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Natalie Coughlin: Eat Like an Olympian


This summer, like every Olympic year, we were inundated with commercials that led us to believe that—when they’re not competing—the athletes are hanging out in the Olympic Village munching on McDonald’s. But that can’t be true, right?

According to 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, “you’d be shocked at how many people eat McDonald’s. It varies country to country: It seems the Asian countries are obsessed with McDonald’s. I myself don’t eat it—that doesn’t really fit into my diet.”

But for those who forgo the fries, the London games had plenty of options available, from a salad bar to Mediterranean food, American cuisine, Asian, Halal, African, and lots of veggies! When it comes to eating for competition, though, “it’s more about making sure you’re eating enough and the pleasure aspect [of eating] kind of goes out the window,” says the Olympic swimmer. "It’s all about getting the calories in and getting your nap.”

But there was one food all the athletes loved: Greek yogurt with strawberry rhubarb compote. “By about the seventh day in the Village, they were all out for the entire Olympic Games,” says Coughlin. Guess we’re not the only ones who love Greek yogurt!

When she’s not competing, Coughlin stocks here home—and her purse—with California dried plums for healthy snacking on the go. She also grows kale in her northern California garden year-round and always has a variety of olive oils and good coffee on hand. Interestingly, when she’s training and competing, Couglin turns to the exact same foods. She just eats more! “My diet is pretty much the same. Just the portion size changes. It’s important to eat for pleasure and still eat healthfully,” says Coughlin, which is why she keeps her favorite foods on hand at all times, focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, quality protein, and snacks like her gluten-free dried plum bars

As an editor at SHAPE I have the chance to learn about the healthiest ways to cook, eat, and live from all sorts of experts but I’m also a single girl living in NYC with a busy schedule, active social life, and chocolate cravings. I’m here to share what works for me—and where I need a little help from you.


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