L.A. vs. NYC—Real Girls Share What They Actually Eat in 24 Hours

Updated 04/17/19
courtesy @sophiemiura and @sachastrebe

One year ago, I would have described myself as a pretty healthy person. I cooked my own meals almost every night, ate salads for lunch every day, and led a generally active life. Then, New York happened. When I first moved to the city, I thought my diet and lifestyle changes were only temporary. I'd just moved to one of the best foodie destinations in the world, after all—it's only natural that I'd want to eat out all the time!

When our L.A.-based editorial director, Sacha, came to visit our office, I realized that we were both living, breathing clichés of the L.A. vs. NYC lifestyles: She swigged kombucha at her desk; I guzzled iced coffee. She took us out to a vegan restaurant; I grabbed a slice of pizza on the way home.

But here's the thing: Since moving to this city, I've actually lost 11 pounds. I walk more and drink almost a gallon of water a day. So how do our diets actually stack up? To find out, we asked Abby Sauer, MPH, RD, at Abbott to give it to us straight. We kept an honest food diary for 24 hours and asked her to review each meal. Here's what we discovered about our diets:

L.A: Sacha Strebe

"Since I recently quit coffee, I start my day with Choice organic decaffeinated Early Gray tea, which means I can now have two or three, without the crash later. After I walk my son to school, I prepare my next morning beverage: a golden latte, a superfood version of the regular latte but with turmeric, ginger, and vanilla essence instead of a coffee shot. This hour of my day used to be dedicated to the ritual of coffee making, but much to my disbelief, the popular a.m. beverage was actually making me tired, stressed, and anxious (something I didn't fully realize until I gave it up).

"Lastly, I prepare my third beverage for the morning: a green smoothie. As a vegetarian, it's crucial I get my daily green intake, so I am religious about making this kale, almond milk, and banana smoothie every day."

NYC: Sophie Miura

"*Radio silence.* I don't get hungry until noon, so I tend to drink water as soon as I wake up, then shower and head to the office for my first coffee of the day. Today, I pick up a cold brew on the way to work from Stumptown Coffee."

Sauer's Verdict:

"Your breakfast routines are perfect examples of people on opposite ends of the breakfast spectrum: one that eats breakfast and one that does not. No doubt, breakfast is an important meal of the day. It is what helps us 'break our fast' after the night and can help put us on a healthy eating path for the day. Research even shows that eating breakfast helps with learning, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling our cholesterol levels.

"But for those of us, like Sophie, who aren't routine breakfast eaters, it can be hard to change that habit. However, if you try some strategies like planning ahead the night before, keeping it simple with yogurt and fruit, or packing something to eat while heading into work, it can help make breakfast more of a routine."

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L.A: Sacha Strebe

"As soon as I arrive at the office, I head to the kitchen and prepare my fourth beverage for the morning: an herbal tea. I usually love an organic green tea or an earthy rooibos. I also have a little water with The Beauty Chef Glow powder.

"By 11 a.m., I'm ready for something to eat. I typically love to eat coconut yogurt with granola and berries, or I prepare a chia seed pudding the night before with almond milk, coconut, granola, and frozen berries. It's so delicious and bursting with omega-3 and -6, protein, magnesium, calcium, and more."

NYC: Sophie Miura

"I have a second coffee around 10 a.m. then another about an hour later. Since moving to New York, I've found that my schedule has shifted so that I do more at night and start my days later. I know I'm not meant to have too many coffees each day, but it's become a pretty vital part of my morning routine, for better or worse.

"I fill up a big carafe of water and keep it on my desk. I try to drink at least three carafes a day to stay hydrated."

Sauer's Verdict:

"Some experts recommend limiting regular coffee to three cups or less per day, and it is important to make sure that your coffee consumption isn't interfering with your sleep, making you jittery, or leading to low energy levels later in the day. Research has shown caffeine can actually worsen your stress response, so if it's a stressful day at the office, stick with water or decaf coffee. Sophie's choice of coffee is fine, but I would recommend a healthy snack or light breakfast at some point in the morning.

"Sacha's yogurt with berries is a good choice here. Quercetin—an antioxidant found in many common foods like apples and blueberries—has been recognized for its benefits for treating high cholesterol, heart disease, and other circulation-related diseases."

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L.A: Sacha Strebe

"As someone who has very little time in the morning (most of it's spent getting my son off to school), I usually prepare my lunch the night before. Today it's a pumpkin lentil curry with fresh ginger and mushrooms—it's packed with protein to get me through until the afternoon. I have it with a spoon of Tofutti sour cream on top.

"As the afternoon stretches on, I reach for a kefir drink or kombucha—the probiotics help me to digest lunch and keep me hydrated. When I start to feel hungry again, I opt for my mini carrots and hummus or baba ganoush dip. It's the perfect food with protein and fiber to keep me going."

NYC: Sophie Miura

"I usually make lunch the night before and bring it to work, but today I head to Union Fare, a cool gastro hall near our office. I buy one of my favorite items on the menu: a burrito bowl filled with black beans, lettuce, avocado, rice, and a few corn chips on top. It's huge and usually keeps me feeling full until midafternoon."

Sauer's Verdict:

"Sacha's lunch is actually quite healthy, with a good mix of legumes and vegetables. In particular, the inclusion of pumpkin is great. Pumpkin is a healthy, nutrient-dense food that packs a whopping 19 vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, with fiber that can keep you energized all day. It's also an excellent source of lutein, a type of carotenoid, which could also improve cognitive function, like memory and concentration—both necessities for a productive day.

"Sophie's lunch also has some good elements. Black beans are a good source of fiber, which helps keep you full throughout the day. They are also low in sodium and contain calcium, magnesium, and potassium—all of which have been shown to decrease blood pressure naturally. That's great if you have high blood pressure or work in a high-stress environment.

"I would suggest adding in more protein. Even four ounces of grilled chicken would help. Active adults should aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal—that grilled chicken will give you at least 34 grams!"

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L.A: Sacha Strebe

"I'm not typically hungry at this time, but I am often feeling low on energy, and since I don't drink coffee anymore, I will often have a chai tea or a protein shake. I love the Tone It Up vanilla protein powder because it's plant-based but it's also dairy and soy free, so it's kind on my stomach too.

"Come 4 p.m., I will often have a green tea to keep me going or a mint tea to aid digestion. I really love the Sakara digestive tea (it was a lifesaver during my recent five-day detox) because it really does help to reduce bloat and restore balance to your digestive system."

NYC: Sophie Miura

"Uh-oh. I can hear squeals from my co-workers sitting a few desks up, which generally means one thing: treats. One of the editors in the office has bought a box of doughnuts for the team to share. I'm feeling peckish, so I cut one in half and nibble on it at my desk.

"Later in the afternoon, I reach for a packet of raw nuts and dried fruit and fill up my carafe of water again."

Sauer's Verdict:

"The short amount of time in between all these snacks does indicate that you’re both still hungry after each round—meaning you might not be eating enough of those healthy foods when you snack. While it's fine to eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day, too much 'grazing' can lead to overeating. Additionally, the excess sugar in Sophie's doughnut probably caused her blood sugar to spike, which is why she was hungry again an hour later.

"These snack choices (minus the doughnut!) are actually great foods to get you through the end of the day. When you need a midafternoon pick-me-up, foods with fiber should be your go-to. The nuts in both your snacks do that. Even better, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who added fiber to their diet—without changing anything else—lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, and improved their response to insulin, helping to regulate blood sugar levels."

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L.A: Sacha Strebe

"Tonight, homemade brown rice spinach risotto with thinly sliced baked butternut pumpkin, crumbled tofu slices, broccoli, and asparagus is on the menu. I always love to put butter on my rice for extra flavor and a sprinkle of soy sauce for seasoning. Put a little of each (pumpkin, tofu, broccoli) on a fork and you have a heavenly, flavor-packed mouthful of deliciousness."

NYC: Sophie Miura

"One of my friends is visiting, so we book a set menu at my favorite Italian joint in East Village, San Marzano. It's a banquet meal, so the waiters bring out plates of burrata cheese and prosciutto, arugula salad, and meatballs. I order braised sausage pasta with fresh ricotta and parmesan on top. Whoops, did I mention wine? It's all-you-can-drink sangria for 90 minutes, so I didn't exactly count."

Sauer's Verdict:

"Sacha's dinner includes some great components, but Sophie’s dinner is a little heavy on the carbohydrates. White bread, white rice, and white pasta are all refined carbohydrate–heavy foods, which incite a pro-inflammatory response when consumed in excess. Too much inflammation causes damage to the body's organs. While the occasional inflammatory response isn't the worst, adding foods with anti-inflammatory properties is best.

"In a group restaurant setting, try foods like the following:

  • "Fatty fish: Oily fish like salmon or mackerel give you the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation.
  • "Dark, leafy greens: Try dishes with spinach, kale, broccoli, or collard greens.
  • "Olive oil: If you're going to indulge in some bread before your meal, dip it in olive oil!"
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And the Winner Is… L.A

"I would give Sacha's diet 8 out of 10 and Sophie's 6 out of 10. Sacha is eating a variety of foods and interesting choices to help keep her meals exciting and nutritious. Her meals sound delicious!

"One thing I would add to Sacha's diet is more protein. As we age, our bodies require more protein to build the same amount of muscle because they become less efficient at processing protein. I wouldn't necessarily remove any foods from her diet, but I would recommend doing research on any fad products to ensure they are right for her. Many of these products aren't reviewed or regulated by the FDA and therefore aren't held to the same standards. Make sure you know what exactly is in those products and how they might affect you before you take them.

"When it comes to Sophie's diet, I'd recommend figuring out a way to add food into her morning routine! It will help with her energy levels throughout the day and help provide nutrients to her diet. Her diet is not as varied as Sacha's, so adding different and new foods for breakfast can help add variety which in turn will add essential nutrients needed in her diet.

"I would add more protein, leafy greens, and dairy foods to ensure she's getting enough of these important bone-health nutrients. I'd also cut the excess carbohydrates. While occasional refined carbohydrates are okay, an entire meal centered around them won't satisfy her hunger."

Tell us: How did your diet compare to our New York– and Los Angeles–based editors?

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