"I am a coffee monster."
If you live in New York, there's a good chance you wake up with Jamie Stelter. The longtime traffic reporter crawls out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to co-host NY1's three-hour Mornings on 1 show, and do her part to make sure New Yorkers get where they need to with the least possible fuss on their morning commute. That would be a tough job for anyone, but Stelter tackles the task with a smile on her face, and a great big green juice in her hand. We asked her how she, husband Brian Stelter of CNN's Reliable Sources, and their baby Sunny manage to get together as a family and eat, and how she fuels herself for the long morning haul.
Extra Crispy: The first time we corresponded was ages ago when the publications where I worked highlighted your website TV Dinner, where you often wrote about treating your rheumatoid arthritis with diet. How are you feeling?
Jamie Stelter: The truth is that I don't eat nearly as clean as I used to. I'd be so much better off if I did. I waver back and forth between grain-free and gluten-free based on how I'm feeling. I sort of hit a great point where I learned how to banish it. I haven't had a major flare-up for a really long time, so I allow myself to slip off here and there. When I'm feeling any kind of inflammation or extra-tired or whatever, I know exactly what need to do to reel it back in for a little while.
So is food is a major factor in dealing with these physical issues?
One hundred percent. Most of my days start off perfectly healthy and then they sort of go off the rails. Because of my schedule because of the nature of how long and active our morning show is. I have to be really healthy in the morning hours. It's the only way I'll be able to maintain the energy that I need to to do my job.
What time does your day starts?
I wake up at 2:54 a.m. which seems random but is very heavily strategized. I am in the hair and makeup chair at work by either 3:30 or 3:45 a.m. depending on the day. I usually have two cups of coffee before the show starts and I don't consume food until the show starts and even then, I drink a giant green shake that I made the night before. I make one for me and one for Brian and that's usually all I'll have throughout the entire show. Sometimes I'll have a piece of fruit or a granola bar or a homemade energy bar or energy bite, but that's really it.
Does that count as breakfast for you?
I do consider it breakfast because it's my first nourishment of the day. I make the shake substantial. It's usually a spinach, lemon, banana, almond butter or whatever other supplements or fruit I might have that week. That's usually the base of it.
Is it delicious or is it something you have to make yourself do?
It's a lot better than people imagine. [Co-host] Pat Kiernan is always teasing me about it. Finally a few weeks ago I was like "Why don't you try it before you knock it?" He had a sip and he was like, "You know, it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be."
Hey once you've won Kiernan.
I think Brian is also a great barometer for it because he's not someone who naturally chooses the healthy thing, and I really think he enjoys the shake every day.
It's always complicated when you're a couple.
I am forever trying—not to "convince" him to eat healthy, because that doesn't give him enough credit—but I'm definitely the one who's talking about this new crazy green powder, or the one who's sneaking this weird new superfood into our shake and not telling him. I follow tons of random food and health and holistic people on Instagram so I'm constantly learning about new things and trying new things, and he's more the "OK I'll try it" guy. Luckily he's into everything I cook and feed him. He'll tell me if he doesn't love something but so far 95% of the time he likes what I make.
You have an addition to your family too! How has having a baby has changed your eating patterns?
We talk all the time about how we want to show Sunny what a healthy kitchen and a healthy meal and a healthy person looks like and acts like. We and her wonderful nanny make all of her food. She's luckily so far such a great eater, getting into real food now. The other night I made glazed salmon filets and she ate a half of one all by herself. I feed it to her piece by piece. It's a little bit of a dream of mine, that she'll have a little bit of whatever we're having. So far that's been going well. It's important to me that she has a good palate and a good excitement and understanding around food.
One of my most favorite things is on the weekend when I eat a real breakfast, and we eat it together. She eats scrambled eggs with some little cut-up pieces of avocado. We'll eat yogurt and almond butter together. That's fun for me. I've always dreamed of eating breakfast with my kid and having it be a healthy thing we all enjoy and appreciate.
How often is it that the three of you get to just sit down and be and nobody has to be anywhere?
We try and find our moments. With Sunny's schedule, we've found the times of day that we can all be together. She goes to bed early like I do. I try and make dinner most nights. Sometimes it winds up being Brian's lunch. We end up having some kind of family dinner around 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon. That's our moment and then Sunny goes to bed by 5:30 or 6 and then Brian and I will get to hang out, and then he's off to do his newsletter for a long time before he goes to sleep. I'm pretty good about getting seven or eight hours a night. It's the only way to survive.
Asking as somebody who sleeps incredibly poorly, what is your secret to getting that sleep in?
Having a schedule and being so diligent about it and having everyone in your life know that this something that's really important to you and your wellbeing. It's making everyone respect that. Brian knows I need to be in bed by 7, 7:30 or 8. He respects that and he's the one policing it. Between keeping up with the morning show hours and keeping up with Sunny, I don't have a choice. I need the sleep or I won't survive at all.
You doing a morning show means you are a figure in New Yorkers' everyday lives. Did you ever imagine that path?
I do love being a part of everyone's morning. I am a morning person through and through. My mom is a morning person. My daughter is a morning person. It's just in our blood. It is so special to wake people up every morning and have people spend that time with us. For example with the Eagles won the Super Bowl, I was inundated with messages from people who I have never met saying things along the lines of, "The only real Eagles fan I know is Jamie who I watch every morning who is a friend in my head, so I'm rooting for the Eagles." Much nicer than half of the people I actually know.
It's a gift to be able to spend people's mornings with them. The fact that I'm giving them information that they actually need and can use—I think that's a part of it, especially now with how bad the subways are, we're turned even more into someone or something that can help them through it a little bit.
When did you come to New York?
Right after college. I graduated in 2003 so it's going on 15 years. I so much have Philly in my blood and in my heart. But I am absolutely a New Yorker and that just comes from living here, going to the restaurants and museums and the park and having a child here, and meeting my husband here. This is my home. We're really lucky given to be able to raise a kid here in the city and hopefully I'll get to keep living here for a very long time.
Because you're a good New Yorker, and good New Yorkers love to share their advice and their wisdom, what would be the perfect New York breakfast you'd tell on out-of-towner to get?
You can go a few different ways. I'm a big fan of the Flame Diner and also La Bonbonniere in the West Village where I lived for many, many years. There's always the greasy spoon breakfast or Buvette, which is beautiful, delectable food in a really charming place.
At Buvette, you have to get the eggs, because they're the craziest, fluffiest, most amazing eggs in the world. I don't even know what sort of secret sauce they have in there—who knows if there is one? I dream about those eggs.
The secret is that they use the espresso maker to steam them.
Oh I did hear that! I'm still so cliche and I love an avocado toast. Cafe Gitane has the best avocado toast in town. That's the O.G.
I gather that you weren't a coffee person and became a coffee person.
I never had a sip of coffee until I became pregnant. I never understood what it was all about. The morning thing is just in my blood and I never had an issue with feeling awake. I was like oh man, those people, such a slippery slope, they drink so many cups of coffee. Then I got pregnant and I had never been that tired in my life. It was to my bones exhaustion. I was like I guess I should try this thing everyone talks about. Then I became addicted and now I am a coffee monster.
People ask me where I drink my coffee now. I don't get a chance to leisurely drink coffee. There's nothing I love more than being on vacation and leisurely drinking a cappuccino in the morning. For me now, I literally drink whatever I can get hands on in the fastest, strongest way possible. I have an espresso at home, I use a Nespresso at work, and that's the end-all-be be-all of my coffee game.