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Real Life Healthy Recipes that Taste Good

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Healthy recipes are flooding your inbox. Have you made new year’s resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more? Did you start a new diet or download a diet app? Are you ending your 1st week on a 30-day plan or challenge of some sort? You are not alone. According to The Economist, one in four Americans made a resolution. The most popular resolutions involve health, happiness, and the familiar favorite — losing weight.

For me, this trio became one and the same. Sure, I eat healthily and exercise, but the big change was working on the inside me, not the outside me. Working on the inside me was what enabled me to lose now 70 pounds and keep it off for over a year! Read on for my real-life and tips and techniques on how to make a lasting change–and access to a slew of great recipes, too.

Virginia Willis in Eating Well magazine

 9 Real Life Weight Loss Tips

Honored to be featured in Eating Well magazine this month as their weight loss success story. In the issue, I share my 9 Real Life Weight Loss Tips.

I did not have myself being photographed in my workout clothes in a national magazine on my bingo card! I love that we were able to shoot some of it along the Chattahoochee.

Click here to access the story and comfort food-minded healthy recipes for Smothered Chicken Breasts in Onion Gravy, Soup Beans with Cornbread and Kraut, Chicken Stew with Collard Greens and Peanuts, Gingery Vegetable Broth, and Crispy Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies. These recipes are good and good for you, my real-life everyday go-to dishes.

If you are on Instagram, check out my IG Live with Executive Editor Jessie Price as I demo the Chicken Stew with Collard Greens and Peanuts.

Motivating Factors

In the beginning, I walked to lose weight. As the seasons changed, my reasons for walking did, too. Walking is now as much about my mental and spiritual state as it is about my physical.  In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution perhaps you’ll find how can the story of my health journey help you achieve your own health goals? Good health is a state of action and it’s all interconnected.


Health Full Menu

Check out my New Year, New You in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution with healthy recipes for Creamy Broccoli Parmesan Soup, Herb Crusted Fish Fillets, Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Grapes, and these absolutely delicious Small Batch Lemon Pudding Cakes.

You can find the recipes when you click HERE

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Life Guardrails

Back to the inner-outer me. During the early days of the pandemic before the vaccination, I knew I needed to build guardrails to stay on my healthy path. Guardrails are installed on the side of the road, so cars won’t slide into the ditch. They won’t keep you from getting in a wreck altogether, but they will keep you from driving off the road!

Without my self-imposed guardrails, I would have numbed everything with chocolate and bourbon. (Excellent ones of both, but not a good health practice.) Guardrails stand strong due to a combination of personal accountability and actively working with a support network. We all do better in most facets of our lives when we are supported and share our support for others.  

I know that I have the best chance of success, of quelling anxiety and worry, to manage day-to-day life when I eat healthily and exercise. In the beginning, I walked for weight loss. Now, I walk for my mental health. I know that it’s important to take care of all of me.

Persistence in achieving goals is invaluable. The actual process is easy. Work hard, be consistent, and see results. Of course, there’s life and we all know it’s not always easy. My entire take on losing weight, eating healthier, and becoming more active is that something is better than not doing anything. More pointedly, it’s not one big thing that helps you achieve your goals. It’s lots of little things. Most importantly, you must find what works, what really works for you. 

I fully believe and share with the world, “if a French-trained Southern chef can do it, you can, too!” 

Bon Appétit, Y’all

Virginia Willis

Psst! Want more good and good for your recipes? Subscribe today! 

Eating Well photos of me by Terry Allen Photography 

If you try my healthy recipes, please let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #virginiawillis on Instagram.

Heads up! I am not a doctor, RD, or health professional, nor am I an official WW ambassador or representative. I am simply sharing what works for me. Thanks for reading. 

If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or a book signing, let me know! Send an email to and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links and I may make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication is prohibited. All photos and content are copyright protected. If you wish to republish this recipe, please link back to this recipe on Thanks so much!

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Ms. Willis: I prepared your Smothered Chicken breasts in onion gravy and loved it so much am making it again today. I made it exactly as you outlined. I serve it wilh riced vegetables so it’s like having gravy over rice. This recipe leaves you feeling satisfied.
    Thank you.

  2. Anonymous

    Love these articles and the recipes and particularly the last pix!

  3. Kathy

    Hope to catch up with you whenever you get to Napa! Take care.

  4. Kathy

    Virginia you have inspired me. Met you at Rancho La Puerta in 2015 where my daughters and I cooked with you and have followed you on social every since. However reading this post and getting Eating Well yesterday somehow send a message to me. Yours is the type of “diet” I need so like I said you have inspired me! Thank you!

    1. that makes me so happy. Well, I finally “got it,” too! Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words! Best VA

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