Feeding a world famous athlete like alpine skier Lindsey Vonn may seem like a daunting task for any culinary master, but Dan Churchill, an Australian chef known for his flavorful but healthy eating plans, was more than up for the challenge.
The personal chef to Vonn stopped by TODAY to share a few of the athlete-friendly recipes he's preparing during the Winter Olympics that will help fuel Vonn during the competition, including a fluffy frittata with a crispy sweet potato crust and a creamy hot chocolate made with almond milk.
Just before heading off to Pyeongchang with the Under Armor team, Churchill told TODAY Food that these games are his "Super Bowl." Though he’s worked with plenty of professional athletes before, Churchill said “it’s simply amazing” to be working with a skier of Vonn’s high caliber.
The chef, who has been working with Vonn since November, uses a unique method for training his clients to eat the best diet for his or her particular sport.
“I don’t work with calories, I work with color,” explained Churchill. “That way I, or my athletes, don’t have to think too much about portions. It’s really about looking at the plate and making sure you’re hitting a variety of nutrients.”
When he’s working with professional athletes, Churchill says he always starts by examining what they already like to eat, then gradually introduces new foods to help improve speed, stamina or any other unique characteristics necessary to their sport. For Vonn, who is already a healthy eater, Churchill created a menu with plenty of protein and good fats (found in lean meats like turkey and chicken; nuts like almonds and walnuts; and tahini) to help support and replenish her joints.
Cooking for Vonn in what may be her last Olympic games is an honor for Churchill but, thankfully, he says this high profile athlete is surprisingly easy to cook for.
“One of the best things about Lindsay is that she knows what she wants,” Churchill said. The challenge leading up to the games was making sure Vonn would be receiving the same nutrition overseas that she’s used to at home during training ... and still keep the food interesting.
With every meal, Vonn enjoys a protein like chicken breast or salmon; a complex carbohydrate like sweet potato or quinoa and, of course, plenty of nutrient-dense veggies. About 30 minutes before competing, Vonn will likely have a small snack like half a banana or some nuts to fuel her run. Churchill revealed that occasionally she'll have a piece of chocolate and she also enjoys pizza and ice cream — when she's not in competition mode. Maybe Vonn and gold medalist Chloe Kim can enjoy some of their favorite foods together after the games!
And for the non-professional athletes out there, Churchill offered some easy-to-follow advice on how to boost any individual's nutritional intake.
“Start with the healthful foods that you actually really like,” said Churchill “And, over the course of two weeks or so, start incorporating more color, add different veggies, or play around with the protein."
He added, “You don’t have to go crazy pushing yourself to try a bunch of new things, but making small, simple changes gradually, you’ll realize it's easy to really shake up your personal meals and actually enjoy cooking.”
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