A good friend of mine owns a fitness studio in St. Louis, and she recently asked me if I had ever written a blog post about how to fit healthy foods into daily life, with simple, "realistic" recipes. (Good question!) She said a lot of her clients are really into clean eating, but they feel like they need to adhere to a super-strict "bikini body-builder" diet in order to do that. I had a good laugh thinking about what a bikini body-builder would eat (protein shakes? grilled chicken breasts? raw egg whites?) and then tried to think of how I would define healthy eating in my own life.

Last March, you may recall, I did a whole series called #marchwellness, which focused on healthy, clean eating. For one month, Brandon and I eliminated all sorts of potentially imflammatory foods including dairy, sugar, alcohol, most gluten, most red meat, and nearly all processed foods. (I couldn't bear to give up caffeine, so that stayed!) We drank tons of water and loads of veggies, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. I blogged about health-related topics that month, and encouraged my readers to join #marchwellness with us. (Check out our #marchwellness infogram here, on what to eat and what to avoid.)

We weren't, however, aiming to maintain this restrictive diet forever. It was more of an effort to see if this elimination process would help Brandon feel better. And I think a little spring cleaning for the body is good idea for anybody! However, unless you have serious health issues, eating in such a restrictive manner all the time is not exactly sustainable. It can also be isolating, as well, when you're at a dinner party and the host is serving lasagna and you ask for salad, hold the dressing.


This is why I've adopted the 80/20 rule. (I realize I did not coin this phrase. Brandon just told me it's an economic rule called "Pareto's Principle." Anyway.) I eat healthfully about 80% of the time – in the most delicious way possible! – and the other 20% of the time, I eat whatever I want. If I'm craving pizza, I'll have pizza. Afternoon cookie? Sure. But the rest of the time, I'm eating good-for-me stuff like kale and avocado salads, grilled salmon, quinoa and roasted veggies, fruits, nuts, and lentil soup. When I'm eating a day-to-day diet full of nutrient-rich foods, I not only feel better, but I can enjoy a not-so-healthy treat every once in awhile and know that the world's not going to end.

To be honest, in the past, I've definitely struggled with food and body image issues. That's maybe for another post, but I used to feel crushing amounts of guilt for eating a dessert and/or for skipping a workout. These days, my approach is so much more relaxed. I truly do eat what I want, but because I eat predominately fresh, natural foods, that's mostly what I crave. If I go for a run, it's because I love the way it makes me feel, not because I'm punishing myself for eating a brownie. I never weigh myself, but I'm pretty much the exact same size I've been since college. Only with a way healthier mindset!

With no further ado, here's a normal (week)day of eating Chez Carl, with links to some of my favorite, go-to simple, healthy, recipes. You'll notice that rather than 3 huge meals per day, I usually have a big breakfast, a small lunch, and a small dinner, with little snacks in between. I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to ask questions below in the comments section!


My favorite meal of the day!! I'm not big on savory in the morning, so my go-to breakfast is coffee with milk + sprouted toast with crunchy almond butter, a drizzle of raw honey, and sliced banana. And usually a little dish of blueberries on the side.

Other favorites:

*Green Smoothie

*Greek yogurt with Maple-Pecan Granola + Berries

*Steel-cut oatmeal with dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of brown sugar

For those of you who like eggs:

*Spinach & goat cheese frittata

*Soft-fried egg over sauteed kale


*Half a banana + a spoon of almond butter


*Handful of almonds


*Apple slices + chunk of cheese (I love aged Gouda!)


For lunch, I try and keep some cooked grains (like quinoa, farro, or barley), roasted chicken, shredded veggies, and salad greens in the fridge so I can just toss a quick salad or wrap together.

*Detox Salad: Kale with Quinoa, Carrots, Red Cabbage, and Avocado

*Spelt Wrap with Roasted Chicken, Dijon, Avocado, Radicchio, and Arugula

*Sprouted Lentil Soup with Kale + Whole Grain Bread

*Black Bean Soup + 1/2 Whole Wheat Goat Cheese Quesadilla

*Avocado Toasts with Veggies


*Early Gray Tea

*2 Speculoos Cookies (or something sweet)


While I'm cooking, I'll usually have a pre-dinner glass of wine and maybe some cheese and crackers. For dinner, I love having some sort of grilled or roasted fish with roasted veggies or a big salad. In the winter, I'm a sucker for slow-cooked ragus, stews, and creamy polenta.

*Honey-Dijon Roasted Salmon with Red Quinoa, Butternut Squash, & Spinach

*Spinach Salad with Cara Cara Oranges & Roasted Chicken

*Sausage Ragu with Parmesan Polenta + Arugula, Fennel, & Radicchio Salad

*Whole Wheat Chicken Pot Pies with Kale

*Tuscan White Bean Soup with Swiss Chard

*Linguine Carbonara with Garlicky Greens

*Roasted Branzino with Brussels Sprouts


*A few squares of 85% dark chocolate

*Fresh raspberries

*Herbal Tea

(Food photos by Signe Birck; photo of moi by Nate Poekert)