With the royal wedding in our rear-view mirror, all eyes continue to be on Meghan Markle, the former American actress and new Duchess of Sussex who made history when she married Prince Harry on May 19, 2018.
While the tabloids will undoubtedly continue to focus on Markle’s fashion, what’s also been of interest since she first entered the spotlight is her diet.
Luckily for Markle, she reportedly had healthy — and totally sensible — eating habits long before she met her new husband. (Indeed, if rumors are to be believed, she even convinced Prince Harry to give up pizza — now, that’s true love.)
“It’s refreshing to hear a celebrity focusing on what to eat instead of what not to eat,” says Angela Lemond, RDN, a nutritionist in private practice in Dallas. “We need more celebrities focusing on empowering messages around food and eating.”
Markle was a foodie first, and her attitude toward balanced eating is as healthy as her mostly plant-based diet. Both are sure to help her look slim, glowing, and calm as she carries out her duties in the royal family.
We asked the pros to weigh in on 10 of her dieting rules, and here’s what they said:
1. The Future Princess Follows a Vegan Diet (Most of the Time)
The duchess told Best Health in 2016 that she tries to maintain a vegan diet during the week, though she may splurge on the weekends. But letting plants take center stage in her diet is a great approach, experts agree — and not just because nixing meat tends to be associated with a lower body mass index (BMI), a common measure of body fat. “Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), certain types of cancer, and obesity,” says Ginger Hultin, RD, a nutritionist in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The key to eating vegan in a healthy way is getting a variety of nutrients primarily from fresh, whole foods, and supplementing when needed. For example, some vegans and vegetarians are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
But Markle’s flexible, “vegan-ish” approach means she’s less likely to suffer from such deficiencies. “What I like is that she doesn’t have an “allowed” list and an “avoid” list, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a nutritionist in New York City, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table. “If she is avoiding animal protein, it’s by preference.”
One final perk a humanitarian like Markle likely enjoys: knowing that plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than those that include many animal products. Compared with diets with meat, vegan and vegetarian diets make use of fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage, Hultin says.
2. She Munches on Smart Snacks, Like Whole Fruit With Nut Butter
Elite Daily reported in January 2018 that one of Markle’s favorite snacks is apple slices with almond butter and sea salt. “This is a fantastic snack,” says Amy Gorin, RDN, the owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, New Jersey. “Apples provide satiating fiber, and almond butter offers filling, healthy fat, protein, and more fiber. Salt can accentuate sweetness, so adding a small amount is completely fine.”
3. Her Afternoon Pick-Me-up Is Green Juice, Not Coffee
In a 2016 interview with Delish, Markle copped to using green juice to amp herself up instead of an afternoon coffee. It’s certainly a step up from the days she touted Clean Cleanse shakes, especially because she doesn’t seem to take the whole juicing thing too seriously. “Green juice can be a nice way to hydrate and also take in vitamins and minerals from the veggies,” says Hultin, who approves of the duchess’ go-to combo of apple, kale, spinach, ginger, and lemon.
“With any juice, having more veggie content than fruit will help lower the calorie and sugar content,” says Hultin. If you gravitate toward bottled juices, make sure to check the label for a balance (and don’t forget to note the serving size, too).
Gorin agrees but issues a word of warning about juicing. “Ginger is an herb that has a spicy kick to it, which can feel energizing,” she says, adding juices can be a great way to pack more fruit and veggies into your diet. But, Gorin points out, juices lack the satiating fiber and protein that will keep the munchies at bay, so you may want to supplement with a blended drink that includes cashew yogurt or edamame for protein, and avocado or blueberries for fiber.
3. Markle Loves Drinking Gut-Friendly Kombucha Tea
Markle told Mind Body Green that she’s a fan of kombucha, a lightly effervescent fermented tea. “It has a slightly vinegary flavor that some people enjoy,” says Hultin. It’s also a natural source of the gut-friendly probiotics that have been shown to help with digestion — and may help calm pre-wedding nerves.
The research is still trickling in on those benefits, says Hultin, but one thing is certain: Kombucha does contain residual alcohol at low levels, so it’s not something that dietitians advise swigging during pregnancy. In fact, drinking kombucha is likely one of the habits Markle gave up when she found out she was pregnant.
4. She Hearts Her Omega-3s Almost as Much as She Does Harry
A California native, Markle also told Best Health that sashimi — think sushi but without the white rice — is her ideal lunch. “Seafood like tuna offers heart-healthy omega-3s, so including it in your diet is great,” says Gorin. It’s so healthy, plenty of vegetarians or vegans make an exception to include it in their diet (a style of eating known as pescatarianism).
Gorin cautions that while sashimi is a great way to save calories, “I’d want to make sure that she’s eating other food groups with her lunch. So for instance, she could pair sashimi with a seaweed salad and also some brown rice for additional fiber.”
5. Markle Makes Hydration a Priority in Her Diet
Back when she was an actress on the set of USA Network’s TV show Suits, Markle liked to start her day with hot water with lemon, according to a story published in March 2018 in Harper’s Bazaar. As a British royal, she may have to switch to tea, but she’ll probably still try to drink 2 liters of plain water a day. “Drinking your water however you prefer it helps you stay hydrated — and hydration is super important for many reasons,” says Gorin.
“If adding lemon to your water makes plain H20 more palatable, go for it! We know from preliminary research that drinking water, especially before meals, can help you feel fuller and possibly help you eat less,” Gorin adds. For instance, one randomized controlled trial published in the journal Obesity found that people who drank water before eating low-calorie meals lost 44 percent more weight over a 12-week period than those who followed the low-calorie diet alone.
6. Markle Doesn’t Skimp on Antioxidants
This is probably pretty clear if you’ve ever seen a photo of Markle — skin that flawless is well fed. Markle has gone on the record with Delish saying that avoiding gluten makes a definite difference, but we’re betting her love of acai and other berries helps, too.
The former actress reportedly digs acai berries, which are high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. “They’re great mixed with yogurt, low-sugar granola, and other fruit,” says Lemond. Their vibrant purple color has made them an Instagram darling, but Lemond cautions that some of the gorgeous acai bowls you scroll through may rack up calories, so always check the portion size and ingredients for added sugars.
Also, if exotic berries don’t fit your less-than-royal budget, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are perfectly serviceable substitutes. And they have the same plant-derived compounds, known as polyphenols, that can help protect skin from damage caused by age and sun, according to a review published in June 2014 in the journal Food & Function.
7. She’d Choose a Glass of Red Wine Over Cake Any Day
We knew we liked this girl. Markle famously enjoys red wine so much, she named her now-defunct lifestyle website The Tig after her favorite Italian brand, Tignanello, she told the blog Eye Swoon in November 2017. “Red wine is heart healthy!” Lemond says. And consciously choosing to have a glass in lieu of a sweet dessert is a great example of eating mindfully and keeping liquid calories in check. Just keep in mind that when it comes to drinking alcohol, moderation is key, and if you aren’t already drinking, don’t do so with the aim of being healthier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends.
RELATED: Is Red Wine Really Good for You?
8. Markle Appreciates a Good Kitchen Hack for Cooking
Markle may be a foodie, and royalty, but she’s not above busting out boxed foods.
She told Today.com in June 2012 that she preps meals at the beginning of the week by cooking a box of packaged quinoa that she upgrades with sautéed veggies, and then seasons with crushed red pepper and chopped fresh herbs.
“She seems to eat fresh much of the time, but doesn’t feel like a failure for eating out of a package,” Lemond says. “She finds ways to eat healthy food in flavorful ways that are quick. That’s exactly how you make it happen!”
Quinoa is a seed, so it contains protein and complete amino acids that a lot of plant foods don’t have. In addition, a study published in March 2015 in the journal BMC Medicine found that eating a daily bowl of quinoa may play a role in reducing the risk of early death from cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes by 17 percent.
9. She Loves Carbs, so No Ketogenic Diet for Her!
Unlike her grandmother-in-law, who reportedly swears off all starches, Markle is on the record as a carb lover, she told Best Health. That way of thinking represents a clear break from the increasingly trendy ultra-low-carb ketogenic diet, and some experts say that’s a good thing. “Carbs are one of the best sources of energy in our diets,” says Taub-Dix. “It’s all about balance and portion sizes.”
And even though Markle’s occasional indulgences tend to be pasta and french fries, and not always whole grains, the big picture still looks healthy. “While these are not perfect nutritional choices, it shows me that Ms. Markle is not being overly and unnecessarily strict with herself,” says Kelly Kennedy, RD, the manager of nutrition at Everyday Health. “Including favorite foods in moderation is a great way to make a diet more maintainable. Often, when people restrict themselves too much, they tend to give in eventually and go overboard with the foods they had eliminated,” says Kennedy, adding that “by building these foods into her eating plan on occasion, Ms. Markle is setting herself up for success by not making them off-limits.”
10. Markle Doesn’t Pass Up Indulging in (Healthier) Desserts
To whip up this dessert yourself, know that chia seed pudding is easy to customize — add nuts for fiber and protein, fresh fruit as a natural sweetener, or even some chocolate chips to jazz it up, says Taub-Dix.
Chia seeds themselves are a great source of fiber and healthy fats, and the combo, like the rest of Markle’s diet, is full of antioxidants and other essential vitamins and minerals, and low in added sugars. That’s what you want to combat stress and maintain an overall sense of well-being.
“Eating healthfully can be a great way to ensure that you have the energy to enjoy your day and all the ones that come after,” Taub-Dix says.
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