Food Network Star Katie Lee Gets Real About Her Diet: "I Don't Subscribe to That No-Carb Thing"
Life's a beach for Food Network's most charming star (and newlywed!). Here, she talks balanced eating, body confidence, and love.
When it comes to obsessions, Katie has one we can all relate to: sweatpants.
She loves them so much, in fact, that she created a digital cooking show called Katie Lee Eats Meat, in Sweats for Food Network, in which she wears comfy clothes and prepares amazing carnivorous feasts. “I even considered wearing sweatpants today,” she says with a chuckle when we sit down at Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica. “I think it’s odd when people say jeans are comfortable, because to me they feel like sausage casings. The only pair that is at all acceptable for me is this pair of Frame jeans that are high-waisted with super stretch. So they’re essentially stretch pants with a button and a zipper.”
This is what makes Katie Lee so likable: The 37-year-old takes her food seriously, but never takes herself too seriously. Tune in to one of her two TV shows (Food Network’s daytime talk show, The Kitchen, or Cooking Channel’s Beach Bites with Katie Lee), and you’ll catch her cracking jokes while expertly showing you brilliant cooking techniques and recipes.
Take a look at her three cookbooks, and you’ll get that same laid-back vibe. The titles alone—The Comfort Table, Endless Summer, and Everyday Occasions—are a nod to the fact that Katie believes food should be delicious yet uncomplicated. “I love comfort food—it’s the basis of everything,” Katie explains. “My cooking style is really simple. Not a lot of ingredients, but all good quality, so you don’t have to do that much to them.”
Read on as Katie shares more of her go-to food tips, plus opens up about her dedication to fitness and her brand-new marriage to TV producer Ryan Biegel.
Katie's wearing: Ulla Johnson tank ($275; ullajohnson.com)
You literally eat for a living, yet are so fit. What’s your secret?
It’s really hard! And there’s no candy-coating it. There’s food everywhere, and even off camera, there’s craft services, where you can just walk by and grab a handful of chips. When I’m filming, I make sure to get up in the morning and exercise, so at least I’m starting my day off right. I learned quickly that if you eat everything [on set], you will feel terrible at the end of the day. So I’ll take a couple of bites, and then I walk away.
In general, what is your top healthy-eating tip?
Lots of vegetables. Nobody ever got fat eating vegetables. If I had to describe my diet in one word, it would be colorful. I always think about adding color to the plate.
What’s a typical breakfast?
I do yogurt and fruit. I buy big bags of frozen fruit—mango, strawberries, blueberries—and put it all into the blender. Oh, I also started adding frozen coconut chunks—it’s like $3 for a big bag at Trader Joe’s.
I usually have a big salad, like Elaine on Seinfeld. I have one of those big metal mixing bowls—I call it my trough—and I pile in whatever vegetables I have. I know I’m really unattractive eating it, shoveling it in my face, usually alone. [Laughs]
What’s your biggest indulgence when it comes to eating?
I’m crazy about pizza—thin crust! I don’t subscribe to that no-carb thing. I’m so sick of the Atkins diet and all that. First of all, if you’re not eating carbs, all you do is think about them. It’s one of those things that you take out and, initially, you lose weight, but you are miserable. So pizza and also french fries—with an absurd amount of ketchup. It’s got to be regular Heinz!
Do you work out with a trainer?
Occasionally. I work out five or six days a week, and lately I’ve been obsessed with Obé, which is online workouts for $27 a month. You can log in anywhere, and they have live classes and on-demand classes. I’ve done it in France, Italy, on the road for Beach Bites. I liked it so much, I invested in the company, actually.
Is it hard to stay motivated working out alone, though?
I felt that way when I started out, but then I realized how much time I was saving by not rushing to a class. I’ll still go to a barre class or a Tracy Anderson class, but I’m a homebody, so I like anything where I don’t have to leave my house.
And if you still don’t feel like it?
I tell myself, “Beyoncé would go do her workout. She’d just keep going.”
Any other benefits of working out at home?
When I work out at home, I don’t have mirrors, and I really like it. When I’m not working out in front of a mirror, I don’t have those conversations with myself that I have in the gym, when my head starts drifting in all those dark spots...
Katie's wearing: Barney's New York sweater ($795; barneys.com)
Do you deal with body insecurities?
I certainly do. I just try to not beat myself up.If I go out and completely indulge, which I definitely do a lot, I think, “Tomorrow’s a new day, and I’m gonna sweat it out.” I always remind myself that I’m healthy, and that’s the most important thing. It’s hard, when you get into an Instagram hole, because we live in such a Facetuned world. You see all these girls are in their bathing suits, and it’s hard not to think, “I wish I looked like that.” But you can only be your own personal best. It’s also exciting that we’re not all supposed to look like a Barbie doll anymore. People are so accepting of different body types and shapes. I wish when I was a little girl I’d had an alternative to Barbie. I remember thinking that’s what you were supposed to look like: big boobs, long legs, the hair. Now there are so many different types being celebrated, and it’s so much better. I used to workout to be skinny, to fit in my skinny jeans. Now I want to be strong and feel my best. I like challenging myself and thinking, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s so hard.” And then pushing through and doing it.
Katie's wearing: Cynthia Rowley wetsuit ($265; cynthiarowley.com)
When’s the last time you really challenged yourself physically?
I went on a girls’ trip in January to New Zealand with 17 women. Every day we got up and did yoga and then went for an eight-mile hike. That really scared me because I’ve never been a very good hiker. But I had the best time. We’d come back, and lunch tasted so good. Then we’d do another class, and go in the infrared sauna or get a massage, and we’d be in bed by 8 o’clock, exhausted. There was no alcohol allowed—and we were in New Zealand and really wanting that glass of sauvingon blanc. We left and went directly to the vineyard, actually. [Laughs]
What's your favorite go-to dinner for gatherings?
My favorite thing to make is a whole side of salmon for a crowd. I always do a mixture of 1 Tbsp. chili powder, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. I spread it over the salmon and put it in the fridge. About 40 minutes before it’s time to eat, I put it in the oven at 400°F for 30 minutes. And when it comes out, you have this beautiful side of salmon, and everyone just kinda cuts their own piece o of it. I’ll do a grain salad and a green salad to go with it, and I’ll grill veggies earlier in the day and serve those at room temperature.
Let’s switch gears. Was there a moment you knew Ryan was the one?
I’m not sure if there was a moment. It was more of a general feeling. I kinda thought I would never get married again. We did exactly what you’re not supposed to do—we met at work. He was a producer on the first season of Beach Bites two and a half years ago. I remember going into a production meeting for the first time and thinking, “God, that guy is so cute.” I was a little bit nervous.
Did he feel the same way?
He didn’t know who the host of the show was when he signed on. He was like, “A beach travel show with food? I’ll do it.” He told me later that he’d seen a TV segment of me promoting my last cookbook, and he was like, “I’m gonna marry that girl.” I was his crush. So we were friends at first, and that was great. Going from one location to another, you become really close. The more time I spent with him, the more I thought, “This is the kind of life I want to live.” Forget the love stuff—I really like him, too. People can confuse what’s important in relationships, and really, it’s finding that person you want to be with and do the same things with.
What’s your favorite kind of date?
We love to go on food adventures together. We’ll have a night where we pick out a wine we haven’t had before and we’ll try it and talk about it. We’re dorky—our favorite thing is to be in our sweatpants with our dog, eating dinner at the kitchen island.
He proposed in Paris—were you surprised?
I had a feeling it was coming because we’d talked about our future. We were taking this trip to Paris, and then going on the Orient Express to Venice, and I thought, “If he doesn’t do it on this trip, something’s wrong with him, and maybe I should reconsider.” [Laughs] On the second day, I went to get a massage, and I thought, “I bet when I go back upstairs, he’s gonna have the room set up to propose.” And I got upstairs, and he was asleep. But later, we got all dressed up to go out. We were getting ready to leave, and he said, “Do you have everything?” And I said, “Yeah, let’s go.” And he goes, “No, I think you’re missing one thing...” And he pulled out the ring.
Did you celebrate with an amazing dinner?
Yes, we went to this place that really gives you the meat sweats. We got escargot, and roast chicken, and potatoes in duck fat. I actually wore black velvet pants with an elastic waistband because I knew we were going there. So essentially, I got engaged in dressy sweats.
Now that the two of you are married, what’s next for you as a couple?
I am so excited about this next chapter with Ryan. We both want the same things in life. I love his sense of adventure, and I look forward to all the experiences that are in store for us as a couple and, hopefully, one day as a family.
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Styling Laurie Trott for Atelier Management. Hair by Bryce Scarlett using Moroccanoil for The Wall Group. Makeup Kat Reyes using RMS Beauty. Manicure Sarah Chue using Chanel Le Vernis. Prop styling BY Aneta Florczyk. To get Katie’s fresh look, use these CoverGirl products: TruBlend Matte Made Liquid Foundation, TruBlend Super Stunner Highlight Palette, Flourish Mascara by Lash Blast, Easy Breezy Brow Sculpt + Set Brow Pomade, and Exhibitionist Cream Lipstick in Champagne. For Katie’s hairstyle, use these Redken products: All Soft Mega Hydramelt and Glow Dry Style Enhancing Blow-Dry Hair Oil.