Food stars reveal how they enjoy decadent-tasting snacks and meals—minus the calories and food coma.
For professional chefs, prepping and tasting fabulous food is their meal ticket. "A chef's job is really about knowing flavors, so we're required to constantly sample, and our cravings are often staring us in the face," says Manuel Trevino, corporate executive chef of By Chloe in New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. So how do they live and breathe food without packing on pounds? We grilled 11 culinary experts for ways to graze smart, dodge cravings, and make vegetables actually irresistible.
Seek healthier alternatives
"A simple solution to grazing is keeping a healthy alternative that you enjoy on hand. I'm a lover of sugar, so for me, having a bag of green grapes is my safety. They are crunchy and refreshing."
—Lauren Gerrie, personal chef to Marc Jacobs and cofounder of the private-chef service Big Little Get Together
Keep temptation at bay
"I love freshly baked cookies, but now that my kids are grown, I don't need a full batch every time we bake at home. So I freeze the majority of the dough and bake only a few cookies at a time instead of making two dozen and munching on them whenever I go into the pantry."
—Mary Sue Milliken, cochef and co-owner of Border Grill in Los Angeles and Las Vegas
Track your bites
"I use an app on my phone to track everything that goes into my mouth, even 'tastes.' It sobers me up really fast when I see it all recorded."
—Meg Galus, executive pastry chef at Boka in Chicago
Just try a taste
"If you're cooking and need to sample anything, like a sauce or dough, use an espresso spoon or a teaspoon. Most people are just using their fingers, the large cooking spoon, or a fork and going back for a bunch of bites. Using a little spoon acts as a reminder that that tiny scoop is really what a 'taste' should be."
—Allen Campbell, former personal chef to Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen and coauthor of The TB12 Nutrition Manual
Pump up the flavor
"You can really pump up the irresistibility or addictive quality of a dish by balancing it with the right amount of acid. Even if you're just roasting a bit of celery root, if you squeeze a little lemon on it, it instantly turns up the flavor without any extra fat, cream, butter, or salt."
—Mary Sue Milliken
Find a satisfying swap
"I gave up gluten long ago, so I swap croutons with pecans and almonds for crunch in a salad."
—Seamus Mullen, chef and owner of Tertulia and El Colmado in New York City and author of Real Food Heals (out August 2017)
Go bold with flavor
"The processes of reducing and simmering both help concentrate flavors so that what you taste becomes very pronounced. That helps lower the need to add fat to make up flavor."
—Niki Nakayama, chef and owner of n/naka in Los Angeles
Lighten calories and heighten flavor
"Miso sauces are great for making veggies pop—a combination of miso, mirin, rice vinegar, and lemon has the texture of a mayo or cream sauce but not the fat."
—Brad Farmerie, executive chef of the New York City restaurants Saxon & Parole and Michelin-starred Public
Stock a smart pantry
"I'm very good about maintaining certain kitchen staples—onions, arugula, garlic, farro, anchovies, capers, and San Marzano canned tomatoes—so I'm less tempted to go out and eat or snack on random things. You can mix them all with a drizzle of olive oil and create a simple grain bowl, or combine them with any other kitchen leftovers and produce a totally different meal. The other night, I poached chicken and threw in capers and anchovies to give it a brininess without being overly salty."
—Ali LaRaia, chef and cofounder of The Sosta in New York City
Indulge in a healthier dessert
"It sounds odd, but my mom used to serve strawberries and sour cream mixed with brown sugar for dessert. I loved it. So now I mix plain Greek yogurt with brown sugar for a similar but lower-calorie version of the dip."
—Susan Feniger, cochef and co-owner of Border Grill
Upgrade classic favorites
"I love my riff on guacamole. I grill the avocados, then fill their centers with a mix of radishes, cilantro, scallions, tomatoes, lime zest, lime juice, jalapeño, smoked sea salt, and olive oil. The warmth makes the avocado melt in your mouth. It is so rich and decadent—and healthy at the same time."
—Franklin Becker, chief culinary officer and cofounder of the veggie-based food start-up Hungryroot
Match texture and flavor (not calories)
"If you're like me and enjoy a goopy dessert you can eat with a spoon, chia pudding made with half almond milk and half cashew milk mimics custard but has very little nutritional consequence."
Lighten up dessert
"I find soaking dates in water and adding toasted nuts creates a quick, no-bake cookie that is outstanding. In a food processor, combine a cup of soaked dates, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a cup of mixed walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and pistachios until emulsified. Then add a second cup of the nuts and pulse. Shape into cookies and refrigerate to set. Roll in finely chopped nuts or coconut flakes before serving."