We’re always interested in people’s healthy eating secrets and, boy, does Chef Devin Alexander have some. Chef for The Biggest Loser and author of The Biggest Loser Cookbooks and The Most Decadent Diet Ever, Devin is genius when it comes to making decadent, yet healthy, dishes for those looking to shed the pounds. Devin has also struggled with her weight in the past, admitting to yo-yo dieting and an obsession for food. Instead of letting food take over her life in a negative way, she took her love for food to the kitchen (and lost the weight!). Devin proves that eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice rich flavors and your favorite dishes. Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for!
NSD: What was your inspiration for The Most Decadent Diet Ever? Is it even possible to have a “decadent diet” if you’re trying to lose weight?
DA: My inspiration was my life. I’ve lost 55 pounds and have kept it off for over 15 years. When I stopped dieting, I lost the weight. The book sounds like a fad diet, but it’s the opposite. It shows you how to bring the foods you love back into your life, so you finally can control those cravings. Instead, you just cook them healthier. When you can satisfy your cravings, you don’t spend the day obsessing.
NSD: How do you invent your recipes?
DA: I started out of desperation for myself. Basically, if you cut just 100 calories from your diet a day, on average, you can lose 10 pounds in a year. That was the light bulb that went off for me. I really became in tuned with what flavors I really wanted, what the cravings really were, and focused on those flavors. If I was craving Buffalo wings, I figured out what the cravings really were—is it the drippy chicken? Is it the hot sauce? Is it the physical chicken? I would really focus on that thing that I was craving and create something out of it. I have a Buffalo Wing Plate that’s very similar to Buffalo Wings. You can cut up to 200-300 calories and still have the same flavors.
Get Devin's Boneless Buffalo Strips recipe >>
NSD: We’ve heard about your Chocolate Not-Only-In-Your-Dreams Cake. How did this decadent recipe come about?
DA: I used to make a chocolate flourless espresso cake many, many years ago. It had one pound butter, 20 ounces of chocolate, a dozen eggs—it was so ridiculous and fattening. I was trying to figure out a way to still have that rich chocolate taste without all the fat and calories. It’s literally the exact same size at a restaurant. Normally they’d be like 750 calories, but this one is like [203 calories]. Because it has so much cocoa powder in it, it actually has a lot of fiber—and, in a natural way. I try really hard to keep it natural and not just eat pure chemical.
Get the Chocolate Not-Only-In-Your-Dreams Cake recipe >>
NSD: Many people think you have to sacrifice good flavors to eat healthy, what are some of your tricks?
DA: I think a lot of it has to do with technique, and by technique, I don’t mean you have to be a trained chef. Chicken isn’t actually bland if you cook it properly. Make sure your pan is hot and use a non-stick. Put a little bit of olive oil, sear it on the outside to get that taste you get in restaurants. That’s something I really learned working with the Biggest Loser contestants. When they cooked, the components were always there, but they didn’t know how to put it together, so it became a big, sloppy mess. You can a really rich dish without all the calories.
NSD: How did you decide which dishes were appropriate for The Biggest Loser Cookbook and for people looking to lose a significant amount of weight?
DA: The Biggest Loser doctor game me specific nutritional guidelines. From there, that’s how a lot of my work happens. Dietitians tell people what they can eat and I come in to show them how to make it healthy.
It’s not all about cutting the calories. We still want that flavor and that same texture. A lot of times people don’t realize that when they go out and they get an egg white omelet, nine times out of ten, [restaurants] put so much oil and butter on it because they don’t have non-stick pans and they need to get the food out fast and perfect-looking. That butter and oil can commonly be 100-200 calories, whereas I can make an entire four-egg goat cheese and herb omelet for 153 calories. If I make that at home, I can eat gooey goat cheese. If I’m at restaurant, [that same dish] may not fit into my diet.
NSD: If someone is in the habit of eating out or eating fast food frequently, what are some solutions?
DA: People are doing themselves a disservice when they’re relying strictly on eating out. When I’m traveling, I’ll bring my own sandwich. I don’t have to rely on that aioli spread that they put four times as much as I want, anyway [at restaurants]. I know people think it’s tough to cook and they don’t have time. As I see it, you don’t have time not to.
If you eat at restaurants all the time, you’re giving yourself an extra three hours on the treadmill. I can save in the kitchen in 20 minutes what it would take me three hours to burn off. Be really cognizant of what’s really in your food because chances are you don’t really need it. If you’re getting a grilled chicken breast sandwich, check for butter or lard on the bun—that could be 100-200 extra calories. If I get an egg white omelet, I usually tell the waiter that I don’t care what it looks like, just use less oil or butter.
To purchase The Most Decadent Diet Ever!, visit Amazon.com.
Recipes taken from Devin Alexander's The Most Decadent Diet Ever! Copyright © 2008 by Devin Alexander published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House Inc.
Photo Credit: Theresa Raffetto
For More on The Biggest Loser, visit NBC.com.