Growing up in Grimsby, Ont., chef Jo Lusted, has memories of baking cookies with her grandmother while waiting for her grandfather to return from the farmers’ market. ‘He would bring back stinky cheeses and meat pies tucked into brown paper bags tied with string,’ she recalls. ‘Opening those packages was magical.’
Lusted was in her first year of university when she started working as a server at a casual-dining restaurant. Instead of returning to school, she decided to work full-time in the restaurant’s kitchen. She’d never cooked professionally, but rose quickly up the ranks. A few years later she was whipping up cream sauces and soufflés at George Brown College in Toronto’and by the time she graduated, she had gained 70 pounds. ‘I was always eating on the fly,’ Lusted says. ‘And I was learning French techniques. We cooked with lots of butter, white flour and sugar; I tested everything I made.’ So she added more whole grains and vegetables, and soon became an advocate for healthy cooking.
Today, Lusted, 36, is a recipe developer and TV host; she appears on CBC’s Steven and Chris; and is a co-host on the new show Compete to Eat, airing on Cottage Life TV (and, in the U.S., on the Cooking Channel). She is also author of Dish Do-Over (Click her for six recipes from her cookbook). ‘It’s about reinventing favourite comfort food recipes to be healthier but still flavourful.‘ Lusted now lives in Toronto with her two Dobermans, Reyna and Indi. Here are her healthy-living tips.
‘My life revolves around food. I’ve accepted it, and learned to not stress about fitting into my jeans. What matters is being healthy and happy. Strict dieting doesn’t work for me: I can’t live on tilapia and asparagus alone! I’ll have a protein shake in the morning and indulge in a glass of wine at night. But you can’t enjoy life without good food.’
Challenge your body
‘A couple of years ago, I hired a trainer and started lifting weights. It’s amazing what you can achieve quickly if you are consistent. At first I couldn’t lift anything, but soon I was reaching for the 35-pound dumbbells and I felt amazing! My dogs keep me active, too; we go out for at least 90 minutes a day. No matter what’s going on, I must make time for them.’
Learn to say no
‘Getting bogged down leaves me stressed and overwhelmed. I’ve learned it’s okay to say no to yet another project, to not go out every night. Working too many hours isn’t healthy.‘
‘We all have good days and bad. Even when things seem to be falling apart, I try to avoid negative self-talk and instead focus on positive things I’m doing, whether big or small. Last week I hiked 10 kilometres; I’m proud of that. And I’ve written a cookbook! It was one of my biggest career goals.’
‘No matter how busy I am, I try to take an hour a day to do what I want. It’s the only way to stay sane. It can be going to the gym, visiting the farmers’ market or getting my nails done’whatever helps me chill out.’