Missouri has the sixteenth highest obesity rate in the nation, according to The State of Obesity 2014 research report. The state food certainly doesn't help: St. Louis specialties include processed Provel cheese, “gooey butter cake,” and the St. Paul Sandwich, which features a fried egg foo young patty with mayonnaise on white bread.
All this indicates that a heath-food restaurant likely wouldn't flourish in the Midwestern city. But Simon Lusky, head chef for the St. Louis Cardinals, went ahead and opened one anyway, so far with great success.
Athlete Eats serves a gluten-free and Paleo-friendly menu. Lusky says his strategy of cooking with “clean ingredients, leaner proteins, and healthy fats” makes his meals ideal for peak performance. From the Buff Elvis—a popular recovery shake with banana and peanut butter—to fresh-squeezed, low glycemic index juice combos like watermelon and pineapple, the menu is designed around the nutritional needs of his Cardinals, and the Rams and Blues who also dine at the restaurant.
“I think everything I do has a touch of something I do for them,” Lusky says. “I adopted it in my lifestyle to help me lose weight and get healthier, [and] I saw it was successful in the athlete population.”
But regular Joes are frequent Athlete Eats and enjoy the healthy entrées, such as the pan seared Dijon dill salmon with cranberry succotash, roasted root vegetables with vegan cheese and chili oil, and farm fresh eggs with stewed Moroccan tomato sauce. In fact, demand has been so great, Lusky is opening a second location and a food truck this year. By fusing delectable dishes with good nutrition, he may have stumbled on a way to convince the average American to eat better—by eating like his athletes.
“Athletes are as much foodies as other people,” Lusky says. “A lot of the guys we work with understand food and realize how important it is to them.”
Pulsed cauliflower instead of rice is a Paleo staple. With 42.7 grams of protein and 4.7 grams of fiber, this simple recipe will fill you up for only 318 calories. The vegetables are loaded with vitamin A and C, along with a quarter of the daily recommended amount of iron and a third of potassium. More important, Lusky says, is the intense flavoring from the red chili sauce, cilantro, and stir fry sauce. “It can get boring really, really quickly to just eat meat and vegetables,” Lusky says. “You have to use a lot of different ethnic spices, and come up with unique takes.”
- 8 ounce scoop finely pulsed cauliflower (cauli rice)
- 2 ounce scoop edamame
- 2 ounce scoop pickled carrots
- 2 ounce scoop shiitake mushrooms
- 2 ounce scoop diced bell peppers
- 2 ounces stir fry sauce
- 4 ounces marinated pork tenderloin
- 1 ounce red chili sauce (Sambol) in ramekin
- 1 pinch scallions
- 1 pinch chopped cilantro
- 1 sunny side up egg
Stir Fry Sauce:
- 3 parts soy sauce or liquid aminos
- 1 parts sesame oil
- 1 parts fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
1. Heat small pan with drizzle of olive oil, add pork once pan is hot.
2. In a separate small pan on low heat, add egg and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat up a wok.
3. Once the wok is hot, add edamame and peppers and sauté for 30 seconds.
4. Add cauli rice and sauté for another 30 seconds.
5. Add stir fry sauce and season with pinch of salt and pepper.
6. Once pork is cooked, slice up pork and return to pan. Add 1/2 oz of stir fry sauce to pork pan and add mushrooms.
7. To plate, place caulirice and veggie stir fry in a bowl, add pork and mushrooms, add pickled carrots and top with egg.
8. Sprinkle the pinch of cilantro and scallions to garnish, place red chili sauce ramekin in the bowl.
Kickin’ Chinese Spare Ribs (Oven Style)
Just a few ribs can have 550 calories, but Lusky says focusing on those numbers instead of good nutrition is counterproductive. “Paleo doesn’t count calories,” Lusky says. “It’s not a small portion, it’s right where you need to be.”
He talks in terms of nutrient density, and these low-carb, protein and fat packed ribs have plenty. They can be made on a grill, too, but this version is perfect for winter.
- Slab of local pork St. Louis cut ribs
- 1/2 cup liquid aminos
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1/4 cup sorghum syrup
- 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup sriracha
1. Whisk together sriracha, liquid aminos, sherry, garlic, sugar, and spice powder in a large bowl.
2. Add ribs; toss to coat with marinade .
3. Set aside, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to marinate at room temperature for an hour.
4. Heat oven to 350F degrees. Arrange baking rack on top of rimmed, foil lined sheet pan.
5. Remove ribs from marinade and reserve the remaining marinade. Arrange the meat on the rack, meat (not bone) side up.
6. Place pan on middle rack of oven. Pour in enough water that it reaches halfway, making sure the water doesn't touch the ribs.
7. Bake ribs for 35 minutes, baste ribs with reserved marinade, flip and baste again. Bake for another 35 minutes (add more water if dried up).
8. Raise the heat to 450 degrees. Flip ribs again; baste with remaining marinade. Continue baking until ribs are glazed, browned, and tender, about 20 more minutes.
Quick Cucumber Kimchi
This pungent cucumber dish is light, with only 28 calories per serving and no fat. It’s all about experimenting with flavors. “We make our own pickles, kimchi, and we’ve done other fermented items,” Lusky says. “The door’s open.”
- 8 ounces cucumber
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
- 1 1/4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Korean chile powder
- 2 teaspoons sorghum
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick half moons. Place in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with salt. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine garlic, scallions, ginger, vinegar, chile powder, sugar and fish sauce in a medium nonreactive bowl.
3. Drain the cucumbers (discard the liquid). Stir the cucumbers into the vinegar mixture.
4. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours before serving.