Want an inside scoop into the diets of Chris and Elsa Hemsworth? Chef Sergio Perera lets us into his healthy eating secrets
What’s the next best thing to being an A-lister with their own personal chef to keep them on track to their body goals? How about reading a piece with diet advice said chef?
Sergio Perera is a featured expert on Chris Hemsworth’s new personalised digital health and fitness program, the Centr app and regularly cooks for Chris and Elsa Hemsworth to help get them into perfect shape before their film roles.
Perera knows his stuff, having started cooking at the age of 15, he’s been a cook for over 20 years. ‘Being from Spain, it’s in your blood almost – all of my family are great cooks, so I started doing it as a profession and was immediately drawn to it,’ he told Healthista.
So what does he advise Chris and Elsa eat and what are some of his healthy eating and cooking secrets then?
Diet tip #1 Eat and live Mediterranean
‘If I had to advise a specific healthy diet to live by, it would be the Mediterranean diet. It’s one of the healthiest diets out there. I’ve traveled all over Europe, and the European know balance. They don’t eat an excess of anything.
‘The Mediterranean diet offers a perfect balance of good fats such as olive oils, avocados and olives, grains such as couscous, bulgar wheat and rice, proteins such as fish, chicken, red meat and of course an abundance of fresh vegetables – that’s as healthy as you can get.
‘Chris Hemsworth’s wife Elsa Pataky is Spanish, and I’ve known her for years, she knows that you must be mindful of balance and that Mediterranean is the way to go. There is nothing she doesn’t eat as long as it’s as fresh and organic as possible’.
Diet tip #2 If you are stuck for ideas, make a stew
‘I love healthy stews. Stews are a great way of getting everything in one go – hearty vegetables, grains, proteins.
‘Plus, you can make a delicious rich sauce and just add more water to make it more soup-like, there’s so many varieties, stews are a great way of getting a filling meal packed with nutrients’.
Diet tip #3 Intuitive eating, listen to your body
‘Eating should be intuitive. That whole thing of forcing yourself to eat every three hours is an old school bodybuilder thing. It makes no sense to me.
‘You need to eat when you are hungry not when you think you should be eating or think you are hungry. And if you are creating the right balance in nutrition you should never feel yourself at the point of starvation. You should never have that sour feeling in your stomach but always feel good and fulfilled.
If you are craving salt you are probably lacking in potassium or you are dehydrated
‘I always urge people to find a balance and awareness in their bodies. If you’re intolerant to something, if you aren’t getting enough of something, for example protein or fat, your cravings can be signs.
‘For example, if you crave sweets, it can mean you are lacking protein not that you need energy. If you are craving salt you are probably lacking in potassium or you are dehydrated.
‘Pay attention to how your body is feeling for a few hours after you eat something. That’s usually a good indicator of whether it’s good for you. If you’re feeling fulfilled and calm for hours after eating, then that combination of protein, fats and carbs was great for you. If you get angry and irritable after eating particular foods, take note and if it keeps happening, steer clear.
Diet tip #4 Don’t eat dense food late at night
‘Where timing and eating is concerned, the foods that take the longest and most energy to digest should be eaten earlier in the day and the lighter foods can be consumed later in the day. For example, eat more red meat and poultry during the day and then at night move more toward fish and vegetables’.
‘A lot of my cooking plans tend to ease off eating a lot of food at night. It’s not a good idea to go to bed with a full stomach, as that can slow down a lot of bodily processes’.
Diet tip #5 Be aware of calories but don’t obsess over them
‘Counting calories is a good starting point to help you build up structure and routine and a visual knowledge of what constitutes healthy portions. That’s because few people actually know how many calories they are consuming, and some are surprised when you show them. They may think that a slice of bread is nothing when in fact certain types of bread are high in calories.
many super-healthy foods are still high in calories
‘Some people will also load themselves up with what they think are ‘healthy’ treats because they are made from nuts, dates and coconut sugar, for example. While these are super-healthy foods, they are still high in calories, and they’re processed in the body in the same way that a fat [nuts] or a sugar [dates and coconut sugar] is.
‘Calorie counting should be used to help you gauge your appetite and the calorie intake that works to keep you satisfied and to fuel your energy needs. I don’t think you should be dead set on just one or the same calorie intake everyday though, because some days you need to eat more because you’re super-active and other days you don’t – just be aware’.
Try Sergio’s low calorie Green Super Smoothie
Thanks to Sergio, Chris Hemsworth’s favorite post-workout smoothie has everything a superhero in training needs: protein for recovery plus lime juice, coconut water and apple for a cool-down refreshment.
Prep time: 5 minutes
- 1 cup coconut water
- ½ banana
- 3 tbs natural protein powder
- 1 Granny Smith apple cored
- 1 celery stalk
- ¼ avocado
- 30g baby spinach leaves
- ½ lime juiced
- 4-6 ice cubes
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Enjoy!
Diet tip #6 Treat yourself and pop it on the grill
‘A lot of the time when I have been on set with Chris, we always make sure that there are grilled options available. Both Chris and his wife Elsa love grilled meats or grilled anything really.
‘It’s all about the way you cook something. If you simply steam something then consume it, you aren’t going to get the same fulfillment as when you eat something that has been cooked over a grill, where you get that beautiful smokey charcoal-y taste.
‘Popping things on the grill gives foods more flavour and depth, it can make something that isn’t meaty even taste meaty. It makes you feel fuller and better. This is the way Chris and his wife will cook when Chris is preparing for movie roles, it keeps him on healthy eating track’.
Diet tip #7 Try ‘blanching’
‘If you over cook anything it’s going to be useless nutritionally. If you have a beautiful piece of broccoli and you cook it, and then 45 minutes later it looks grey then you have overcooked it.
‘Heard of the term blanching? This means throwing things in boiling water for a couple of seconds then putting it in iced water so it stops cooking. This technique brings out the natural chlorophyll in the food which is the bright green dye found in all green vegetables, and a powerful nutrient.
‘When you cook something and it looks brighter than it was before, that’s the chlorophyll coming through and it means you will be getting the nutrient at its best. But if you cook it to the point where it’s faded then it’s useless nutritionally’.
Diet tip #8 Bulk up your meals with roasted veg
‘Cruciferous and fibrous foods that keep you full are one of the main things to eat if you want to lose weight and maintain a healthy diet.
‘A lot of people choose to eat a chicken salad or a ceaser salad for lunch, but realistically that isn’t usually filling after an hour or so. You need to bulk that salad up with things like roasted root root or grilled vegetables such as peppers and aubergines.
‘Chris Hemsworth loves grilled broccoli, we all know the benefits of that of course. But adding that to meals, thanks to the fibre, is going to keep you fuller for longer and you are going to feel a lot better energy wise.
Try Sergio’s Baked Beet & Berries Salad With Goat’s Cheese
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
- 500g beetroot
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ tbs olive oil
- 3 tsp honey
- 1 orange zested & juiced
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ cup fresh or frozen blackberries
- ½ cup fresh or frozen raspberries
- ¼ cup pistachios
- 200g goat’s cheese
- 4 sprigs of dill roughly chopped
- 4 sprigs of fresh mint leaves picked & roughly chopped
- Salt & pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5
2. Wrap each beetroot in aluminium foil and place on a baking tray.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked.
4. Set aside until cool enough to handle and rub skins off with a tea-towel, saving any juice as you peel (It’s a good idea to wear gloves).
5. Cut into thin slices
6. Whisk vinegar, oil, honey, zest and salt in a bowl. Add beetroot slices and beetroot juice, gently mix with dressing and set aside for 10 minutes.
7. Gently toss beetroot with berries and pistachios, top with cheese and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Best served at room temperature
Diet tip #9 Avoid processed foods
‘I limit foods that are highly processed, boxed or condensed – like crackers and crisps as well as meals that are pre-made and frozen.
‘These foods may be measured in calories, but they carry a lot of ingredients your body doesn’t need. Obviously, you are better off eating a healthy frozen meal than going to a fast food place, but it’s best to consume fresh produce that’s wholesome, with no hidden extras.
‘Consuming fresher vegetables, healthy nuts, organic meat and knowing where your meat has come from are the key principles I like to follow.
‘In fact, many are always surprised about the kind of meat they consume. If it hasn’t been properly cared for it can be loaded enhancers, hormones and antibiotics’.
Diet tip #10 Learn how to snack clever
‘A good snack recipe will always have something that makes the snack as wholesome as possible. For example, grains, nuts, honey or a healthy fat.
‘A good snack would need something that provides a slow release of energy. For example, if you add fat to a sugar it’s going to slow down the absorption, which means it won’t spike blood sugar levels – this is what makes a healthy snack. It’s why you see a lot of snack bars containing dates and nuts, the dates are a sugar and the nuts are a fat.
if you add fat to a sugar it’s going to slow down the absorption, so it won’t spike blood sugar
‘I like to advise making great healthy shakes, using fresh ingredients, such as a protein powder blended with foods that are fresh and high in nutrients, such as grains, nuts, berries or honey.
‘When Chris is preparing for movie roles, I advise that he always has wholefoods available to him, to help him to feel a lot more satiated, full and energized. But it does get challenging when he’s constantly flying in and out, his schedule is so hectic with long hours on set.
Diet tip #11 Try cultured butter and stock up on healthy ingredients
‘I always keep organic cultured butter in in my fridge [this is butter with live bacteria cultures added to it before it is churned]. It does wonders for the taste of a lot of cooking, plus it’s healthy.
‘I will always have something from the pumpkin family in my fridge – courgettes and squash are a part of that family and there’s a lot you can do with them – I love them roasted.
‘Another thing to keep stocked up on is tomatoes – whether they’re in season or not. If they’re not in season I keep them in the fridge for cooking, and if they are in season I keep them out and use them in salads.
‘I also adore garlic. There’s so many things you can do with it – roast it whole, crush it and use it as a sautéing base for sauce, add it to dips and much more.
Oh and one more, I will always have a quality fermented product, such as pickles or sauerkraut on hand. Fermented foods are great for the gut and digestion, plus they taste great and tend to cut the richness out of fatty foods which helps with their digestion’.
Diet tip #12 Add healthy flavours to your meals
‘I don’t normally use a lot of dry spices but opt for more fresh herbs in my cooking. But I do use a few specific things including a good dried oregano. I also love Spanish smoked paprika which gives a beautiful smoky element to a lot of things such as sauces and barbecued meats.
‘It’s not a spice or herb, but a good olive oil that you can use for finishing and drizzling over foods is a must as is a good vinegar such as apple cider or red wine. And then there’s Maldon sea salt which is an absolute essential for me and really helps bring out the flavour of foods.
‘Oh and for frying, I always have a good grapeseed or sunflower oil to hand’.
Diet tip #13 Think about your food combinations
‘Other than processed foods, I don’t tend to limit the use of any other foods but I am aware of what certain combinations of food can do for the body.
‘It’s usually the combination of food that can interfere with digestion, I think, rather than the ingredients. For example, if you are going to have a ‘carby’ meal such as a big bowl of pasta, and then throw a massive steak on top of that, it will be too much of two dense foods for your stomach to handle. So I would take off some of the meat and add more vegetables instead to balance it out’.
Sergio Perera is a featured food expert on Chris Hemsworth’s personalised digital health and fitness program, Centr, available from the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch or online at centr.com