Queen Elizabeth II isn’t just the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch; she’s the oldest head of state in the world. And at 94 years old, she surpassed the average life expectancy for women in the UK by a decade.
While her status undoubtedly gives her unparalleled access to the best doctors, chefs, and ingredients, she’s also known to have a surprisingly simple approach to food and nutrition. Here’s what you can learn from Her Majesty’s healthy eating habits.
Keep your portions in check.
Former palace chef Darren McGrady told RecipesPlus that, unlike Prince Phillip who “lives to eat,” Queen Elizabeth “eats to live” and sticks to small portion sizes, preferring four light meals instead of three larger ones.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know how important portion control is for your waistline: University of Cambridge researchers estimate that smaller packages and portion sizes could help us cut our daily food consumption by about 25%, and according to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, reducing portion size is the most effective way to fight obesity. (Need help in the portion department? Check out these easy portion control tips.)
Indulge in your favorite things, not in everything.
For Queen Elizabeth, that means eating every slice of chocolate cake. “She’ll take a small slice every day until eventually there is only one tiny piece, but you have to send that up, she wants to finish the whole of that cake,” McGrady said. As for other types of cake? The staff can eat the leftovers.
Research shows that treating yourself is an important part of a healthy, long-lasting diet. One Israeli study found that people who start their day with chocolate, cookies, or ice cream may be better able to manage cravings long-term. “Cravings increase on a low-carbohydrate diet, so it’s better to incorporate them in a healthy way,” says Daniela Jakubowicz, M.D., of the Diabetes Unit at Wolfson Medical Center at Tel Aviv University, and author of the study. Dr. Jakubowicz suggests treating yourself in the morning for the best results; her other research shows that a hearty breakfast is more beneficial to weight loss than a heavy dinner.
… and even better if it’s dark chocolate.
The Queen likes her chocolate 60% or higher, reports Business Insider. “It has to be the dark chocolate, the darker the better,” McGrady confirmed. “She wasn’t keen on milk chocolate or white chocolate.” That’s a good choice considering dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which may protect against heart disease and stroke, according to a Tufts University review.
Stick to seasonal produce.
The Queen is all about eating strawberries in the summer, but McGrady says she won’t touch them in the winter. “She absolutely does eat seasonal,” he told RecipesPlus.
While eating out-of-season strawberries might not seem like a big deal, there are real benefits to following Mother Nature’s lead when it comes to produce. Out-of-season food travels thousands of miles before it hits store shelves, which may compromise its nutritional value. Vitamin C is particularly unstable: Research from Bangladesh found that tomatoes lose more than half their vitamin C over the course of eight days.
If you can’t grow fruits and vegetables from your own garden like Queen Elizabeth does, we suggest hitting up your local farmer’s market—you won’t need a royal budget, either.
Eat more fish.
A heart healthy staple of the Mediterranean diet, the Queen often has smoked salmon sandwiches with her afternoon tea and a grilled fish for lunch or dinner. Do the same to keep your mind and body healthy: “Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and herring have the omega-3’s EPA and DHA, which can help you lower risk of heart disease,” Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., recently told Prevention. Fatty fish is also a staple of the MIND diet, which combines the best of the Mediterranean and DASH diets for research-backed dementia protection.
Sip some tea.
This wouldn’t be a story about the royals without a reference to tea, would it? The Queen’s favorite, Earl Grey, may lower cholesterol, thanks to the flavonoids in bergamot. And that’s not even mentioning the benefits of black tea in general: the tannic tea may lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of ovarian cancer, and promote weight loss. No fine china necessary.
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