Rachael Ray: Eating Healthy?

By PAT CARROLL

If you had to pick a poster girl for moderation, it probably wouldn’t be Rachael Ray. And yet, the latest collection of recipes from her Food Network show is really very … sensible.

“That’s funny,” she said during a phone interview last week. “That sounds so surprising — for somebody like me to do something sensible.”

The book is called “Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Get Real Meals: Eat Healthy Without Going to Extremes” (Clarkson Potter, $18.95).

It began with her dislike for dietary extremes, especially the most recently deceased trend, low-carbohydrate meals.

“I get a request list from the network, based on viewer mail, what people want to see. They send me a list that says, can we have five ‘low-carb’ and three ‘guy food’ meals and three ‘yes your kids will eat it’ meals? I have all these different categories that I write in.

“Each time we’d go back to tape, I’d get more and more low-carb requests, so I ended up with this small collection. But low-carb makes me a grumpy, grumpy girl.”

Q: How about low-fat?

A: Back when I worked at Macy’s, years and years ago, no-fat was the trend. So these huge women would come in and buy huge bags and boxes of no-fat caramel popcorn rice cakes, and they would eat mountains of them and wonder why they weren’t losing any weight.

I’ve never been a person of extremes. I just think the extremes are always just funny.

Q: How did you respond to the viewer requests?

A: I did the same thing that I do with pretty much every trend that comes up.

I try and think of how the rest of the family, the boyfriend or the girlfriend or the roommate, whoever lives with the people who go on these diets, they gotta eat with them. So I think about the food that the people who aren’t on diets still like to eat.

How can they have pasta still? Well, you use a half-pound of pasta, feed four people, put in the meat and vegetables and even the low-carb people are happy.

No matter how many people request a no-carb meal, I simply won’t do a meal with no tomatoes, no fruit, no onions. I think that within any diet plan, you still have to eat well.

Q: What about portion sizes?

A: I’m a big eater, and I have always believed that if you eat well you can eat more. The meals certainly start with that concept.

Q: But the recipe amounts seem moderate …

A: That’s just in the books. All of those meals that feed four, I make them for myself and my mom, or myself and my boyfriend, and maybe we have two ounces left over for the dog. All those dinners for four, that’s just dinner for two.

Q: Do you actually make those meals in 30 minutes?

A: They’re totally 30-minute meals.

On all the other shows, there’s always a swap-out because the food takes longer than the show, so it’s made in the kitchen by armies of chefs, and it looks absolutely perfect. When they go to commercial break, they switch out to the pretty ta-da thing.

It’s very important to me at the end of the show that you see my food, not some fancy chef person’s food. My stuff looks messy, it doesn’t look, like, perfect.

And with all the breaks, I actually only get 17 minutes to explain the meal, so it can’t get too complicated.

Q: Do you watch “Iron Chef America?”

A: I love “Iron Chef America.”

Q: Have you ever thought about going on?

A: No way. I like my food already dead. I don’t like that “Today’s ingredient’s an octopus,’ and they all have to go catch it and kill it and all that. That’s not me. I don’t even know what half the stuff they use on that show is.

So many chefs I know go on there, and I think their food is amazing, and they get annihilated. If they can lose, I would be laughed off the stage.

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