When it comes to making food, chefs do not always eat the impressive meals they are basting, braising, and plating for you. Sometimes, they turn to bizarre mashups to give them fuel through their long, arduous shifts. While some might go for French fries smothered in Béchamel with taco shells to scoop it up, others steer clear of the crash-and-burn options (carbs, sugar, and more carbs) in favor of more nutritious fuel. To find out what keeps them going, we tapped chefs for a few go-to, healthier combos. Don’t knock ‘em until you try ‘em—and once you do, they just might become your favorites, too.
1. A baked sweet potato, sliced open and filled with red pepper hummus and topped with kelp seasoning
You may never have thought to slather hummus on a baked sweet potato, but the textures complement each other surprisingly well, and kelp adds a depth of flavor (and dose of nutrition). “A beautiful combination of complex carbohydrates, plant-based protein, and healthy fat with a full spectrum of minerals and carotenoids,” says John Pierre, co-founder of Living with Harmony in Boulder, CO.
2. Half an avocado drizzled in mushroom soy sauce.
Chef Kris Koch of The SIX15 Room inside the Grand Hotel Minneapolis digs this concoction for quick fuel (eat it straight out of the avocado peel with a spoon). If you don’t have mushroom soy sauce in your pantry, try Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low-sodium soy sauce.
3. Tuna with cacao powder, chili powder, and vinegar
“While the powdered dark chocolate sweetens the deal, dark chocolate is also proven to lower blood pressure and fight heart disease,” says Chef Frankie Terzoli of Fishmonger’s Market in San Diego. “The chili powder is high in capsaicin, a metabolism booster and source of antioxidants, while the tuna’s omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin B, antioxidants, and low-calorie count speak for themselves.”
4. Cottage cheese, diced avocado, and Extra Toasty Cheez-Its
Libbie Summers, chef and creative culinary director at meal kit company Terra’s Kitchen is insistent that you use “Extra Toasty ONLY!” on this one, and we can’t say we disagree. “The creaminess of the cottage cheese and avocado pair perfectly with the salty crunch of the Cheez-Its.” She explains that while the crackers aren’t the healthiest option, the avocado and cottage cheese should make you feel virtuous enough.
5. Scrambled eggs with sauerkraut
“My favorite to devour post-ride,” says Chef Jason Roberts, co-founder of Chefs Cycle and BELLA Housewares brand ambassador. “Eggs are a no-brainer source of protein, which is so important for immediate refueling and [to] help your muscles recover. I add sauerkraut for the bite, in addition to reaping the gut/digestive health benefits of probiotics and reducing inflammation.” Grab your bikes.
6. Sweet potato and apple mash
To make, combine baked sweet potato, apple sauce, a touch of maple syrup and a few flips of allspice and ground ginger. Mash it all together and top with raisins and pumpkin seeds. “High in complex carbohydrates, the sweet spud can provide some long-lasting energy for my days,” says Lauren Koeppe, Chef and founder of Create Hospitality.
7. An almond butter-banana taco
Well, almost. “I love almond butter spread on a corn tortilla with bananas. I love pork carnitas tacos, but I can’t be eating tacos all day while I am cooking. The banana-almond butter taco helps to keep me going, while feeling great, too,” says Chef Matt Ayala, executive chef of Cochon Volant Brasserie in Chicago. For more flavor, try adding some cinnamon.
8. Cottage cheese with almond butter, maple syrup, berries, and any kind of nuts
“I learned about this combo when living with my best friend who is a three-time Olympic cyclist,” says Gabe Kennedy, creative culinary director at The Little Beet in New York City. “At first, I took a look and scoffed as my relationship with cottage cheese is sketchy at best. Then I tasted it…game-changer. It is an epic fuel source that will rocket you through your day on the slopes, bike, or workouts.” No fresh berries on hand? Frozen berries work just as well.
9. Guacamole with chapulines
These crispy grasshoppers are a delicacy in Oaxaca and provide a nice contrast to the creaminess of avocados. “They are an excellent source of protein,” says Chef Richard Sandoval of Richard Sandoval Hospitality. “At most of my restaurants, you will find the option to add them to your guacamole—guests are usually pleasantly surprised.”