Among some of Hollywood’s A-list stars (Jessica Alba, Chelsea Handler and Jennifer Garner, to name a few), Kelly LeVeque is a household name. But the nutritionist-to-the-stars, wellness expert and author has built her practice, Be Well with Kelly on (ahem) easily-digestible advice that appeals to laypeople alike. Her all-purpose, infinitely customizable diet is based on what she calls the the Fab Four foods: a mix of protein, fat, fiber and greens in every meal.
In this way, LeVeque’s popularity is a no-nonsense, science-based approach that’s more of a lifestyle than an unachievable diet. While she designs tailor-made nutrition plans for each client, her core philosophy (more whole foods, fewer processed products) is the same for everyone. Through online courses, a podcast, a 2017 book and ongoing media appearances, she sings the gospel of down-to-earth health. No calorie-counting, no artificial ingredients and definitely no fad diets.
Now a mother with a business and a busy schedule, LeVeque strives to maintain a healthy life for herself, too. In this interview, she shares some of her go-to tips, tricks and routines that help her maintain her own health and happiness. (Spoiler: a key ingredient is flexibility.)
Linda Nyvltova: In addition to focusing on your Fab Four foods, how do you, as a wellness expert, prioritize your own self-care routine?
Kelly LeVeque: I actually learned a lot about this from my clients, who have really busy schedules. A lot of times it’s about block scheduling and negotiating with my husband for time and making sure that we have support. I think as women we want to do it all. We want to be the full-time mom, the entrepreneur, and take care of ourselves. When you’re holding that many balls in the air, one’s going to drop. With my husband, we’ve had to change our schedule as we’ve had kids and renegotiate ways to make time for ourselves.
[One] thing I love to do is my morning routine—it gets to happen on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That’s when my son goes to school; my husband’s days are Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. We are together as a family on Sunday. Today was my day, which meant that I got up and I had coffee with [my husband] Chris and had water and different supplements. And then Chris took over making breakfast and play while I jumped on my Tonal and did a little bit of a strength training workout and made my smoothie.
I have a fascia specialist down here named Dan Rawson and see him once or twice a week to make sure that I’m in alignment and feel the energy flowing. Plus, I love facials once a month. And a priority for me is getting in my sauna. A couple nights a week, before we start our bedtime [with the kids] I’ll click on my sauna and then when we put them down I’ll jump in before bed for 30 or 40 minutes to just enjoy some me-time and read a book. It’s never perfect, but including my family [in the process] is better than not getting in at all.
“It isn’t the same as it was before kids. It’s showing my children that I’m showing up for myself. Sometimes those workouts are interrupted; That’s how I get it done. It’s not having these expectations that it’s going to be perfect.”
It isn’t the same as it was before kids. It’s showing my children that I’m showing up for myself. Sometimes those workouts are interrupted; sometimes they want to help me fill the blender to make the smoothie. But I would say that my morning routine is a sacred ritual. My children wake up at five in the morning so [I work out] in front of them, as a family. That’s how I get it done. It’s not having these expectations that it’s going to be perfect.
I find that a lot of people just let it go—if [their routine isn’t perfect] they don’t do it. And unfortunately, that just means they’re not doing it.
LN: What is your approach to nutrition? In your view, what should a balanced life and integrating whole foods look like?
KL: For me it comes down to blood sugar balance, nutrient density, and how we feel. When we get caught up in diets, cleanses, or the next fad, we can be so hyper-focused on doing things in a quote-unquote perfect way. It may not be sustainable for our lifestyles.
You want to see what’s sustainable for your family and what habits you can bring in to help you attain health. For me, we looked at the simplicity of whole foods: clean, organic proteins if you can get your hands on them. Pasture-raised proteins, organic fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Mostly I really liked food in their whole form and putting together simple meals. I coach my clients to not think about trying to be Martha Stewart once every 10 days and instead get really comfortable making quick, simple meals so that you have nutrition available for your family that not only regulates hunger hormones, but it’s full of nutrients and supports you to go three or four hours between meals.
LN: Everyone has different needs and requirements. But what are some of your top things that we should try to avoid to be healthier?
KL: When it comes to thinking about what to keep out of your home, or trying to have less often, I think of processed carbohydrates. I think about processed sugars and added sugars. I think about processed flours. And I also think about processed oils like industrial seed oils. It’s really about the processing. Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein, fiber and fat [three of the Fab Four foods, in one bite]. But the minute we start trying to extract the oils from sunflower seeds harsh chemicals and heat, the end product can be inflammatory.
The hard part with processed foods is that they derail our ability to receive the cues from our body that we’re full. That’s when dysregulation can happen. So I’m not saying that we’re never gonna have a cookie or a premade dip. But if we can keep our home as a sanctuary for whole foods we can enjoy those [processed] foods without the stress and anxiety and remember that when you’re going out to a restaurant, it’s about your community and connection.
Every couple of months, take an inventory. Go through your pantry, your fridge, your freezer and [ask], did excess sugar sneak into my pantry or my fridge? Is there [a product] I thought was awesome but now realize is using inflammatory oils? You can then pull back on those and recommit [to eating more whole foods]. When people think about recommitting, they think it’s a failure. But recommitting is a strength, it’s a process in which we’re feeling re-motivated.
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LN: What would we find in your pantry?
KL: When I think about my kitchen in general, I think about Force of Nature meats. They do these amazing ancestral blends that have organ meats and ground meat. I also love Final Choice for fish and fish sticks. For the most part, I get all my protein delivered. Thrive Market also has an amazing protein sourcing option for anyone who needs it.
When I think about my refrigerator, I rely on foods like Primal Kitchen condiments. You’re also always going to find lemon spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, berries. My boys love the red ones, so raspberries and strawberries so those are in our fridge a lot. When it comes to our pantry, brands that I really love are those quick and easy protein. Or fat-based snacks that can satisfy my family—like cheese sticks from Chomps or Paleo Valley. I love the prepackaged olives from Thrive Market. I’m thankful for Siete tortillas.
I think about all those whole foods and how to make them fun and interesting. [For example], the way my parents used to make tacos for us. But with a lower-glycemic, higher-fiber type of a tortilla, or pasta that uses lentil flour. It’s going to make us more satisfied and you can still really enjoy those Italian meals.
But for the most part, it’s really a lot of roasted protein, roasted veggies and spiralized veggies. Really just trying to find interesting ways to play with the same things. I rely heavily on sauces to make things fun with homemade dressings and pestos. Lots of herbs—I’m a huge fan of dill, cilantro, parsley, chives, green onions. All of those things that make what would normally just be broccoli and veggies taste really flavorful.
LN: When it comes to kids, there are so many mixed messages in terms of what we should feed them? What is your approach when it comes to kids’ nutrition?
KL: First of all, sugar is highly palatable to them—sugar and carbohydrates. I mean, they are wired to eat that. Not only because it tastes way better to them in their youth, but it helps them grow.
When it comes to kids I’m always focused on getting protein in their first meal of the day. That could be having dinner for breakfast—they’re having eggs or we’re having some type of Force of Nature sausage. Or it could be a smoothie with a grass-fed beef isolate. [In every case] I’m looking for ways to get protein in my kids’ diet. That’s because if they can support their blood sugar balance, they have fewer tantrums and have better mood stability.
When it comes to parenting toddlers, this has been a game changer for me. My children don’t have dairy but that’s because they have [a sensitivity to it]. I recommend dairy to parents who have young children—dairy like grass-fed milk, grass-fed Greek yogurt or maybe an aged Parmesan. Dairy is actually a palatable protein and fat source that can be paired with, say, a cracker, or a cheese stick and some carrots.
LN: In addition to your ongoing projects and client work, what’s coming up for you, professionally?
KL: In the last year, I developed a grass-fed isolate, which is a minimal-ingredients protein powder made from geese. It’s a complete protein with 16 grams of collagen amino acids, so it replaces a protein powder and a collagen. Also, it’s not extracted from hexane [an organic compound that’s used to extract oils from seeds, among other uses]. I’m really proud of that.
I’ll be coming out with a [vegan] [bean] protein soon. I’m really excited.