If it seems you’re watching Melissa D’Arabian every time you flip through your fav foodie channels, you’re right. From helping us lose 5 pounds to persuading picky eaters to broaden their palates, this super chef is always dishing up practical advice designed to solve our mealtime and parenting problems.
When we caught up with Melissa, she had just wrapped up Drop 5 Pounds with Good Housekeeping on the Cooking Channel and was launching her Picky Eaters Project on the Food Network. As expected, she’s serving up nuggets of wisdom that can transform our lives through small changes and simple strategies.

What woman doesn’t want to drop 5 pounds? We all feel like we can or should—what’s the secret to your success?

Drop 5 Pounds is quintessential Good Housekeeping—an icon of good quality and standing. It’s really taking that topic—losing weight, which is fraught with emotion and feelings—and turning our actions into examples of loving ourselves and treating ourselves to the quality lives we deserve. It’s understanding that it’s the small changes that we make in our lives—not the big steps we occasionally take—that shape who we are and that really make a difference in the longer term. It’s inspiring people to see the positive, loving side of eating healthfully, not the depravation of “I can’t eat this or that,” which isn’t sustainable. It’s using tools to support real weight loss.

What kinds of changes and tools?

One of the things that I do is never let myself get too hungry; I’m a smart snacker. Often, we think when we’re losing weight that we shouldn’t snack—but the opposite is true! You’re not doing yourself a favor by showing up for your meals starving. So, I always carry raw almonds with me because I know that a little bit of high-quality fat plus protein will stick with me. Carry a 100-calorie snack with you, and be smart with your 100 calories. You could have 100 calories of candy, but a snack like almonds is good nutrition that’s filling. Another tip: I always try to have raw fruit or veggies with every meal. It’s making the loving choice for me. If I’m going to treat myself to a little bit of something—like when it’s my daughter’s birthday and we’re doing cupcakes—I’m not comfortable saying to my daughter, “I’m sorry I can’t have a cupcake on your birthday.” That’s not how I want to live my life. I’m comfortable with having a cupcake, and that’s the more loving choice. But if I have 7 cupcakes, I have to ask, “How loving is that for myself?” One last tip: When you’re traveling, bring whole fruit. I throw a couple of mandarin oranges in my carry-on so when they’re serving food on the plane I can just say, “No thanks.” I also like to bring my own herbal tea; I feel like it puts me in a better space when I love myself this way.

Your viewers really connect with you; whether it’s $10 Dinners, Drop 5 Pounds or Picky Eaters, you really put yourself, your life and your family right out there for us to meet and interact with.

I love the parts of my shows where we bring in expertise but I also add real life experience. I’ve struggled with my weight since I was 15 years old, which was my age when I first ever went on Weight Watchers. I’m not one of those women who can say, “I breastfed and the weight just fell away.” I breastfed 4 kids, and while I may have gotten the first 10 pounds that way, everything else was good old-fashioned hard work. Which brings me to something most of us don’t want to hear: If you want to lose weight, it’s going to take a bit of doing. You can’t keep doing what you’re doing and expect different results. Put on your big-girl panties, and let’s make some of these healthy recipes; it could be a really positive change. It’s not as hard as you think, and you’re not going to get where you want without your own participation. Let’s show up for our own lives.

You’re big on making promises: How do you make good on your promises to help us look and feel younger with mood-boosting foods?

I like the idea of looking and feeling younger from the inside out. We can plump up collagen by eating lean meats and help our cell structures by eating antioxidants, like those found in berries. There are definitely things we can do from the inside out that will help our skin look better and give us more energy. One of my favorite quotes is “fat is your friend.” It dispels the myth that fat is bad for you—eating the right kinds of healthy fats, like those in salmon and nuts, can actually help you lose weight. Not only is it ok to eat these fats, but you’ll also feel more satisfied and have a greater sense of well-being overall.

But some say it costs more to eat healthfully—produce seems pricier than processed foods.

Well, here’s the good news: There’s huge crossover between saving calories and saving money. And nowhere is that more obvious than the produce aisle. I shop the produce aisle first, filling my cart up with what’s in season—which means I’m not making a fresh peach pie in January. Seasonal produce is usually abundant and on sale—and when you buy healthy food, your budget stays in check as do your calories, and your weight-loss goals are easier to achieve.


Carolyn Davis Cockey, MLS, LCCE, is founding editor of Healthy Mom&Baby, Senior Director of Partnerships & Publications at AWHONN, and a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator in Sarasota, FL.

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