“Having it all means something so different for so many people but enjoying it all is something we can all get behind. ”
By Nicole Berrie
Photography by Kelsey Bennett
IT’S PRETTY MUCH IMPOSSIBLE to find a twenty-something who has her life together like Daphne Oz. The Princeton grad regularly charms America as a vivacious co-host on ABC’s talk-cum-cooking show The Chew (holding her own against culinary king Mario Batali), recently released her second health oriented tome Relish (think a Paltrowian lifestyle guide geared to the post college set) and just announced she’s an expecting mama-to-be! How in the world does she do it all? We caught up with Ms. Oz in her midtown apartment post taping where she revealed her philosophy on cooking, her eating habits and what guilty pleasure she keeps in the fridge at all times.
We’re obsessed with your new book Relish. The recipes, the workouts! What inspired you to write it?
I felt like there was this big discussion happening around women having it all and what that meant. It’s really challenging because having it all means something so different for so many people but enjoying it all is something we can all get behind. That for me was the premise of why this book needed to be written. For me, I felt that if I didn’t start making small but real changes in my life I was never going to get to the white picket fence, the kids and the career. Frankly, I think a lot of us are already doing things right, you just want easy little tips and tricks.
How did you gather your research for the book?
I picked up tons of great expert advice on The Chew, around the Oz dinner table and also from my own successes and failures. I see it as a valuable resource for anyone who is getting their first apartment, new mothers, people looking to make a change.
How would you describe the Relish philosophy?
For me Relish was a verb. I wanted every moment to be full of fun, maximized. I wanted to live fully and presently. I wanted to balance what was affordable, convenient and healthy with what was delicious, fun and beautiful. That combination informed the book. The biggest thing first and foremost was it had to be delicious. If it wasn’t delicious, I didn’t care if it was healthy. And then easy, cause if it’s not easy, no one is going to do it anyway. And slowly but surely, I started realizing this is the same principle I apply to my style, home, as well as my relationships.
What is healthy eating to you?
I wanted to make healthy living a priority and not an obsession. That was a groundbreaking turn for me. I had been struggling with my weight, I tried all these fad diets, none of them worked and the reason they don’t work is because you make food taboo. It gets put on a pedestal and you end up thinking about it all the time. It was driving me neurotic. I was gaining weight and not losing it. I had this epiphany. I didn’t have to give up the foods I love. I convinced myself that if I wanted a candy bar, I could have a bite of it, keep it in the fridge and have it again tomorrow if I wanted. I didn’t need to feel the desperation of if I’m eating it today, I’m going to be bad today and I’m never going to eat it again.
That is a revelation. So there are no “cheat” days for you?
No, I took that idea away because we live one life and we need to enjoy it and have fun and eat the foods you love. I love to cook, I love to eat and I happen to gain weight easily. I’m happy to carry around an extra 5 lbs and be able to eat whatever I want. I don’t want to be a gym nut whose constantly fighting the scale for that last extra inch. Who cares, when you wake up in 50 years and have traveled the world and eaten every awesome meal you could, are you really going to be thinking about your size 28 jeans? No.
You really focus on balance in your book.
We’ve been trained to think about health in black and white terms. Either you’re healthy or you’re not. It’s fouled up our ability to just trust ourselves. I think it’s super important to eat real food that is flavored with real ingredients. I’m not asking to use fake sweeteners or weirdo flours you’ve never heard of. It’s about balancing what makes sense in your life and making it healthier without going crazy. We’re so tempted to be totally neurotic about it but that’s not sustainable. When we eat whole foods, we are satisfied with less. If you use real butter, olive oil and avocado, things that are really satisfying, you need less not only because you’re full because fat fills you up, but you are satisfied because it’s delicious and fat carries flavor. You would need to eat eight gluten-free, fat-free cookies to feel satisfied when you can have one amazing homemade chocolate chip cookie and you’re like, “I’m good.”
We love that philosophy. When did you first get interested in food and cooking?
I grew up cooking every afternoon with my mom. We would make dinner together and it was such a cool way to bond with her. All the males in my family are doctors and all the females are into alternative medicine. A lot of the ways my grandmother and mother treated their families was through food. That changed everything for me. What interested me was food and cooking to prevent illness, which is why I got a chef’s degree and a degree in nutrition. Being able to present healthy food that seems gourmet and could stand up to a Mario Batali pasta or a Michael Simon pork roast, that’s a big deal for me.
How often do you cook at home?
I aim for two nights a week. We cook every day on the show so cooking every day can be too much.
How would you describe your philosophy when it comes to eating and cooking?
My father’s family is Turkish and I feel that Mediterranean cooking does it best. Meat for me is always something to add flavor, sensation and satisfaction to a meal. It’s the side dish. I’d rather fill up on something really healthy like a soup or salad and then I’ll have an indulgent main dish but eat half of it. That way you never feel deprived.
What do you for exercise?
I’m a Soul Cycle junkie. We tape two shows a day so sometimes I have to bail and just do a lot of stairmaster. No matter what, every morning I do a 10 minute routine right when I wake up so I’m guaranteed that get my blood moving and loosen everything up.
What does your daily diet look like for you?
For breakfasts, I do a lot of smoothies. I also do avocado toast with harissa paste, honey and olive oil. When I have a little more time, I’ll have hot grains of amaranth, millet, a little bit of quinoa with coconut cream with maple syrup. It’s the best cream of wheat ever.
Any other rules you abide by?
I try to do breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I try not to eat within 2 hours before bed because it’s ruins your digestion. Your body is not free to do the reparative work while you’re sleeping cause it’s busy digesting food. I try to have a big hearty salad for dinner. And always dessert, always. I’m a chocolate person. I make cookie dough constantly and just keep it in the fridge and bake one cookie at a time. I need it. Or I’ll do the banana ice cream or I’ll make chia pudding. It’s so easy.
Any dietary restrictions?
Gluten and I are sort of friends but not really so I try to steer clear as much as I can.
What’s the biggest challenge working with renowned chefs that cook with so-called “fattening” ingredients? Do you encounter a lot of challenges in defending healthy eating?
It’s funny because I had to get past this idea that I had to defend my way of thinking about food. If you come at anything in life from a defensive angle, you are automatically weaker versus if you come at it like “I’m going to teach you something.” I wasn’t trying to be the 24-year-old idiot trying to compete with these big chefs. My goal was to show an alternative. We’re doing segments now where Mario will make a lasagna with sausage and béchamel, and I’ll be right along side him with the same ingredients but cutting the calories in half. That’s how we want to eat. You don’t want to give up with lasagna, you just want to look for ways to lighten it up a bit.
What is your policy against “haters”?
When I was dating, I had issues with vulnerability and I didn’t want to be open about certain things. My mother told me, “You are so much more powerful when you are vulnerable because you’re not hiding. And you’re not that good a liar, so you might as well put it out there.” That was a big lesson for me.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve gotten?
My mom taught me, “Focus on things you can control,” and “Have standards and not expectations.” That for her was the biggest deal. When you have standards, people want to rise to meet them and are often more compelled to do what you want.
CLICK HERE FOR DAPHNE’S GAZPACHO RECIPE