Dave Lieberman Dishes on the 10 Foods You Need to Eat

The Food Network chef talks about his latest cookbook, reveals non-guacamole uses for avocados, and shares his favorite splurge ingredient

Beets, spinach, quinoa …what do these foods have in common? According to Dave Lieberman, chef and host of Food Network's Good Deal, these are just three of the 10 Foods You Need to Eat. Dave's new book—co-written with Anahad O' Connor, health writer for The New York Times—delivers over 100 delicious recipes based around these 10 power foods. Here, Dave reveals what foods can keep cancer at bay, which foods didn't make the list, and his biggest kitchen disaster.

iVillage: What made you decide to write 10 Things You Need to Eat?

Dave Lieberman: About a year ago, Anahad [O' Connor, co-author of 10 Things You Need to Eat and health writer for The New York Times] and I began to notice all these things coming out about superfoods. We saw a lot of information, but things that weren't all that helpful. And we saw a lot of people really gravitating towards individual foods and talking about their health properties, but not about how to use these foods in everyday life or in recipes.
Anahad came up with the top 10 foods backed by science and I worked with the foods to create the recipes. These aren't only ingredients, but foods people can incorporate into their lives.

iVillage: The book is called 10 Things You Need to Eat, but what were some of the runner-ups?

DL: Cantaloupe, cinnamon, red wine, olive oil, yogurt. These are healthy things you can incorporate throughout your cooking, but aren't really stars.

iVillage: Is there a food you absolutely refuse to eat?

DL: [laughs] Not really…I'm pretty open. Well, I don't like kidneys. I tried them once and had a bad experience—and I'm kinda freaked out by calf brains, but other than that I'm pretty equal opportunity.

iVillage: What three things are always in your refrigerator?

DL: Eggs, milk and…oranges? I have so many things, and I'm always rotating them for different recipes. I have a lot of different stuff.

iVillage: What was a dish or food you hated to eat the most when you were a kid?

DL: Well, I was a really roly-poly kid so I ate anything put in front of me.

iVillage: What's the one ingredient or food you'll always splurge on?

DL: I guess it would be meat. I like organic, free-range, grass-fed, well-raised good-quality meat.

iVillage: What has been your biggest kitchen disaster?

DL: Oh, baking is always interesting. One time I thought a bag of salt was sugar and baked a cake with about two cups of salt.

iVillage: What are your favorite recipes from 10 Things You Need to Eat?

DL: Of course I love them all, but a couple of the highlights: Quinoa Meatballs, Triple Tomato Pizza, Avocado Brownies.

iVillage: When you were working on the book, was there one food that you found especially intriguing?

DL: I hadn't really worked with quinoa before, so that was really an eye opener for me. It's a pretty amazing little food.

iVillage: In 10 Thing You Need to Eat, you talk about "super fish." What is the difference between fish and "super fish"?

DL: "Super fish" are fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, but low in mercury. In the book, we include a table that covers all those requirements. We also discuss the difference between wild versus farmed fish. I think a lot of people don't realize how many fish are high in Omega-3's and not high in mercury. Tilapia, for example, is readily available, inexpensive and on the list, as well as canned light tuna.

iVillage: Another one of the top ten foods are avocados, which many people only associate with guacamole. What are some other ways you can use an avocado?

DL: In the book, we go over everything from soups to desserts using avocados, believe it or not. That was a fun chapter for me, because the results were really unexpected. You can make smoothies and brownies. Also, you can swap out a lot of things high in saturated fats, like butter for example, and swap in an avocado that's filled with great mono-saturated fat.

iVillage: It seems like there are some foods in 10 Things You Need to Eat that a lot of kids might not be super enthusiastic about eating, like spinach. What are some ways to get kids to eat these foods?

DL: I think it's really all about flavor. I think people just steam spinach in a bowl and put it in front of them like that. It's much more successful to make recipes like the ones we talk about in the book, packed with flavor and have a lot of other things going on besides the spinach.

iVillage: What else are you working on now?

DL: Well, I'm currently working with Del Monte Foods on the “Value without Sacrifice” campaign. Now, more than ever, families are looking for economic ways to make nutritious meals for their families, and this is why I partnered with them. It's all about making smart decisions at the grocery store, and using value ingredients in order to stretch your dollar without sacrificing taste, quality or nutrition.

iVillage: Since you're working with Del Monte, can you recommend which canned veggies are the most useful in your pantry?

DL: Canned tomatoes are advantageous, not only because they are inexpensive, but cooked tomatoes, like we talk about in 10 Things You Need to Eat, are actually more nutritious than non-cooked tomatoes. They are more bio-available because they've been chopped and cooked. So working on this campaign "Value without Sacrifice" and the book was kind of a natural partnership because it gets out the right message: Cook with healthy ingredients—they're in everybody's pantry—and it's actually very affordable.

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