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Chef Rocco Dispirito
Credit: Courtesy of Rocco DiSpirito, author of Rocco's Healthy + Delicious

Delicious, healthy eating. That's the idea behind chef and TV personality Rocco Dispirito's newest cookbook, Rocco's Healthy and Delicious.

The cookbook — which currently has 248 recipes with the possibility of two additions — focuses on wholesome recipes, but Dispirito stresses that it's not just for those looking to lose weight, or eat healthy.

He described the recipes as "both healthy and delicious," but they're ultimately designed for people who love to cook great, nutritious food.

Dispirito has spent the better part of the last decade as a champion for living a healthier lifestyle, after experiencing some health scares of his own. In the early 2000s, Dispirito was faced with high blood pressure and a slowly expanding waistline from a self-confessed "overly indulgent lifestyle."

He decided to turn his life around and be more mindful of the things he was eating. Now, he says, he's in the best shape of his life.

Dispirito spoke with Travel + Leisure about why he believes we could all be living healthier, and how he's managed to change his eating habits over the past few years.

T+L: What about your upcoming cookbook excites you?

Rocco Dispirito: "It’s not another diet book. It’s healthy and delicious recipes, and it’s essentially a guide to healthier eating, if you want to eat better. There’s still plenty of chocolates and sweets, so I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water. I’m not asking you to drink kombucha all day long or do anything trendy, just cook and have fun."

This is your 13th cookbook. How did you set this one apart?

"It is an actual cookbook, compared to a diet book. The last six have been a hybrid diet book and cookbook, so this one is just a straight forward cookbook geared towards food lovers. This is for both healthy foodies and non-healthy foodies."

"People don’t sit down for meals as much as they used to so I focus a lot on snacks and appetizers. It’s somewhat unconventional. I believe people think about meal segments, or snacks, these days, rather than traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

How do you eat healthy while on the road?

"It’s something that I think about a lot. In my food delivery service — the Pound a Day Diet — I try to make it as easy as possible for people to determine how to eat better. A lot of the meals you can pack ahead, especially the powdered smoothies. I prefer my liquid fresh smoothies, it's how I start every morning. They usually keep people on track for a few days."

"I’ll bring a few dozen vanilla chocolate smoothies and bars, while making good choices in between. You have to be conscious all the time, thinking of whether the hotel has a mini bar in the room or a place to store your own food. Also, [stay] away from airport food. Unless it’s fruit, don’t eat it in the airport."

How have your own travels inspired your work?

"I’m inspired by everything I see. When I travel, I naturally gravitate towards food centers, markets, cafes, or whatever is special in the area. I wouldn’t call it a training, more of a disability really. Whether it’s a cool restaurant or a new market, I always walk away feeling inspired. Whenever you travel, as a chef, people want to take you out to try the best food in their city. They're eager to show off [the] best places to eat and the best dishes. I’ve never been to a place that hasn’t left me inspired."

How did you revamp your health regime, and what would you tell others who are looking to do the same?

"The change approached me more than I approached it. After being perfectly healthy for many years, towards the end of my 30s I was told by my doctor that I had the health of a 68-year-old man. I needed to make a change. For the first time in my life I actually believed the good advice. Maybe it was the side effect of impotence that got to me, but it woke me up. My doctor told me to change my diet and a year later I was doing an iron man. There was this confluence of events that was kicking me in the right direction of living a healthy lifestyle."

"It's important for people to know that living a healthy lifestyle is not a life of deprivation, but one of abundance. You don't have control over air quality, or what's in your drinking water, but food you have quite an amount of control over."

What do you hope readers will take away after reading your new cookbook?

"Living a life where you make healthy choices is the key to happiness...When all of that bad food goes away your health will be in a much better place. You think of your financial security a lot, but without our health being secure it’s all meaningless. I can’t think of anything better in life. We decline as we get older but we don’t have to decline as fast as we are."

This interview has been lightly edited for length.