Blogger Spotlight: Anjali Shah from The Picky Eater

Join Food Network's Healthy Eats in discovering the best healthy bloggers around the web. Today we're talking to Anjali from the blog The Picky Eater.

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Anjali grew up a “whole wheat” girl, but married a “white bread” kind of guy. Hoping to prove that nutritious food could in fact be delicious and desirable, she taught herself how to cook and successfully transformed her husband’s eating habits. Through her blog The Picky Eater, Anjali shares her passion for healthy, tasty cooking.
How do you define yourself as a “picky eater”?

When people think of being a “picky eater,” they think of the little kid who doesn’t want to eat anything except ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I define the Picky Eater philosophy as being something very different. Being a “Picky Eater” is about being mindful of what you put into your body and consuming processed foods in moderation. Eating healthy is usually associated with tasteless food, but to me, Picky Eating is healthy eating that’s delicious, easy to make, and satisfying.

When you met your husband, did you consider him to be a picky eater, too, but in a different way?

That's a great question - and actually, yes, I kind of did! He was picky in the more traditional sense: he didn't like most fruits, he didn't like tofu, he only ate sugary cereals, he lived on frozen pizzas and he definitely didn't prefer whole wheat bread, rice, pasta, etc. I don't think he had even heard of things like quinoa, or certain vegetables or spices. But it was all because he just hadn't been exposed to it in a way that made him enjoy those foods. How things have changed: now he makes his own whole fruit and vegetable smoothies at home, and quinoa, tofu and whole grains make regular appearances at our dinner table!

How were you able to teach your husband that healthy food could still taste good?
So here’s a little context: I was raised in the healthy-eating, farmer’s market-driven culture of the San Francisco Bay Area; he grew up in the deep-dish pizza-loving suburbs of Chicago. When most people get married, they worry about things like finances or in-laws, but when we got married, the question was: What would the Picky Eater and her fast food-loving husband eat for dinner?

I realized that the only way I would be able to bridge the gap between my husband’s “white bread” world and my “wheat bread” world would be to cook healthy, flavorful versions of foods that my husband already enjoyed. And so I began creating my own recipes with simple, wholesome ingredients. Gradually, I started making healthier swaps in my husband’s diet, “sneaking” in the good stuff without him noticing. I knew that I couldn’t force healthy food on him, I needed to make it accessible to him and allow him to change at his own pace. I knew I had succeeded when even he started asking for vegetables in his dishes! In the end, my husband has come to appreciate healthy food because he has learned that it can taste good.

What were the first steps you took in learning how to cook?

Believe it or not, when I first got married, I didn’t even know how to use a can opener! So I asked my dad to come over to our apartment and give me emergency cooking lessons. That gave me a little more confidence to start looking up recipes online and experimenting with them at home. In the beginning, it was a lot of trial and error. I tried to find recipes that had healthy ingredients but took less than 30 minutes to make (given that I’d usually be cooking on a weeknight after a long day at work). Then I started cataloging the recipes that worked for me and that my husband approved, and that’s how my blog, The Picky Eater, was born!

What is your favorite way to “healthify” a meal?

My favorite way to “healthify” a meal is to make healthy swaps. While I don’t have just one favorite “swap,” I do have a few standard ones that I use almost every time I cook. My three favorite Picky Eater swaps are: 1) Swap in whole wheat or whole grains for white flour (e.g. bread, pasta, rice); 2) Swap out half the oil/butter/cheese for spices (you don’t usually need as much oil/etc. as the recipe calls for to get the same great flavor, the spices will compensate); and 3) Swap in as many veggies as you can (e.g. add more to Italian food, Mexican food, Indian food -- you can never go wrong with more veggies!).

Do you have a favorite recipe on your blog?

I love my chocolate brownie oatmeal. It is the most decadent healthy breakfast you’ll ever eat! It tastes just like a chocolate brownie, but its lightly sweetened and loaded with fiber. I eat it almost every day.

You can follow Anjali on on TwitterFacebookPinterest, or Google+.

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