Ariana Kukors: Olympian to Everyday Food Fanatic

Food Saturday, July 20, 2013 Written by

Ariana Kukors is an Olympic swimmer, world-record holder and Pacific Northwest native who is working with LifeWise to promote healthy living. Follow along on her journey to live an active and healthy life. 

I grew up in a “no-candy family.” It was rare to find any of the super-fun, super-delicious, super-unhealthy sugar-coated cereals in our pantry. From a very young age, my parents instilled in me the value of healthy foods and an active lifestyle. Family dinners were a priority, and sack lunches for school were a given.

When I moved out on my own, I took the early lessons my parents taught me and became passionate about food and how it affects my body. As an athlete I needed to make sure my body was fueled properly to endure five to seven hours of physical activity every day. My meals were planned out to include everything I needed to keep my body in peak performance mode.

How I approach Food Now

Now that I’ve hung up my swimsuit, I spend a lot of time re-thinking my approach to meals and nutrition. Last fall, I decided to learn as much as I could, stocking my library with every health book you could possibly imagine. I wanted to figure out what foods allowed my body to perform best, and more importantly, what foods made me FEEL best.

Through trial and error, I have found that the perfect balance for me is to stick to a vegetarian diet for three days a week, while incorporating meat on the other four days. I’ve found that I feel the strongest eating this way. As I’m trying new food regimes, I always pay close attention to changes in my skin, my energy levels and my sleep patterns. It’s important to be in tune with your body and listen to what it truly craves!

Small Changes You Can Make

While most of us have good intentions with our diets, we all know that we live in a busy world. Quick and convenient foods usually trump healthy when we are just trying to get through the day. It’s important to identify small changes you can make each day that will lead to a healthier you in the long run. For instance:

  • How about an apple instead of a bag of chips?
  • Some carrots and hummus instead of that cookie?
  • A breakfast smoothie instead of those pancakes?

This is, of course, all easier said than done. However, if you can make these little changes, you’ll have more energy and feel better.

Healthy On-The-Go Snack Ideas

When I’m on the go and need a quick and healthy fix, here are some of my go-to snacks.

  • Raw nuts and dried fruit
  • Cut up veggies
  • Rice cakes with almond butter

Also, having your fridge stocked with ready-to-eat veggies and fruit can help in a snack attack!

Post Work-Out Snacks

What you eat after a workout is even more important. A healthy snack full of protein and carbohydrates will help your muscles recover faster. Here are a few of my favorite post-exercise snacks, which I usually eat within 30 minutes after a workout.

  • Organic chocolate milk
  • Sliced turkey
  • A protein bar
  • A piece of fruit

Happy healthy eating!