It's hard to resist headlines that promise to reveal what stars like Jessica Alba and Jenna Dewan Tatum eat in a day—in hopes of discovering their dietary secrets to flat abs and glowy skin. (If only it were that simple!) But as a nutritionist who works with celebrities, I strongly advise against copying exactly what they eat in a day. Let me explain why.
First and foremost, what works for a particular star may not be what works for you. Sure, adopting your favorite celeb's general diet philosophy (say, clean eating or vegetarianism) may help you reach your healthy goals. But the specific foods and portions you consume—as well as how often you eat per day—should be based on your own age, height, weight (or weight goal), and physical activity level. And of course, you need to factor in your own food sensitivities (to dairy, for example, or gluten) and personal preferences. (It's totally fine if you're not quite as enthusiastic about green juice as Julianne Hough.)
What's more, just because a celebrity looks long and lean doesn’t mean her diet is optimal. I've noticed that some celebs' food diaries are overly restrictive: Their daily meals and snacks fail to supply an adequate amount of calories and nutrients for the needs of most active women.
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Meanwhile, other celebs log indulgences that an average person who doesn’t work out for hours a day may not be able to enjoy without gaining weight. And of course, a sample menu from one day in the life of a star not even be an accurate record of what they actually eat on a regular basis. It may be what they consider an ideal menu, or represent how they're eating temporarily to get ready for a role (in other words, not a sustainable plan).
And remember that aside from diet, there are many other factors that affect how a celebrity looks, from her genes to her training regimen and any cosmetic treatments she's had.
Bottom line: Eating like a famous person won’t transform your physique into theirs. So sure, read those food diaries to satisfy your curiosity (and take the info with a grain of salt), but as the saying goes, you do you.
Following these three simple rules will help you get just what your body needs, so you can feel and look your best.
Focus on high-quality, whole, fresh foods
In addition to packing a broad spectrum of nutrients, whole foods better support your metabolism, and they're more likely to fill your belly. (If you’ve ever felt hungry again shortly after eating junk food, you know exactly what I mean!).
Personalize your plan
Pay attention to how your body responds to what you're eating—and how much, and how often. For example, maybe you feel better when you include some organic eggs and salmon in your diet, rather than being strictly vegan. Or maybe your body runs better on four meals a day. Notice these types of details and use them to tailor your diet.
Tune into your hunger, fullness, and energy cues
Ideally you should feel a mild to moderate level of hunger when you start eating; and full (but not stuffed), satisfied, and energized between meals.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
Nutrition – Health.com