A Modern Grain ‘Miller’

Author, mother and celebrity chef ... Robin Miller does it all, and then some. In addition to hosting her show, “Quick Fix Meals,” she has written seven books. She also has a history of helping out the American Heart Association and Weight Watchers. Currently, Miller is involved in the Grain Foods Foundation’s Smart Snacking Contest. (For more information visit www.GrainPower.org .)
Whether she’s writing, filming or cooking, Miller always is thinking of creative ways to incorporate whole grains and protein into not only her diet, but that of her son, readers and viewers, making this Food Network star a triple threat.
In this exclusive interview with Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, Miller reveals her favorite snacks and discusses why the AHA, Weight Watchers and the GFF are crucial to educating consumers nationwide.
Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery: Why did you decide to get involved in the Grain Foods Foundation’s Smart Snacking Contest?
Robin Miller: Because I believe that grain foods (breads, cereals, pretzels, crackers, tortillas) make the best snack choice. Loaded with fiber (in many cases) and nutrients (thanks to enriched and fortified flour), you get a huge “bang” for your snack “buck.” Fiber keeps you full longer (so you don’t get hungry between meals), and the complex carbs from things like bread, crackers, pretzels and cereal fuel your brain and working muscles so you can sustain between meals.
SF&WB: Are you a smart snacker (most of the time)? What’s your favorite snack?
Robin Miller: Yes, I’d like to think so! My favorite snack is the snack I didn’t have yesterday! I like to mix things up. Some days it’s breadsticks with cheese. Other days it’s whole grain crackers with yogurt or a slice of bread with peanut butter or almond butter or pita with hummus, and then sometimes I’ll enjoy cereal with fruit and nonfat milk.
SF&WB: How have the snacks you eat changed over the years?
Robin Miller: They really haven’t. The products may have changed, but I haven’t. I always choose breads, crackers, cereals, tortillas, and pita combined with a protein (such as nuts, cheese or low-fat dairy). There are many more varieties and brands in those categories, but my basic choices haven’t changed.
SF&WB: What’s your usual go-to source of whole grains?
Robin Miller: Cereal and bread.
SF&WB: You’re about to watch a movie in the comfort of your own home. Quick: What do you grab to nosh on during the flick?  
Robin Miller: Pita with hummus, whole grain bread with Swiss cheese and honey mustard (yum!), trail mix (with cereal and nuts) and microwave popcorn!
SF&WB: What do you want viewers to gain from watching your show, “Quick Fix Meals?” Do viewers ever suggest recipes or send you questions?
Robin Miller: I want viewers to enjoy cooking and enjoy eating with the family. My goal is to encourage people to get back to the kitchen by planning ahead so they can enjoy weeknight meals with ease. Yes, viewers suggest recipes and questions, and I always incorporate their feedback into my show and recipe development.
SF&WB: Do you eat three meals a day, every day? Come on, be honest. Do you skip breakfast?
Robin Miller: Yes, now that Kyle started kindergarten, I skip breakfast a lot! I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect anyone else to be. And no, I don’t always eat three meals. Sometimes (based on my schedule), it’s more like two (a late breakfast and early dinner). Whatever works for me and my family is the key. And I make sure that the meals (no matter how many they are) offer a good balance of carbs, protein and healthy fats.
SF&WB: What is a typical weekday menu for you? How can consumers incorporate more grains into their diet using your menu plans?
Robin Miller: My typical weekday menu is the same as my children’s, and it often goes like this: For breakfast, cereal with fruit and nonfat milk or wheat bread with peanut butter or fruit preserves. For lunch, a sandwich made with wheat bread or a tortilla, smoked turkey, Swiss cheese and honey mustard; or pasta (either in red sauce or a vinaigrette) with vegetables; or pita and hummus with soup. For dinner, chicken, steak or fish with sautéed mixed vegetables and a side of either pasta, couscous, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice or another grain. I try to have a nice balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
SF&WB: You studied food and nutrition in college. When did your interest in these subjects start?
Robin Miller: The interest started right at college when I started to prepare meals for myself! I was also an athlete (lacrosse), so eating a balanced diet was very important. And I was on my own for the first time.  Thankfully, my mom always strived for nutritious meals and snacks, so I had a little background and knowledge.
SF&WB: You’ve written six books. Anything new in the works?
Robin Miller: My seventh book, “Robin to the Rescue,” will be available in March 2008. I am very proud of this book because it offers more than 200 recipes, each utilizing the strategies that I use on my show. That means the meals will make it to the table with ease while remaining healthy and delicious.
SF&WB: Tell me about your involvement with the American Heart Association. Do you have a history of heart disease in your own family? What are some simple diet changes consumers with this illness can make to improve their health?
Robin Miller: I’ve written quite a bit for the American Heart Association, and I’ve contributed recipes for two of their cookbooks. There is no history of heart disease in my family, but it’s incredibly prevalent in this country, so it’s important to me.
Simple diet changes to improve heart health would be: cut out saturated fat (whole milk, butter, full fat cheese); eat plenty of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables; eat lots of grains, including three whole grains a day (whole grain bread, oats, whole grain cereals, brown rice, pasta); and enjoy healthy fats (unsaturated fats like olive oil and seed and nut oils) in moderation. Adding exercise is also incredibly important.
SF&WB: Where do you think our country’s obsession with diets stems from? Describe your involvement in Weight Watchers and what you think works about its program.  
Robin Miller: Our country’s obsession with diet, in my opinion, stems from advertising and marketing of rail-thin models. Promoting unattainable weight in fashion magazines and on runways sets most people up with feelings of failure.
I’ve been writing recipes for Weight Watchers for about 10 years, and I believe the program is successful because it’s realistic, and members can enjoy a wide variety of foods. By following a “point” system, members can enjoy all foods and learn about portion control.
SF&WB: When you have had a bad day, what is your favorite food to put you in a good mood and why?
Robin Miller: I don’t typically eat to change my mood because a walk works much better! But Sunday is “Fun Day” in my house, and we all enjoy lots of pizza and chocolate chip cookies — every weekend!
Editor’s Note: For a look at previous celebrity chef Q&As, please visit us online at www.snackandbakery.com