and mint – I never think of adding mint to recipes!

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    Megan @ Megan's Munchies March 12, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    What a wonderful opportunity! Thank you for sharing! I am with her…my favorite meals are out of big pots :)

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    Sarah March 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Nice interview! Just wanted to let you know that there is a little typo – it’s Julia Child, not Julia Childs. Love how dedicated she is to good cheese!

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    becky March 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    @Hillary: I am a trained and practicing Palaeolithic archaeologist, with a PhD in the subject. I can say without any question that the so-called “Paleo” diet bears no resemblance to what hunter-gatherers ate between 40,000-10,000 years ago (the “Upper Palaeolithic” and the first evidence of anatomically modern humans– i.e. Homo sapiens, i.e. US– in Europe). It’s a fad, and it doesn’t have anything to do with an actual Palaeolithic diet. And also, there are reasons (cultural, biological, etc) why humans developed agriculture in many parts of the world and stopped being hunter-gatherers. If anyone is interested in the actual archaeology and science of what our ancestors ate during the Palaeolithic, I would be happy to direct them towards academic publications on the subject.

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    Roz@weightingfor50 March 12, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    I love Ellie and her balanced approach to health!!!! (she and I are on a “first name basis” in my imagination…hence, my “only Ellie” in this comment :) ) Thanks so much for sharing this Tima.

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    Gina @ Running to the Kitchen March 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Loved reading her responses, especially on the Paleo diet. The last part about her husband was awesome and she summed up exactly how I feel about it. If a cavemen’s diet was so perfect why have we made so many strides to NOT live like that now?

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    honeywhatscooking March 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    wow. i love watching Ellie.. I’ve learned how to cook healthy and do swap outs by watching her show. She’s so smart too, my jaw dropped when I read she went to Cornell and Columbia.. I mean, you don’t see that often on the Cooking Channel or Food Network. love her! Nice job!!!!

    I would love to know if that place where she films is her apartment.

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    Kayley March 13, 2012 at 12:04 am

    holy moly, beautiful skin! enough of a reason to eat healthy!

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    Nicola March 13, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Very cool lady with some great perspective on food and mentality around food. I have to say though I disagree with the salt comment. Good quality salt is worth the extra money for the lack of toxins and the natural mineral content.

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    Lexi @ Cura Personalis Foodie March 13, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Great interview! I love how she seems totally approachable. And her favorite foods are curiously akin to mine! Except I’d have to add sweet potatoes and oatmeal ;)

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    Jennifer@keepitsimplefoods March 13, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Great interview! Love the questions you asked and her answers were terrific! Kudos!

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    Erica March 31, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Fabulous! She is so real. And i agree with her paleo thoughts. Hope youre doing well tina!

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    Penny May 4, 2012 at 12:07 am

    I am so glad I stumbled upon this site. My best friend is doing this paleo diet thing I guess, and I’ve been asking myself what would Ellie Krieger say about this diet. And here it is! My friend is losing weight but she is very much missing things like bananas, pineapple, sweet potatoes, so much more. An apple with natural peanut butter is a real splurge for her. This was a great interview to read and inspiring to those of us who want to live healthy.

    Reply

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