Eat Like an Olympian

Four-time gold medal Olympian Janet Evans shares her health and fitness secrets.

Janet Evans Olympian

John Strand Photography

Janet Evans
Rosemary Potatoes

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Former Olympic swimmer Janet Evans admits that she has drastically changed her eating and workout habits since retiring as a competitive athlete. As both a wife and mother, Janet finds that cooking for her family, controlling her portion sizes, and staying active are the best ways to achieve a balanced lifestyle. We asked Janet to share her insights on eating healthy, staying fit, and the 2008 Olympic games.

Q: What strategies do you use to eat healthfully?
A: I prefer to eat at home when possible so I know what exactly what's going into my food, and I can control the serving sizes. My husband also eats healthy so we try to achieve a balance of nutrients each day from fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and good fats. Of course, I love my occasional bowl of ice cream so I don't deprive myself of the foods I enjoy. But, I'm always conscious of my portion sizes, so if I have a larger lunch, I try to balance it out with a smaller dinner. I'm also a big breakfast advocate so I make sure my family eats a balanced breakfast each day.

Q: What are some of your favorite foods to prepare?
A: We do quite a bit of grilling. So, a dinner of grilled chicken breasts or lean steak with grilled vegetables or a large garden salad is pretty standard. I enjoy making my own salad dressings and marinades using fresh herbs and a healthy oil like canola oil. Smoothies packed with fresh berries are perfect for this time of year as either breakfast or a snack. I also love to make pasta with homemade tomato sauce.

Q: What do you do to stay fit now and what advice do you have to help motivate others to stay on track with their workouts?
A: When I retired from swimming in 1996, I didn't have a huge desire to get back in the pool so I ran, practiced yoga, and weight trained. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, I realized I missed swimming and started back. I now try to give myself 45 minutes to an hour each day in the pool. If swimming isn't your thing, just do what you can to get your heart rate up. Go outside and take a brisk walk or jog in your neighborhood. Ride bikes with your children. You don't need a fancy gym to be active–just get outside and move around. Or, do lunges, squats, sit ups, or stretch cords at home when you're watching television.

Q: You do quite a bit of motivational speaking all over the world. How do you manage to eat healthy and stay fit on the road?
A: I'll admit that I have a hard time eating healthy on the road. I usually try to stick to basic foods like fruits and vegetables and lean turkey sandwiches when I'm at the airport. I also try to eat before I fly out and pack healthy snacks in my bag. When eating out, I try to make healthy choices and keep an eye on portion sizes. As far as staying fit, I always pack my swimsuit and have found that most hotels have a pool so I can get a daily swim in. My husband also travels and packs his running shoes, so if the hotel doesn't have a gym, he can go for a run outside.

Q: Are there any specific foods you are looking forward to trying while visiting and working at the Olympics in Beijing?
A: Eating on the road is always a challenge, especially when I'm not familiar with the cuisine. But I've heard so many people talking about the Peking Duck in China that it has definitely sparked my interest. I've never thought of myself as a big fan of duck, but I'm excited to try something new.

Q: What are your predictions for the USA Swim Team?
We have an incredible team of athletes this year that I believe can take home quite a few medals. The men's team could possibly win 12 to 13 events. The women have more competition than ever before, especially from the Italians, Japanese, and Australians. I think they will put on a fantastic showing but I'm anxious to see who pulls through. Keep an eye on distance swimmer, Kate Ziegler, from the USA. My 800 meter record still stands and I'm hoping that if it falls this year, it will be to her.

Q: What has been the highlight of your career?
A: Hands down, my highlight was carrying the Olympic torch during the 1996 Opening Ceremonies in Atlanta. The athletes don't know who will be bringing the torch to them and who they will be passing it to. So, you can only imagine my complete exhilaration when Evander Holyfield entered the stadium and then passed the flame to me. I ran for about two minutes around half of the track and up the podium to Muhammad Ali, who lit the cauldron symbolizing the beginning the games. As I stood next to Muhammad Ali, I remember thinking that I had spent my whole life believing I was supposed to win but when I saw the thousands of other athletes and realized they, too, had the same goal, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride. Although that while not everyone would win, we were all here for the same goal–to respect and represent our country and each other.

Janet Evans retired from competitive swimming in 1996 and resides with her husband and daughter in Orange County, California. She is still considered the best female distance swimmer in United States history. Janet is a business woman and worldwide motivational speaker. She is sponsored by canolainfo.org, Speedo, Johnson & Johnson, GNC, and USA Swimming– Make a Splash.

 

By: Holley Johnson, M.S., R.D., Food Editor, MyRecipes.com
Aug, 2008
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