Find out how the James Beard-winning chef prioritizes healthy eating, exercise, and self-care.  

By Lauren Wicks
March 25, 2019
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Whether it’s through a favorite cooking show (Chopped, anyone?), a James Beard Award-winning cookbook, or one of his acclaimed restaurants, you’ve probably heard of Marcus Samuelsson’s famed culinary skills. The former White House chef was the youngest to receive a three-star rating from The New York Times when he was the executive chef at Aquavit in 1995 and hasn’t stopped since. But Samuelsson will be the first to admit finding balance in life is difficult.

“Balancing ‘healthy’ with a busy life is actually something you have to work at,” Samuelsson said. Here are a few ways Samuelsson has found balance that you can incorporate in your own life.

Prioritizing plant-based foods when possible

The chef and TV star says some weeks he overindulges when filming a food show for hours on end every day, but that’s a part of his job he can’t really change. Instead of stressing out or trying to consume a strict diet, Samuelsson simply cuts down on his animal protein intake and incorporates more vegan and vegetarian meals in his diet the following weeks.

Carving out time for exercise

While Samuelsson doesn’t get much alone time between being a business over, TV personality, and father, he says some of his best personal time is spent at the gym. To him, it’s a form of self-care and important for keeping him powered through jam-packed weeks. However, Samuelsson often finds himself running through the park with his son for physical activity, and loves to get a group together to play soccer or tennis.

Meal prepping on the weekends

Samuelsson’s meal prep routines don’t require hours in the kitchen on a much-needed day off. Rather, he likes to make shortcuts for himself by making a big stew at the beginning of the week—full of protein, veggies, and whole grains—or simply preparing a grain and purchasing quick-cooking proteins at the store. One of his favorite easy meals is prepped ramen, fresh veggies, and steamed fish.

Check out more from our On Balance series here:

Giving back

The Swedish-Ethiopian Samuelsson had a difficult childhood (as detailed in his memoir), losing his mother to illness and becoming separated from his family during the Ethiopian civil war. But he credits his adoption by a Swedish family (who taught him his love of cooking) with saving him.

Now, the chef spends much of his time giving back, as he knows how much it can mean to someone in need, through teaching culinary and life skills to students.

“I’m a guy that got a shot and was helped by an organization,” Samuelsson said. “I don’t really look at it as charity. That’s the work that really drives and fills a spiritual cup but is necessary in your community.

To find out more about Samuelsson’s story and ways he finds balance in his personal and family life, check out the full video above.

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