Secrets of the Marathon Chefs

Discover the tastiest ways to fuel your body from four kitchen wizards who regularly tackle the big 26.2

by Peter Jaret

art smith chef
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The Secret: Comfort Food

Art Smith (PB 4:22) on how to run on lighter, healthier high-grade fuel

"Running  saved my life," says Smith, who was Oprah Winfrey's personal chef for 10 years. Until four years ago, he overindulged in all his favourite comfort foods. And it showed. At 23st, he had type II diabetes and high blood pressure. "I knew I had to do something," he says. So he started walking, then run-walking, then eventually running.

"The recipe for healthy eating isn't that complicated," says Smith. "The less processed, the better." As the pounds slipped off, his blood pressure returned to normal and the diabetes vanished. In 2010, he ran his first marathon. "When I finished my second one even faster, I knew I could do anything," says Smith.

And while Smith's diet is much healthier, he hasn't given up his favourite comfort foods. "When people think healthy, they think of a salad. But that's not the only choice. It's easy to remake things like burgers, fried chicken and burritos into meals that don't go over the top on calories." Here's how Smith does it.

Start simple

"Recipes with just a few ingredients are the easiest to adapt," says Smith. Try simple soups - it's easy to reduce the high-fat dairy and salt, and boost healthy ingredients like vegetables or wholegrains.

Comfort fix: To make a guilt-free version of sweetcorn chowder, reduce the amount of cream in your usual recipe and add a dollop of cashew nut butter, which contains heart-healthy oils.

Pack in veg

Many runners don't eat enough fruit and veg. Smith, who loves vitamin-rich asparagus and broccoli, adds veggies to every meal.

Comfort fix:
Use broccoli and spinach as toppings for homemade pizzas.

Make meat a treat

Cutting back on the amount of meat in your comfort food favourites will reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

Comfort fix: Instead of using sausage in your pasta sauce, add cannellini or haricot beans. In burgers, swap half the quantity of beef for lentils.

Try Smith's southern unfried chicken or his steel-cut oatmeal risotto.

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