How These Chefs Stay Healthy (When They're Surrounded By Food All Day)


Watching calories is no easy feat when you’re in the food biz. Here’s how 11 chefs manage to stay healthy amid all the temptation. (Photo: Getty Images/Jetta Productions)

Imagine being surrounded by decadent cakes, buttery steaks, scrumptious pies, and creamy pastas day in and day out. Sure, it may sound like a foodie’s paradise — but for those working in the restaurant industry, this is also a daily reality. But just like any craftsman wanting to produce the perfect product, chefs must consume the foods they cook on a regular basis to ensure its up tot their standards — which, unsurprisingly, can spell disaster for the waistline.

But this doesn’t always have to be the case — in fact, we talked with 11 chefs who have learned to stay healthy and fit despite the daily temptations. They shared with Yahoo Health their tips and tricks, so you can adopt them for yourself.

1. Watch Those Liquid Calories

When Tom Costello, executive chef and owner of Thyme restaurant in Yorktown Heights, NY, was diagnosed with celiac disease, he had to take drastic measures to change his diet.

"Before being diagnosed with celiac, I was tempted mostly by bread and pasta since it’s always available in the kitchen," Costello tells Yahoo Health. "But, another item that’s always around that I was still allowed to have was soda. And it’s easy to consume several days worth of sugar in one shift."


Tom Costello is owner and executive chef of Thyme restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Tom Costello)

He recommends skipping the liquid calories of sugary drinks, and instead loading up on greens and healthy protein like shrimp and chicken.

2. Eat Well ‘Most Of The Week’

Like most of us, chef Julian Medina of Toloache and Yerba Buena restaurants in New York City has a weakness for tacos. Only difference between us and him — his culinary prowess has enabled him to establish a business based on his Latin food know-how. But how does he resist temptation when his kitchen is constantly churning out tacos filled with lobster, shrimp, brisket and cactus?


Julian Medina is the chef-owner of Yerba Buena and Toloache restaurants. (Photo courtesy of Julian Medina)

"I eat well most of the week," Medina tells Yahoo Health. "When I cook for myself during the week I like healthier food, and constantly am trying to make healthier food taste more satisfying. Then I splurge here and there." This mentality removes the constricting nature of a diet making it easier to stick to over time.

Related: What Nutritionists Pack For Lunch

3. Don’t Deprive Yourself

Chef Adrianne Calvo of Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar in Miami, Florida, has made a name for herself through her hearty and flavorful dishes. She finds inspiration for her international fare through lots of traveling — and lots of tasting of food. But instead of feeling guilt, Calvo has instead adopted a philosophy of balance.


Adrianne Calvo is the owner of Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar. (Photo courtesy of Adrianne Calvo)

“I don’t deprive myself of my cravings and junk foods,” she tells Yahoo Health. Instead, she limits the frequency with which she has these dietary splurges, and makes sure to get in some exercise when she knows she’s in for a calorific meal.

4. Stay Active

For Will Artley of BLT Steak in Washington, D.C., has to sample decadent foods like butter-poached lobster and Wagyu A-5 beef on a regular basis. But as you might expect, such caloric foods led to weight gain for Artley — and a realization he had to get healthy.


Will Artley is the chef at BLT Steak restaurant. {Photo courtesy of Will Artley)

"It’s always good to remember that food is fuel for our body," he tells Yahoo Health. "So, if you are constantly putting bad fuel in, it’s going to be a rough run." Artley ended up dropping 100 pounds by becoming more active and training for a triathlon. "You have to be active in some form or another," he says. The chef is now competing in his third Ironman.

5. Eat Smalls Meals Throughout The Day

As executive chef for the Gerber Group properties, David Nichols has to be well-versed in a variety of cuisines and always on the hunt for the latest food trends. This requires tasting different things all the time — which is actually something Nichols credits to staying healthy.


David Nichols is the executive chef of the Gerber Group. (Photo courtesy of David Nichols)

"I constantly taste all the dishes I cook," he tells Yahoo Health. "I think eating smaller meals more often throughout the day is a great approach. If I wait to eat something when I am starving, I tend to eat so much more." Grazing throughout the day prevents feelings of ravenous hunger — and, as a result, binge eating.

6. Learn How To Season Properly

NYC hotspot David Burke Kitchen is known for its rustic flavors, and executive chef Chris Shea credits proper seasoning to helping keep him in shape.


Chris Shea is executive chef of David Burke Kitchen. (Photo courtesy of Chris Shea)

"When you start to fully grasp how to find balance between healthy fats like olive oil and acids [such as in citrus and vinegar], and use herbs, spices, and aromatics to flavor, you start to find healthy foods to be the most desired and the most delicious," he tells Yahoo Health. By learning to properly season your foods with a variety of spices, you can turn a bland vegetable into a culinary delight. (Bonus: Most spices have their own health benefits!)

Related: A Healthy Diet Doesn’t Have To Be Drastic! Why It Pays To Be Semi-Vegetarian

7. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

For Liz Williams, pastry chef at Relais & Châteaux ‘s Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, it’s not the sweets that are her downfall — it’s a lack of H2O. “I find that when I let myself get dehydrated is when I start to munch on whatever is closest,” she tells Yahoo Health. “As long as my water glass is full, I’m less likely to grab something bad for me.”


Liz Williams is pastry chef at Relais & Châteaux ‘s Blackberry Farm. (Photo courtesy of Liz Williams)

Many people often mistake thirst for hunger, leading us to overeat. If you think you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water first and see if that hunger dissipates. (And of course, staying properly hydrated anyway is good for optimal body functioning — it’s generally recommended to get nine cups of total beverages a day for women and 13 cups for men.)

8. Make It A Rule To Always Have One Dark Green Vegetable With Your Meal

Whether you’re eating pasta or meat, Queen of the Night and Diamond Horseshoe executive chef Jason Kallert says to always have a dark green vegetable along with it. Adding spinach, kale, broccoli, broccoli rabe, or collard greens to your meals ensures you’re getting your nutrients — and also helps you not fill up on the less-healthy items on your plate.


Jason Kallert is executive chef of the Diamond Horseshoe in New York City. (Photo courtesy of Jason Kallert)

Kallert offers a pro tip to maximize the taste and benefits of greens: “If your protein has a lot of fat (rib-eye, short rib, pork belly), steam your green vegetable,” he tells Yahoo Health. “If you choose a lean protein (tuna, chicken, salmon), sauté your vegetable in olive oil.”

9. Don’t Go For Pre-Cooked

It may seem a little cliché for a chef to tell you to cook your own meals, but master chocolatier Christophe Toury of Voila Chocolat in New York City says that’s the secret to staying healthy. “My mother always used to say, ‘What’s on your plate should have been in the garden 10 minutes ago,’” Toury tells Yahoo Health.


Christophe Toury is master chocolatier at Voila Chocolat. (Photo courtesy of Christophe Toury)

Consider how many of today’s ills have been linked with eating processed foods, he says. So even if you are having chicken and potatoes for dinner, having fresh chicken and potatoes is better than something from the frozen food aisle or fast food joint down the road. “I always had a strong understanding of where my food was coming from,” Toury says.

10. Eat Different Things All The Time

Marc Murphy, chef of Landmarc and Ditch Plains restaurants in New York City and judge on the Food Network show Chopped, grew up traveling all around the world. This not only helped him develop items for his menus, but also discover a secret to staying healthy.

"I vary my diet," he tells Yahoo Health. "I constantly remember what I had that week. I had pork one night, duck another night and I’ll realize I didn’t have steak that week, so I’ll have a steak. You can’t go out and have steak six nights a week or else you won’t feel so good."


Marc Murphy is the chef of several New York City restaurants and is also a frequent judge on the Food Network show “Chopped.” (Photo courtesy of Marc Murphy)

Take a cue from Murphy and make sure you’re eating lots of different foods throughout the week. After all, each food has its own benefit — each fruit and vegetable has its own unique abundance of nutrients, as do different kinds of protein (meat and eggs have vitamin B12, fish has omega-3s, and so on). Plus, the variety will keep you from getting bored and keep you mindful about what you’re eating.

11. Realize That Sweets May Not Be The Culprit Of Weight Gain

Pastry chef Thiago Silva from EMM Group’s CATCH and Lexington Brass has it pretty tough: It’s his job to make and eat sweets. While this sounds awesome in theory, it ultimately led to Silva putting on weight.


Thiago Silva is pastry chef at CATCH NYC and Lexington Brass restaurants. (Photo courtesy of Thiago Silva)

But Silva has lost 50 pounds in the past year while still making all of his delicious desserts and crazy celebrity cakes. He knew he couldn’t stop eating sweets because of the nature of his job, but he was able to cut out another culprit of his weight gain: Coke and fries.

Silva realized that sweets aren’t necessarily the main culprits for weight gain. “I only eat sugar for work and keep it out of my diet at home,” he tells Yahoo Health. “Even though I’m having some every day, it’s in moderation and I’ve removed other bad things from my diet.”

Up Next: How To Stop Overeating