How Vivian Balances Healthy and Hectic Every Day

In case you haven’t noticed, Vivian Howard is busy. Season five of her James Beard- and Emmy Award-winning PBS series “A Chef’s Life” recently wrapped. In March, she was able to squeeze in a 40th birthday celebration after several days of filming and cooking in Charleston, S.C.. She then scurried back to Kinston to host a retirement party for a friend at her farm-to-table restaurant, Chef & the Farmer. Then it was off to Hawaii for a week of appearances and book signings before landing back to watch her twins perform in a school play.

With the release of her first cookbook and an accompanying book tour, Vivian spent the last quarter of 2016 on the road. During that time, she learned about the need for self-care in addition to making healthy choices.

Speaking of healthy choices, Vivian recently worked with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina on a video-based nutritional campaign titled “Better Eating, Better Health,” in which she and ACL fan favorites Lillie Hardy and Sam Jones revamp their favorite dishes as healthier options. Did Miss Lillie approve of using zucchini instead of pasta in her "Kill Hungry" dish? Stay tuned for the videos!

In the midst of a hectic life, Vivian appreciates getting home and settling into a routine, something a demanding schedule doesn’t always allow. Vivian shares how she stays healthy both physically and mentally whether spending an ideal day at home or when an ideal day is not an option.

Rise and Shine
My alarm goes off at 6, 6:15, and 6:30. I actually get up at 6:45 a.m.. I drink three glasses of cold water as soon as I get up. I’ve been doing this for about five years. If we forget to put the Brita filter in the water the night before and refrigerate it, it puts a real damper on my morning.
After I’ve started my morning, I wake up the kids. I make a bowl of cereal and scrambled eggs for Flo (Theo doesn’t like breakfast) and I make smoothies for the whole family — usually something like spinach, frozen berries, an omega 3 orange-flavored supplement, orange juice, and some kind of probiotic juice (I like the Good Belly brand). I add ice and blend it and the kids and I drink ours on the way to school.

My assistant and I started working out last year after the stress and weight gain of the book tour. It feels really good to learn that you can do something you thought you couldn’t do. It makes me feel strong and I love seeing the changes that exercise can bring about in your mind and body.  After an hour of working out, I usually need about 30 minutes to recuperate. I check emails, drink tons of water, and take a shower at the office.

By 10, I’m usually ready for a cup of coffee; but lately, I’ve been drinking a lot of kombucha. I starting reading about it and have been drinking it non-stop over the past year.  Everybody talks about probiotics so I’m always trying to consume things with bacteria. Kombucha is low calorie; so for somebody like me who doesn’t love drinking water, it’s one of the few beverages that is low in sugar and has health benefits. I can’t stand milk. Soda is bad. So I choose kombucha. The fact that it’s thirst-quenching and effervescent helps, too.

I make a list every Monday of things I want to accomplish during the week. I transfer things over each day that didn’t get done the day before, and this is how I determine my work for the day. I’m taking meetings, I’ll walk over to the restaurant, and spend some time at the Boiler Room. I also go down to Benny’s Big Time (Vivian’s new pizzeria in Wilmington, an hour-and-a-half drive from Kinston) once a week. All those things are regimented.

We eat lunch at the office. We’ll make hummus and do some meal prep like roasting some veggies in advance and keep them in the fridge. I’ll bring leftover salmon or chicken from my house and make something quick with it. I like to have some healthful, flavorful bits on hand, like roasted pepper dip or different flavors of hummus or an almond spread or different nut butters that allow me to put together a tasty, quick lunch. I love taking a piece of flatbread or cracker and putting kimchee on it to have something healthy and quick to eat.

I also eat an egg a day. It’s just one of those things that is around, easy to prepare, and goes with a lot of different stuff. I’ll eat a hard boiled egg with sesame, Sriracha sauce, and a little bit of sprouts, or eggs scrambled with tomatoes.

We have a pretty big herb garden in the yard behind the office. At home, I do a lot of gardening, both indoor and outdoor. I probably have 30 living, healthy plants in my house. Most of them are hearty so they can handle it if I’m on the road for a couple of weeks. Most people go wrong with plants because they do too much, they overtend them. Outdoor gardening is my favorite thing to do in the spring. I love to prune, pick, and water. I generally enjoy a glass of wine while I garden.  Exercise and planting are my forms of meditation.

Staying Healthy on the Road
It’s a challenge to be healthy when I’m on the road. I’ve learned to make a plan for exercise before I leave for a trip. I’ll book a class or a workout near my hotel, so it minimizes any excuses. If I don’t plan it before, it’s almost impossible for me to make the effort to do it. Before I go to bed, I make sure I have some water chilling so I can get my three glasses in the morning.

I try to travel with snacks like Kind Bars or jerky of some kind. I always have some packs of Justin’s Almond Butter. I buy a banana at the airport to go with it and have a snack that I actually enjoy. I don’t eat anything that doesn’t taste good. If I’m eating something that tastes “diet,” I’ll throw it away and get something else, which is wasteful.

When I’m traveling, I often skip breakfast and just have a substantial coffee drink. Most of my travel is based around food, so I’d rather not waste calories on a meal that’s not special.

A Good Night
I have an elaborate face-washing routine before bed, which I’ve been doing religiously for the past year. It relaxes me. I love a  foamy face wash that smells good and feels luxurious and I apply a series of face lotions.

I’m a huge believer in eight hours of sleep. I’ve never been someone who could pull an all-nighter or stay up late and feel refreshed.  At home, the kids are in bed at 8:30, and I’m usually in bed by 11 p.m.

GET THE RECIPE: “Breakfast of a Busy Mom Who’s Trying to Be Healthy.”

Vivian makes this because it’s quick and easy to prepare if you have little ones at your feet and a busy day that just won’t wait.

2 eggs
Flaky sea salt (Vivian uses Maldon)
Black pepper
Hot sauce, if you’re feeling bored
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Broccoli sprouts, as many as you can manage

Put the eggs in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover them with cool water by 1 inch. Bring the eggs up to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Drain the eggs and run cold water over them till they are cool enough for you to handle.

Vivian finds boiled eggs more satisfying warm, so go ahead and peel them. Slice the eggs into quarters and sprinkle both the plate underneath and the top of the eggs with way more salt and pepper than seems reasonable. Add the hot sauce if you’re using it. Eat them up. Chase with the lemon-juice-dressed sprouts, and go to work.