This month, we sat down with Dr. Sonali Ruder, an Emergency Medicine physician, mom, cookbook author, blogger, recipe developer and culinary school graduate. We asked her to share some healthy eating tips, her favorite ingredients to use in dishes and more! Check out what she had to say below.
1. You seem very busy! How do you manage to balance it all?
Yes, I definitely always feel like I have a lot of things on my plate! I originally became passionate about cooking because I found it to be very relaxing compared to my high stress job working in the ER. Cooking has always been a creative outlet for me and a great way to decompress after a busy day at the hospital. I started my blog, The Foodie Physician, as a way to share my passion with others. Once I became a mother, it definitely became harder to find the time to develop recipes and work on all of my projects. Now that she’s older, I try to take my toddler into the kitchen with me as much as possible because I want to get her interested in cooking. I also do a lot of work when she’s napping or after she goes to bed. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who helps me get it all done. Without him, it wouldn’t be possible! The truth is that I love what I do so at the end of the day, I find ways to balance it all.
2. Your “cook once, eat twice” philosophy is brilliant! Which ingredients do you always keep on hand to make the most of your leftovers?
Thank you! I often make large batch recipes and then transform the leftovers the next day into a completely different dish. It’s a great time saver in the kitchen, especially on busy weeknights. To make the most of my leftovers, I always keep staples like dried pasta, tomato sauce, tortillas and bread in the pantry and I stock my freezer with plenty of frozen vegetables, cooked brown rice and pizza dough. If you have leftover cooked chicken, for example, you can easily use it to create a delicious pasta dish with or a quick, healthy stir-fry. Add some shredded cheese and you can make quesadillas, Panini or pizza. The possibilities are endless!
3. Now that spring is here, we can’t wait to add seasonal veggies into our pasta dishes. Which seasonal ingredients are you looking forward to adding in your pasta?
Asparagus, artichokes and fresh peas. I also want to experiment with ramps. I love them but they’re hard to find because they’re only in season for a few weeks each spring.
4. We love the “Recipe Resuscitation” section on your blog, where you lighten up traditionally fattening dishes with healthier ingredients. As a physician, we bet people come to you for healthy eating tips often, which ingredients do you recommend to swap out in fatty dishes?
I use a lot of Greek yogurt in my recipes, which is a healthier alternative to many higher fat ingredients like mayonnaise, sour cream, heavy cream or butter. You can substitute it for mayonnaise or sour cream in cold salads like chicken salad and egg salad or in creamy salad dressings like Ranch dressing. You can also use it in pasta dishes to add creaminess to sauces instead of heavy cream. It’s even great in baked goods to replace some of the butter. I also cook mainly with heart-healthy olive oil instead of butter, which is high in saturated fat.
5. We’re sure that being a medical professional must impact your cooking a bit (in a good way!). Are there any ingredients that you try to include in recipes, just for health reasons?
Yes, I try to create healthy, well-balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables combined with lean protein and nutritious whole grains. I cook a lot with salmon and other seafood that are packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein and other vitamins and minerals. In addition, I like to use a lot of legumes like beans, peas and lentils, which are great vegetarian sources of protein. I also cook a lot of whole grains like whole grain pasta, quinoa, farro, millet and brown rice. I try to incorporate a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in my dishes, which are packed with phytonutrients, plant-based chemicals that have great health benefits. I don’t believe in fad diets and think that they don’t work in the long run. I believe in eating mainly nutrient-dense, whole foods and minimizing processed foods that are filled with sugar, sodium and other additives that have no nutritional value and just provide empty calories.
6. Finally, we were drooling over some of the pasta recipes you share on your blog. Can you pick a favorite and share the recipe with us?
It’s so hard to choose just one- I really love pasta! One of my favorites is Orecchiette with Kale, Turkey Sausage and Gremolata Breadcrumbs. Orecchiette is one of my favorite pasta shapes. Translated into “little ears,” they have a nice chewy texture and I love how they trap the sauce in their shape. I like that this dish uses healthy ingredients like kale, which is packed with nutrients that are beneficial for your health. I toss the pasta and kale with spicy turkey sausage, bright lemon juice and nutty Pecorino Romano cheese. Because I like contrasting textures in a dish, I top it with homemade lemony breadcrumbs, which add a nice crunch. You can find the recipe here.
Dr. Sonali Ruder is an Emergency Medicine physician, mom, culinary school graduate, recipe developer, cookbook author and “board certified” foodie. She developed an interest in food and nutrition several years ago when she was doing her residency training in New York City. Ten years after embarking on her medical career, she decided to further pursue her passion for cooking by enrolling in culinary school. That’s where she learned the fundamentals of combining flavors and using different cooking techniques to create dishes that are nutritious and full of flavor. While she was a student, she also started her blog The Foodie Physician. Now her time is spent in two distinct ways- part of the week she’s a doctor working in a busy Emergency Room and the rest of the week she keeps busy developing recipes, blogging and running after her delicious and very active little girl, Sienna. Her goal is to share both her medical and culinary knowledge with others, to empower them so that they can make smart diet and lifestyle choices. She is the co-author of The Greek Yogurt Diet: The Fresh New Way to Lose Weight Naturally and Cooking Well: Anti-Aging: Over 100 Easy Recipes for Health, Wellness and Longevity and the author of the upcoming Natural Pregnancy Cookbook: Over 125 Recipes for a Healthy Pregnancy.