Maria Menounos may be busy chasing down celebrities on the red carpet and reporting for E! News, but she finds plenty of time to whip up healthy creations in her Southern California kitchen. She’s so devoted to healthy eating that she packed a container of her Fancy Tuna Salad to eat during breaks on the Oscar red carpet last month.
Her Greek heritage shines through in the cookbook that features the Mediterranean diet, a heart-healthy way of eating that emphasizes plant-based fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados, colorful fruits and vegetables, beans and seafood.
The book also includes cooking tips, family stories, lots of photos, entertaining ideas and even dog treat recipes.
We got a chance to ask Maria (who is newly engaged) about her new book and why healthy eating (with a little “wiggle room”) is so important to her.
Q. What’s your personal philosophy toward cooking and your diet?
A. My mom is an amazing cook; she learned from the best — her dad — who was a chef in Greece. Mom always made healthy, delicious, whole-foods-based meals for us growing up, and I credit my Mediterranean diet for the great health I’m in today. Diabetes runs in my family, and if my mom wasn’t cooking nutritious, delicious, gluten-free meals, I feel like I would be diabetic by now. My a1c levels were in prediabetic range as of last summer in fact, and luckily with hard work and diet adjustments, I have brought them down.
When I went to college and was away from Mom’s cooking, I gained 40 pounds and was a size 14. I chronicled my weight loss journey in my last book, The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness, where I explain how learning to cook for myself and taking control of my diet was the key to my success. I try to cook for myself as much as I can and believe that it’s been a key factor not only in my weight loss but maintaining my figure.
Q. How do you balance healthy eating with indulgences?
A. I keep it simple with my 75/25 rule. 75 percent of my food is clean, healthy meals with whole foods (I love using veggies from my garden when I can; that way I know where my food is coming from). That leaves me room for the other 25 percent, and if I want to have the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies from The EveryGirl’s Guide to Cooking, then I can have them! I’ve left that wiggle room.
Snacks are also a really important part of my day; I’m so busy that I need protein to keep me going. I have lots of great ideas in the book for snacks loaded with protein that are easy to grab and go; a great way to set yourself up for success!
Q. What’s your favorite recipe from this book?
A. I can’t pick just one — that’s like picking your favorite child! But if I had to, I think it would be Grilled Zucchini and Shrimp With Feta. It’s super easy to make, fast to cook and whenever I can make veggies taste delicious — score! It looks really pretty on the table, too. The next day I take the leftovers for lunch and eat it chilled like a salad.
Want to incorporate more of the Mediterranean diet into your life? Speaking of that zucchini and shrimp recipe, here it is.
Serves: 2 servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- Salt and black pepper
- 3 zucchini, unpeeled, cut on the diagonal into long ½-inch thick slices
- 8 to 10 frozen medium shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Coat a grill rack or grill pan with nonstick cooking spray or rub with an oil-soaked paper towel. Preheat the grill to medium.
- In a large, shallow dish, combine the oil, garlic, lemon juice, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the zucchini slices; turn to coat on both sides.
- Place the zucchini on the grill; cook for 5 minutes per side or until lightly browned and cooked through.
- Meanwhile, toss the shrimp with the marinade remaining in the bowl. Grill the shrimp with the feta. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Reprinted from EveryGirl's Guide to Cooking. by Maria Menounos. Copyright (c) 2016 by Maria Menounos. All rights reserved. By permission of Zinc Ink. Available wherever books are sold.
Are you a fan of the Mediterranean diet? —Gail