It seems impossible that a 24-year-old could have 14 years of experience in food and nutrition. But Taylor Riggs had to start paying attention to her eating habits early in life.

It seems impossible that a 24-year-old could have 14 years of experience in food and nutrition. But Taylor Riggs had to start paying attention to her eating habits early in life.


The Columbus resident’s Type 1 (or juvenile) diabetes was diagnosed when she was 10. Keeping a careful watch on her blood sugar levels and carbohydrate intake became a way of life.


Now a dietitian and nutritionist, Riggs is about to introduce her first cookbook, “Real Food, Real Simple” (Page Street Publishing, 192 pages, $21.99); it’s filled with recipes she developed to help keep healthy.


Between her sophomore and junior years at Ohio State University, Riggs, a Hillard native, began experimenting with the Paleo Diet, which promotes eating the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have.


The Paleo plan is heavy on meat and fish and rich in fruits and vegetables; it contains little or no grains.


The diet boasts such positive effects on insulin and blood sugar levels that Riggs decided try it — with incredible results, she said.


Riggs required less insulin than ever, as her blood sugar levels were stable and she felt better than ever.


Riggs even started a recipe blog, Taylor Made It Paleo, where she shared her recipe creations.
Eventually, though, Riggs wanted to try to add a few foods back into her diet that are not part of the strict Paleo plan, including cheese and the occasional sweet.


She was reluctant at first, because she had had so much success, but she eventually was able to create her own way of eating that incorporated many aspects of the Paleo plan as well as other foods.


She also changed the name of her blog to Simply Taylor, to reflect her philosophy of healthful eating with whole foods.


The blog caught the attention of Page Street and the publisher approached her with the idea of a cookbook.


Riggs, who works in the health-coach program at Quantum Health Medical Management, said her experience as a dietitian has taught her that nutrition is highly personalized; there are no one-size-fits-all plans.


“I truly believe it’s all about finding a balance that works well for you,” she said, “and I encourage everyone to do so in the book.”


The 80 recipes are Paleo-friendly and gluten-free, but they also focus on getting meals on the table quickly for busy people. Each recipe is completed in five steps or fewer.


The bigger focus, Riggs said, is about eating foods in their natural state and “eliminating the processed and packaged foods.”


Riggs’ book, set for release on Jan. 3, will be available through major booksellers and online sites.


Below are two recipes from the book.


— Lisa Abraham is the Dispatch food editor.


SPAGHETTI SQUASH VEGETABLE PIZZA BAKE
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 large spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can (15 ounces) pizza sauce
1/2 cup Homemade Basil Pesto (recipe follows)
1 cup red pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup green pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Dried oregano and basil, to taste
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (optional)


Heat the oven to 400 degrees.


Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Drizzle the insides with olive oil and place face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife slides easily into the back of the squash.


Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Once cool, remove the strings from the squash using a fork, holding the squash vertically and repeating a downward scraping motion starting from the top and moving toward the bottom.


Remove the excess water from the strings by pressing them against a fine strainer or in a thin layer between two paper towels.


In a large bowl, combine the squash, eggs, coconut flour, salt and pepper to form the crust mixture. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, form the mixture into a large crust, about 1/8-inch thick.


Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread the pizza sauce evenly over the crust, followed by the basil pesto, vegetables, garlic, seasonings and cheese. Return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly tender and the cheese has melted.


PER SERVING (based on 4): 498 calories, 15 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 10 g fiber, 12 g sugars, 36 g fat ( 9 saturated), 115 mg cholesterol, 773 mg sodium


HOMEMADE BASIL PESTO
Makes 1/2 cup
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 cups fresh basil, lightly packed
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend on high until creamy, about 1 minute.