Eating healthy with the Detroit Lions’ Executive Chef Joe Nader

Just because the Detroit Lions are not doing well on the field that does not mean that they cannot do well in the kitchen. Football season is well upon us and it’s time to sit down and chat nutrition and good eating with their Executive Chef, Joe Nader.

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Chef Nader, working for Levy Restaurants at Ford Field, is also a stand-out in various nationwide and grass-root health and wellness organizations. He is a volunteer chef for Cooking Matters, a non-profit that “helps families to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget” (ran locally through Gleaners Food Bank). He also testified before the Subcommittee of Nutrition of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture back in May (2015) regarding issues of childhood nutrition and funding of such programming. “Childhood hunger is one of the few issues that we could truly extinguish” Chef Nader says.

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In keeping with his drive to have better options for their food choices, the Detroit Lions and Levy Restaurants have once again teamed up with NFL Hall of Fame legend, retired Detroit Lion running back Barry Sanders to provide a healthy kids meal at the concession areas Ford Field. Sanders, who post-retirement, has been very vocal about fitness and nutrition.

“Kids get a lunch box, with cool images of Barry Sanders from his playing days,” Chef Nader says. “They also get an exclusive Barry trading card (as a souvenir). The meal is fresh veggies, fresh fruit, a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, and skim milk.”

Also, Chef Nader and the Detroit Lions have partnered with the Southeastern Michigan’s United Way’s “Eat Up and Meet Up” program which collaborates with Eastern Market, Wayne State University, and St. Joe’s Mercy Health Systems. In this, Detroit Lions players (sometimes active, sometimes retired) walk with children through Eastern Market, exposing them to whole foods and good nutrition.

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Talking with Chef Nader, it’s easy to see his passion for the topic. When asked about what enthusiasts can do to help out, he pointed to the large variety of programming that one could volunteer for at Gleaners/Cooking Matters. “Each six week long class (once a week for two hours) is run by a volunteer chef, volunteer nutritionist or dietitian, and a volunteer from the community. That volunteer doesn’t have to have any expertise in the culinary or nutrition field. There are classes for kids, people for diabetes, seniors on a fixed income, families, adults…” Classes work to empower people by providing them with basic cooking skills, nutrition information, and even help with efficient and thrifty food choices, with a grocery shopping tour. “Sometimes people in tough financial situations are forced to make decisions based on economics over health and we hope we can teach them that they don’t have to compromise that,” Nader says.

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We asked and Chef Nader provided a couple healthy (and easy) recipes for families to use, and are great for watching football games, regardless of which team you are cheering for.


Homemade Granola
Serves 9, 1/3 cup per serving, prep time 15 min. Cook time 10-15 min.

4 T. honey
2 T. canola oil
¼ t. cinnamon
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
4 T. sliced almonds
nonstick cooking spray
½ cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, or dates)


1. Pre heat over to 350
2. In a large bowl, add honey, oil and cinnamon. Whisk with a fork.
3. Add Oats and almonds. Stir until well-coated with honey mixture.
4. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Spread oat mixture evenly onto sheet.
5. Bake until lightly browned, about 10-15 min. Stir every 5 min. to cook evenly. Watch closely to be sure granola doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
6. Transfer cooled granola to a medium bowl. Stir in dried fruit.

Nutrition Facts:
Serving size: 1/3 cup (42g)
Servings per recipe: 9
Calories: 170


Turkey Chili with Vegetables
Serves 6, 1 ¼ cups per serving, prep time 20 min. Cook time 20-25 min.

1 med. onion
2 med. carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 lrg. Green pepper
1 (15oz.) can kidney beans, no salt added
1 T. canola oil
1 lb. ground turkey
2 (14oz.) cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 cup water
3 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
¾ t. salt


1. rinse and peel onion and carrots, Peel garlic.
2. Rinse bell pepper. Remove core and seeds.
3. Dice onion, carrots, and bell pepper. Mince garlic
4. In colander, drain and rinse beans
5. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add Turkey and brown.
6. Add onion, carrots, bell pepper and garlic to pot. Cook until onions are soft and carrots are tender, about 5 min.
7. Add beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, and cumin to pot. Season with salt.
8. Lower heat to medium, cook until flavors have blended, about 15 min.

Nutrition Facts:
Serving size: 1 ¼ cups (336g.)
Servings per recipe: 6
Calories: 290


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