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Can we all agree that food is fuel? Yes, fuel can — and should — be absolutely delicious, but it’s about so much more than that. Wouldn’t it be nice to focus on foods that fuel us versus villainizing certain foods or feeling guilty when eating ones labeled “bad” in our eyes? This is the approach I use when it comes to food. And aside from viewing it as fuel, I have a few other basic rules — or principles — that I follow:
Venus Lau’s Food Rules
- Honor your ancestry. To this day, I swear about 80 percent of my diet is soup because I grew up eating a lot of soup. Soup is an important part of my Chinese culture, so my parents — who owned a restaurant — literally raised me on soup. Soup happens to be great for hydration, and it’s easier to break down in terms of digestion. Plus, the broth has lots of good nutrients. It’s just my comfort food.
- Cook it yourself. Cooking makes you more aware of your fuel and food choices, just like learning how to engage your muscles during exercise makes you more aware of your body. It’s important to learn how to cook simple and nutritious meals.
- Eat a rainbow. I try to eat as many colors of the rainbow as possible to ensure I’m getting a wide variety of nutrients each day. Take stock of what colors are consistently missing from your plates and find enjoyable ways to incorporate them.
- Adapt as needed. I think our bodies need different things at different stages — and even at different stress levels — of our lives. Therefore, a meal plan should be fluid and never set in stone.
- Eat intuitively. Intuitive eating is important. Just like movement, we have to create practices to start to understand our body and become more in touch with our needs. Strive to get into the simple food mindset of, “What fuel do I need right now?” Then take it a step further by remembering to: “Eat when I’m hungry. Stop when I’m satiated. Give it time to digest and feel full.” It’s also helpful to take four breaths before eating and to put your fork down between bites.
- Fast intuitively. I like to go three to four hours between meals. To successfully pull this off, make sure you’re eating enough food at each meal and eating until satiated. Fasting for about 12 hours overnight is another great way to practice fasting, and it gives your body enough time to rest and digest.
- Listen to your body’s reactions. I basically follow an “Asian Paleo” diet — I eat rice, but I try to stay gluten-free because I just don’t like the way it feels in my body. But for some people, gluten is just fine, especially if you grew up eating it. Do what works for you, not what is trendy.
- Watch portion sizes. There’s no need to bother with measuring cups to ensure you’re eating proper portion sizes — just use your hands! A serving of fat (oils and nut butters) is the size of your thumb. A serving of carbs (including rice, beans or fruit) is one cupped hand. A serving of protein is equal to your palm. And vegetables should be the size of your fist.
- Eat for your muscles. In general, you’re supposed to eat a gram of protein per pound of muscle that you have, so that number will differ from person to person even if they weigh the same amount.
- Fuel first, treats second. When choosing snacks, opt for protein and veggies first. If you still want a treat after eating those, treat yo’self!
Breakfast Soup: Gluten-Free Bok Choy and Mushroom Egg Congee
Makes: 4 Servings
Remember when I said I eat a lot of soup? Yes, I often eat soup for breakfast, too! Here’s one of my favorite recipes, a congee (rice porridge).
- 1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed 4 times through to clean
- 6 cups veggie broth or chicken broth
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp ginger, sliced or minced
- 4 cups bok choy, quartered
- 16 cremini mushrooms or mushrooms of your choice, sliced
- ¼ cup of tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
- 4 eggs
- Add rice, broth, salt, pepper and ginger to a pot. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally. Cook 1 hour, or until desired consistency is reached. Add more liquid, if needed. Season with additional salt and pepper (to taste).
- Meanwhile, a heat pan over medium-high heat. Saute bok choy and mushrooms with tamari until tender yet crisp.
- Crack eggs and stir into congee last 4 minutes of cooking.
- Top congee with bok choy and mushrooms.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 260, protein 16 g, fat 5 g, carbs 42 g
Lunch Soup: Manhattan Fish Chowder
Makes: 8 servings
- 3½ cups veggie broth or bone broth, divided
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp tapioca flour
- 3 cups diced tomatoes
- 2 cups potatoes, cubed
- 3 whitefish fillets (such as haddock, tilapia or cod), cubed
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Heat 5 tablespoons broth over medium-high heat in a soup pot. Cook onions, celery, carrots and thyme until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add a splash of water to prevent sticking, when needed.
- Meanwhile, whisk together white wine and tapioca flour in a small bowl to create a slurry (thickening agent). Add slurry to veggies and stir well.
- Add tomatoes, potatoes and remaining broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
- Add fish and cook 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper (to taste).
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 139, protein 14 g, fat 0 g, carbs 14 g
Dinner Soup: Easy Slow-Cooker Basil Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Makes: 8 Servings
Cool thing about slow cookers? They’re easy! Start this late morning, and you’ll have a great dinner that evening.
- 13 oz chicken
- 10 cups water
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1¼ cups wild rice, rinsed
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ cup basil leaves
- 1 cup spinach, chopped
- Add all ingredients except spinach. Cook on high 4 hours or on low 6 hours.
- Stir in spinach just before serving.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 152, protein 14 g, fat 2 g, carbs 18 g
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