In the Kitchen with Devin Alexander: The Biggest Loser Chef Sets the Record Straight on Eating Right

By Fabiana Santana

The Biggest Loser Family CookbookCelebrity chef and author Devin Alexander is a tough cookie when it comes to the battle of the bulge. And her weapon of choice in that battle is a healthy approach to cooking and eating – an approach she shares with her many fans in her monthly newsletter and multiple speaking engagements, appearances and books.

She has maintained a 55 pound weight loss for over 15 years and she is more than happy to share her secrets, which all stem from one principal belief: you don’t have to deprive yourself to be fit and healthy.

“I believe that most of us are wired to seek comfort in food. I know I am. The people I work with on “The Biggest Loser” are. But fighting that fact is what keeps us on the rollercoaster diets,” explains Devin. “Only when I embraced the fact that I am wired this way was I finally able to minimize my struggle and lose weight once and for all. And be happy.”

Devin’s lives by her “secret of food” – that she can have brownies and mac and cheese and all the foods she loves, as long as she cooks them herself. “I don’t deprive myself of all my comfort because that’s what I need and I feel lousy when I do.”

Devin has spent years creating decadent, yet healthy, versions of her favorite foods. She is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Biggest Loser Cookbook”, for the hit show. She also wrote the recently released “The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook” and before that, she perfected take out in “Fast Food Fix”, a cookbook that has changed the lives of many a fast food lover (try the Big Mac and you’ll be a fan instantly!). In it, readers can find healthful versions of their favorite fast food restaurant meals like the Big Mac – special sauce included, Filet ‘o Fish, Papa John’s pizza and many, many more.

In addition, she is the host of “Healthy Decadence with Devin Alexander” on FitTV and is a regular contributor to “The Today Show”, “Good Morning America”, “The View”, and of course, “The Biggest Loser”.

“So much of what we do centers around eating and drinking. I love… and hate this.”

Devin still struggles with the pressure that keeping weight off brings. “Toward the end of writing each book, I always gain 5 pounds for whatever reason (stress, testing, less time to exercise) so I go on calorie-high-alert and am extra-careful about what I eat so I lose those 5 extras.”

Healthful decisions like foregoing beef for a veggie dish and snacking on reduced fat cheese sticks helps her stick to the program. In her recent newsletter, Devin explains that even when stressed, tired or just plain hungry, being aware of your choices is key.

“I can be conscious about why and when I am putting food in my mouth. Before I mistake those energy cravings for hunger, I have learned to ask myself, “Am I really hungry?” Try and do this when things are ridiculously crazy. It may not work every time. But often it will help you stop.”

Devin’s website (www.devinalexander.com) and monthly newsletter is abundant with more information on Devin’s approach to food and her healthy recipes. And fans can send ideas and questions to her at fans@devinalexander.com.

McDonald’s: Big Mac

Reprinted from “Fast Food Fix:75+ Amazing Recipe Makeovers of Your Fast Food Restaurant Favorites” by Devin Alexander

Makes 1 serving

386 calories, 26 g protein, 44 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 2 g fiber

Original McDonald’s Big Mac: 560 calories, 25 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates,30 g fat, 10 g sat. fat, 3 g fiber

Save: 174 calories, 19 g fat, 7 g sat. fat

The key to re-creating the Big Mac is obviously perfecting the sauce. Some say it’s simply Thousand Island dressing, but the clever folks at McDonald’s deserve much more credit for this masterpiece we crave. To re-create the sauce, I had to ensure that I had a supply that I could taste on its own — away from the other great flavors this burger stacks. So I requested “extra on the side.” The friendly woman behind the counter didn’t flinch. She quickly produced a sundae cup half filled with the salmon-colored sauce. When I took a big sniff, all I could smell was a chemicalesque aroma. Tasting, on the other hand, yielded that wonderful flavor. Several tastings and I was convinced. The secret ingredient? Mustard. Simple yellow mustard. Add that and a pinch of sugar to a Thousand Island-style sauce, and you’ll be surprised how closely it resembles the real deal.

3 ounces 96% of lean ground beef (about 1/3 cup)

2 pinches of salt

1 sesame seed hamburger bun plus 1 bun bottom

1 slice (½ ounce) 2 percent milk yellow American cheese

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon McDonald’s Big Mac sauce (opposite page)

1 teaspoon finely chopped white onion

1/3 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

2 rounds dill pickle

Divide the beef in half. On a sheet of waxed paper, shape each half into a 4-inch patty. Season both sides with salt. Transfer the waxed paper to a plate. Place, uncovered, in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until drops of water sizzle when splashed on the pan. Place the patties in the pan. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until no longer pink. Meanwhile, place the bun top and bottoms, cut-side down, in the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, or until toasted. (If the pan is not large enough to hold the patties and the buns, first cook 1 patty with the bottom bun and then start assembling the sandwich while the others cook.) Just before the patties are cooked, place the cheese on 1 patty.

Place 1 bun bottom on a plate. Spread on 1 tablespoon sauce. Place the cheeseburger, cheese-side down, on the bun. Spread 1 teaspoon sauce on the second bun bottom and place, sauce-side down, on the cheeseburger. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon sauce, the onion, lettuce, pickles, the remaining burger, and the bun top.

Drive-Through: It’s easy to throw together a Big Mac–style burger in minutes once you have the sauce made. So to save time, make a big batch of the sauce, omitting the onions (they are the only ingredient that will spoil quickly). Refrigerate the sauce in a plastic container for up to 1 month. When you’re ready to enjoy a burger, simply add the correct quantity of onion to the amount of sauce you’re using.

Even Better: Save time and calories by omitting the second bun bottom and simply making 1 patty instead of 2 with the 3 ounces of beef. This way, you’ll need only 1½ tablespoons of sauce. You’ll be left with a more nutritionally balanced burger. Plus, you’ll still have room for some fries or a side salad, all the while still enjoying that great Big Mac flavor … in minutes.

The revised version will have 310 calories, 24 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 1 g sat. fat, and 1 g fiber. You’ll save 250 calories, 21 g fat, and 9 g sat. fat over the original.

McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce

Makes about 2/3 cup, enough for 4 servings

Each serving: 49 calories, trace protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, trace sat. fat, trace fiber

1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise

2 teaspoons dill pickle relish

2 teaspoons ketchup

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons yellow mustard

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely chopped white onion

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, sugar and mustard. Stir to blend well. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Stir in the onion just before serving.

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