In the Valentine’s Day–themed episode of The Good Dish, co-host Daphne Oz dips a strawberry into a chocolate fountain and takes a big bite, smearing chocolate all around her mouth. She tries to wipe it off and misses repeatedly, which sends her and her co-hosts, Gail Simmons and Jamika Pessoa, into a fit of laughter. Is she embarrassed? Not a chance. “Nothing says ‘desirable’ like a chocolate moustache,” she tells the audience between giggles.
Watching Oz on the nationally syndicated TV show is like watching the girl next door banter with girlfriends. She’s warm, chatty, relatable, and fun, all while sharing solid information—what to do with a cacao pod, for instance, or whether Ina Garten’s “engagement chicken” recipe really works—with viewers. You get swept up in her real-girl talk and joyful energy, forgetting for a moment that she is a superstar chef, best-selling author, Emmy Award–winning television personality, and daughter of one of America’s most famous physicians.
Oz takes nothing for granted. She is grounded despite her renown and feels huge gratitude for every aspect of her life, which revolves around family and the home. Oz and her husband, John Jovanovic, recently settled down in Palm Beach, where several generations of her family—including her parents, Mehmet and Lisa Oz—have wintered or vacationed. “It’s a small-town culture with big-city amenities,” she says. “[Palm Beachers] have these common values of family and quality of life and deep, meaningful relationships that form a tight-knit community. It’s a really beautiful place to have full lives in a way that makes us very happy.”
While her professional life is lived largely on camera and comes with a certain level of glamour and fame, at home she’s just Mom. On any given day, she can be found in the kitchen—her Command Central—preparing things like oatmeal cookie baked apples and crispy mushroom tacos for (and with!) her four children, aged 8, 6, 4, and 2.
“I have them in the kitchen with me all the time,” she says. “It’s so important to me that they have memories of [cooking together] and learning our family heritage. Gathering around the table is a huge part of the bonds that hold our family together.”
Oz’s kitchen is something of a lab. She is constantly experimenting with nutrition-dense, healthful dishes to share with her family. That doesn’t mean she’ll deny them the occasional healthy-ish indulgence. She says it’s all about balance. It’s not good to deprive yourself of food during life’s special and celebratory moments, she explains, but it’s also important to make conscious choices that won’t lead down a “food shame rabbit hole” where food has control over you.
Her mantra is front and center in her new cookbook, Eat Your Heart Out, which is out this month from William Morrow Cookbooks. Her “no-fuss food” includes simple, clean, family-friendly dishes like gluten-free banana oat pancakes, granola baked pears, chicken paillard with Greek salad (“the No. 1 thing I craved while I was pregnant”), and a “sexy and beautiful” red fruit slab pie that she created based on a photo she saw on Pinterest. The common denominator? They’re all wholesome powerhouses that don’t sacrifice flavor.
“It’s my rebellion against the idea that eating healthy should taste like punishment,” Oz says. “Fueling my wellness should feel celebratory.”
Eat Your Heart Out, she explains, is about the reset she uses to get healthy eating habits back on track after intense periods of stress (starting a new show) or indulgence (eating around the clock while pregnant). Under this plan, she eats a gluten- and sugar-free diet for five days of the week; for the other two, she eats whatever she wants. This way, she says, “you never feel deprived.”
To keep herself on track, she employs the “two-bite rule.” “The first is to explore, and the second to savor and enjoy,” she says. “Every bite after that kind of tastes the same. Many times, we just mindlessly continue to eat.”
Oz’s relationship with food has had its ups and downs. As a teen, she struggled with weight gain. “In my mother and grandmother’s kitchen, I grew up eating very healthy but overeating and overindulging,” she says. “Adjusting to being an adult was the first chance I had to see where my love of food had made it so I was no longer in the power position.”
Instead of taking that attitude to college, as so many young people do, she decided to turn her thinking—and her habits—around. She came up with an eight-step program (later revised to 10 steps) and lifestyle plan that replaced the typical pizza and mac and cheese diet with nutritious food that could be prepared in a dorm room. Not only did she lose 10 pounds, but she wrote her first cookbook, The Dorm Room Diet (2006), to empower others.
That epiphany set her on the path to a career in food and all the joys that come with it. After graduating from Princeton University, she studied at Natural Gourmet Institute and the Institute for Integrative Medicine. Armed with a chef’s degree and a natural charm honed during promotional appearances on national TV for The Dorm Room Diet, she began to speak publicly about food and holistic living, which led to guest appearances on programs like Good Morning America and The Rachael Ray Show. Her deep knowledge on the subject, combined with her bubbly personality, made her a natural for lifestyle TV shows like ABC’s The Chew, which she hosted for six years, and Fox’s
MasterChef Junior, for which she was a judge.
Now 36, Oz says she owes much of her career path to the influence of her parents. Her father, Dr. Mehmet Oz, is a Turkish-American cardiac surgeon and TV personality who’s become known as “America’s Doctor.” His meteoric notoriety began with regular appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and continued when he launched The Dr. Oz Show, a daily program about health and medical matters. Early on, Oz aspired to be the first female surgeon in the family. “But it became clear,” she says, “that the way I could be most useful was to widely share information about how to take good care of ourselves before ever needing to see an operating table.”
Her mother, author and radio and TV personality Lisa Oz, was equally influential. As a strong woman with deep family values, the elder Oz always stressed joy, positivity, and balance, as well as a sense of fun. That extended to all aspects of life, including the kitchen.
Growing up, Oz’s mother and grandmother were both avid cooks whose busy kitchens were the heart of the home. She calls their approach to cooking “liberating” because they never stressed over it. If something didn’t work, they’d move on to the next thing. “I dedicated [her 2016 cookbook] The Happy Cook to my mother and my grandmother because they’re the archetype of incredible women providing for their family in this most fundamental way, but also there for themselves,” she says. “It didn’t matter if we were reheating pizza. They found a way to make that feel like something worth celebrating. It’s this simple pleasure and deep heart around food that I always aspire to re-create.”
Oz says both women taught her the importance of helping children develop their own palate at a young age. “They taught me that you never want to have your kids resist you [when it comes to] food,” she says. “That ‘you aren’t leaving this table until you finish this plate’ attitude is stressful for everyone and makes kids feel
Oz wants her children to develop their own taste for food and to experiment. She believes it’s important for kids to have repeated exposure to different foods and to make their own choices when it comes to eating. “We put everything out family-style, and my kids serve themselves,” she says. “We have this thing: Big kids try everything once.”
It’s no wonder that friends and fans most often ask Oz what her kids will and won’t eat. She’s always happy to share advice about food, but she also shares beauty tricks, kitchen hacks, parenting tips, confidence boosters, and ways to stay present. On her website, she even recommends her favorite products, from jewelry to mom jeans—and her fans can’t get enough.
Oz is the first to admit that raising a family and having a successful career isn’t easy. But she manages to stay centered while juggling it all. The secret, she says, is healthy rituals: barre, Pilates, yoga, and long walks.
“As a working mom, I could get overwhelmed with my to-do list,” she says. “I find it a good practice to dream big and focus small.”
That, and keeping it real.