Last updated: Apr 22, 2009
Emmy-winning actress and busy mom Mariska Hargitay spoke with Health magazine about Joyful Heart Foundation, her nonprofit organization that helps empower survivors of rape and domestic violence. In this web-exclusive interview she shares her secrets for how she stays healthy despite her hectic schedule.


Q: As a working mom, how do you keep your busy life in order?
A: Dont procrastinate. Dont touch paper twice. This is something an old boyfriend taught me. I asked him how he got so much done and he told me, "I do it when I see it." When I was younger, the more time I had, the more I wasted. If a paper was on my desk, like a letter or a memo, Id pick it up and put it in another pile—but he would say, "I have to do this now." You look at the paper, and deal with it. So now I live my life by the Nike ad: Just Do It. Days are finite, our time is finite, and Im continually in a learning process about how to better utilize my time, schedule it, condense it, and make the most of it.

Q: Lets talk fitness. What do you do to keep in shape?
A: Im just an active person. Im always running around—and Im the mother of a two-and-a-half–year-old! Swimming is definitely my favorite sport. I live for swimming.

Q: How do you stick to a healthy eating schedule?
A: Im learning that its about paying attention to how you feel after you eat.  I didnt used to think that way. I used to say to myself, “I want it so Im going to eat it.” Now I try to be a grown-up and say, “How am I going to feel afterward if I eat that? Is it worth it?”


Q: What foods are always in your fridge?
A: This is so silly and simple, but I keep carrots and celery already prepared so that I can grab them at any time. That was life-changing for me. Whenever Ive struggled with weight or energy, my problem was that I was too busy and let myself get to the point where my blood sugar dropped so Id grab whatever was in sight.

Pre-washed lettuce is another lifesaver. My favorites are Boston and Romaine. I add in some olive oil, chicken, and tomatoes—and boom, I have a healthy meal in three seconds. A tiny bit of planning goes so far, and its the key to everything.

Q: What does a typical meal look like?
A: Fruits and vegetables make up 60% of my diet.  I have to have green at every meal. I start my day with an egg white omelet with avocado, goat cheese, and halved cherry tomatoes. And my family really loves those Kombucha teas.

I find that I eat differently when I drink a lot of water. I dont gorge, plus my skin just glows. And I dont eat a lot of bread. I havent cut it out completely—I still eat sandwiches—but you dont have to be a brain surgeon to know that if you struggle with weight, youve got to take it easy with the white stuff like bread, potatoes, and rice.

My dream dinner is three vegetables: broccoli, zucchini, and asparagus, either steamed or grilled. Ill also have a piece of fish or chicken on the side.

Q: Do you take any supplements?
A: I wish I were more regimented. Im big on enzymes: I take digestive enzymes called MegaZymes before every meal.

Q: How do you and your husband carve out “together time?”
A: Peter and I used to laugh about the concept of “date night.” Our favorite date—and Im not kidding—is putting August to bed and staying home. We do so many fun things, like go to the movies and see our friends in plays, but because I work 15-hour days, our evenings at home are kind of our dates. We always talk about how lucky we are that we have the same appetites—its not like I want to go out at night and he doesnt. We both like making dinner and watching a movie.