Don't Skip The 'Yum'

Healthy eating need not be boring -- just ask Mairlyn Smith!

Healthy eating is the name of the game at this time of year, following what for many is a month-long ode to gluttony, aka the holidays.

But before you think that means a boring regime of celery and carrot sticks, hold the dip, consider that you could be eating Spinach Lasagna, Jambalaya, Jamaican-Spiced Pumpkin Soup, or Triple-Chocolate Brownie Cookies.

All four are recipes from Mairlyn Smith’s latest cookbook, Healthy Starts Here!, and not only do they taste great, they’re packed with nutritious ingredients.

“I’m a problem solver. So that was the first question (when writing the cookbook): ‘How can I get people to eat ______?’ If it doesn’t taste good, I don’t care if it’s good for me, I’m not going to eat it,” Smith tells

Divided into 18 sections, each dedicated to an ingredient (Asparagus, Apples) or food group (Grains, Greens), Mairlyn’s book is filled with healthy eating information that educates without being preachy.

“That was my goal, because even though I love nutrition I know that most people aren’t as excited about it as me. I really wanted to do Sesame Street for adults, so they have small bites of information but it’s funny. I think people remember better when they’re laughing,” she remarks.

“I wanted them to feel like they knew me, too, so that it was really approachable, and not ‘You have to eat this.’”

Mairlyn previously penned The Ultimate Healthy Eating Plan and Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health, and as with those two books, the focus of Healthy Starts Here! is soundly on living and eating well. And that doesn’t have to mean spending every waking minute in the kitchen. Many recipes contain fewer than a dozen ingredients and require very little preparation time. In some cases, Mairlyn relies on unexpected additions such as concentrated orange juice, a flavour-booster she’s had in her back pocket for years.

“If you don’t use salt, you’ve got to come up with some pretty good ideas. I’ve always gone for intense flavours, but little bits of it,” she says. “I’ve been using orange juice concentrate since I was in university. Back then, yogurt was this plain watery stuff. I started stirring orange juice concentrate into it and I thought, hm, that’s really good, I think I’m on to something.”

So, about those Triple-Chocolate Brownie Cookies…

“Oh gosh, yeah! (Chocolate)’s good for your soul, and if you pick the right one it’s good for your heart too. There’s a cheesecake in the book, there’s a chocolate cake, there are tons of cookies,” Mairlyn notes. “That’s how people really do eat, so I just felt it was another opportunity to give somebody a healthy alternative to something yummy. So that when you did have a cookie or a cupcake or a piece of my cheesecake you weren’t going to hell in a handbag. You were still getting ‘yum’ but you were getting some nutrition to what you were eating.”

Healthy Starts Here! is currently available in stores.