After nearly dying, chef Seamus Mullen shares how changing his diet transformed his life

The NYC chef says changing the way he ate saved his life.

— -- Chef Seamus Mullen hasn't always been a healthy-eating devotee. In fact, the New York City restaurateur says it took two near-death experiences before he decided to radically change his diet.

Mullen shared his approach to eating healthy in a new book, "Real Food Heals: Eat to Feel Younger and Stronger Every Day," featuring over 100 Paleo-inspired dishes.

"I was lucky to work with a doctor who helped me completely recalibrate my diet, but I figured I have to do more than what I am doing at home. I’ve got to take this into the restaurant, for anyone I am cooking for,” he said. “We made changes like reducing the amount of carbohydrates, reducing the amount of refined sugar in the restaurant and really trying to recalibrate the dish so there are just as many vegetables as meat on the dish.”


Mullen recommends starting your day off with a savory and hearty meal to get more energy throughout the day. Sugary breakfasts can spike your blood sugar levels, according to Mullen. Here he shares his recipe for a Tamari-glazed chicken salad that makes the perfect morning meal.

Before: Bagel with cream cheese and skim milk latte.

After: Tamari-glazed chicken salad with avocado, pepitas, and hard-boiled eggs.

Tamari-glazed chicken salad with avocado, pepitas, and hard-boiled eggs recipe

For the glazed chicken:
1/3 cup reduced-sodium gluten-free tamari
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon cayenne hot sauce
1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, grated on a Microplane
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh turmeric, grated on a Microplane
Zest of 1/4 lemon
4 chicken legs

For the salad:
5 ounces spring mix
1/2 shallot, very thinly sliced
1/2 English cucumber, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 carrots, scrubbed and shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/2 bunch cilantro, torn into bite-size pieces
1 serrano or jalapeño chile, very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
Sea salt
Juice of 2 limes
2 Just-Right Boiled Eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise (optional, see recipe below)

Directions: To make the glazed chicken, in a shallow dish that will hold the chicken snugly, combine the tamari, vinegar, maple syrup, fish sauce, hot sauce, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and lemon zest. Debone the chicken legs by running a sharp knife along the bones to create a slit, exposing the bones. Open the slits and slide the knife under the bones to scrape the meat away and release the bones. Save the bones for another use. Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the chicken skin-side down in a single layer in a 9 by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Transfer the marinade to a small saucepan. Bake the chicken for 18 minutes; boil the marinade for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brush with just enough of the boiled marinade to coat the skin. Turn the oven to broil and broil the chicken for 5 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, make the salad. In a large bowl, combine the spring mix, shallot, cucumber, avocado, carrots, cilantro, chile, and pepitas. Sprinkle with sea salt and toss to mix.

Add the lime juice to the marinade and whisk well. Drizzle over the salad and toss until well coated. Divide the salad among four serving dishes and top each with an egg half, if desired. Sprinkle the egg with salt.

Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and scatter the hot pieces over the salad. Drizzle any juices from the baking dish over the chicken. Serve immediately.

Just-right boiled eggs recipe:
4 eggs

Directions: Fill a large bowl with 4 cups of ice and 2 cups of cold water. Bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan.

Use a large spoon to carefully add the eggs to the boiling water. Cook for 6½ minutes. As soon as the timer goes off, transfer the eggs to the ice water. Let the eggs cool completely.

Carefully peel the eggs and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.


Snack time is where many dieters can run into trouble. Here Mullen shares how you can swap out a bag of fatty chips for something that still has crunch and flavor.

Before: Bag of chips
After: Carrot Hummus with Turmeric

2 cups of diced carrots
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon of grated fresh turmeric
2 lemons
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons of sliced fresh mint leaves
Crudités, for serving

Directions: Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook until crisp-tender. Drain and immediately transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain again.

Transfer the carrots to a food processor and add the garlic, turmeric, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, and ¼ cup water. Blitz until smooth. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the sunflower seeds and mint. Zest the remaining lemon directly on top, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sumac. Serve with crudités.


Pasta is a popular dinnertime staple for many, but Mullen says it can often be packed with carbohydrates rather than vitamins. Here he demonstrates how you can make spaghetti noodles out of a vegetable, squash, instead.

Before: Pasta or flatbread topped with vegetables and cheese.
After: Spaghetti squash stuffed with ginger garlic beef.

8 ounces ground beef (80 percent lean) Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon harissa, plus more to taste
Harissa Roasted Spaghetti Squash (see recipe below)
Fresh mint leaves

Directions: Mix the beef with 1 tablespoon of salt. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the skillet with olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the beef and onion. Cook, stirring and breaking the meat up into tiny bits, for 30 seconds, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add the pine nuts. Cook, stirring, for 15 seconds, then add the raisins.

Add the harissa and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. The beef should be cooked through, but the onion and garlic should be barely cooked. Transfer to a large bowl and add the squash. Fold gently until evenly mixed. Taste and add more harissa and salt to taste.

To serve, you can mound the mixture back into the squash shells or simply transfer to a serving dish. Tear the mint leaves on top and serve immediately.

Harissa Roasted Spaghetti Squash Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
Kosher Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of harissa, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons of raw honey
2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

Directions: Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put the squash cut sides up on a rimmed baking sheet. Generously season with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Divide the harissa between the squash halves and rub all over to evenly coat. Drizzle the honey all over the squash.

Roast until very tender, about 50 minutes.

Let the squash cool a bit, then run a fork all over the cut sides to lift out and separate the spaghettilike strands of the flesh. If you need to hold the squash in place, do so with tongs or hold on to them with a kitchen towel. Transfer the flesh to a large bowl.

Aggressively season the squash with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with the fork and drizzle with the vinegar. Add more harissa if you’d like and toss again.

Recipes courtesy Real Food Heals by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2017, Seamus Mullen

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