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Bobby Flay: How He Stays Fit

Bobby Flay

The Iron Chef used to skip breakfast, taste dishes all day long and eat a huge dinner. Then he turned 40 and his body gave him a reality check. Now he’s sharing his life lessons—and favorite healthy recipes—in his newest cookbook.

Bobby Flay is one of the most recognizable faces on the Food Network, and chef-owner of critically-acclaimed restaurants like Mesa Grill, Gato, Bar Americain, Bobby Flay Steak and Bobby’s Burger Palace. Not to mention the more than one dozen cookbooks that bear his name. Safe to say, he cooks—and tries—a lot of food while keeping a packed schedule. So does he really eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants, while staying fit and camera ready?

Until about 10 years ago, the answer was yes. That’s when Flay turned 40. “The ‘a-ha moment’ came in the form of getting older and realizing that I needed to make some lifestyle changes so I can stay healthy and maintain my at-times hectic pace,” says Flay. So he recommitted to running daily—and completely reevaluating how he ate.

“The biggest change was that before, I was eating out late every night, testing every bite of food at my restaurants, and wiping my plate clean. Now, I focus on eating real, unprocessed food with natural ingredients. I try never to eat past 8 p.m., and I try to avoid totally cleaning my plate clean. I also drink alcohol in moderation and hydrate consistently,” say Flay. In his newest book, Bobby Flay Fit: 200 Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle, he offers recipes that he created after changing the way he ate, as well as advice on how he sticks to his new lifestyle.

Boredom is the enemy for any diet. How can people avoid it?
I can appreciate that a lot of healthy food doesn’t appear as though it tastes good, but I aim to upend that trend here by teaching people flavor-building techniques. Personally, I use lots of these flavor boosters—garlic, other aromatics, fresh and dried chiles, a variety of vinaigrettes, glazes and rubs, and fresh herbs—in my cooking, and my pantry is filled with an assortment of condiments like mustard, harissa, and chipotles to add flavors without the guilt.

Are “cheat meals” a part of your plan?
Well, part of the reason why I practice everything in moderation is so there is no need for a “cheat” meal. I don’t deny myself a steak or a burger if I feel inclined, but I do plan around it if I know that’s where I’m headed. That said, a “cheat” meal to me is probably eating a whole pint of pistachio ice cream instead of a few spoonfuls. And, yes, there are days that I just need to do that and I don’t beat myself up. I just wake up the next day and get right back on track.

You’ve been a runner for years, and have run the NYC Marathon three times. How do you fit in your miles?
Very easy—I wake up early and get it out of the way first thing. I know the longer that I wait during the day to exercise the greater chance that I will blow it off. I try to stay only in hotels with gyms so that I have access to a treadmill and weights, and if I am traveling to a great city with a great climate and with running trails, I ask the front desk for a running map (most hotels have them) and I run outside (which I prefer). Running outside is a great way to get in your exercise and explore a new city at the same time.

What’s the biggest mistake you see people making when trying to be healthier?
Don’t try to accomplish it all in one day or week. Think of it as lifestyle change: a marathon and not a sprint. The first thing that you can do is start to cut out certain high fat/calorie foods, drink more water, and walk places that you would normally drive or take the subway. Hire a trainer to set up a program for you at the gym that is realistic. If that seems to work, then you can get creative, but I think it’s essential to establish a routine of discipline and commitment before going full-tilt.

Bobby Flay BurgerVEGGIE BURGER
Serves 4
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and drained again on paper towels for at least 15 minutes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (loosely packed) quinoa
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus ½ cup for frying
1 pound cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced about ¼ inch thick
Scant ¼ cup barbecue sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 large eggs
1½ cups quinoa flour

3 tablespoons
Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
¼ cup sliced green onion, dark and pale green parts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Make the burgers: Line a rimmed baking sheet with absorbent kitchen towels or paper towels. In a food processor, coarsely puree the drained chickpeas. You need ½ cup.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, let sit for 10 minutes, and then fluff with a fork. Spread the quinoa evenly onto the prepared baking sheet and let cool completely. The quinoa can be cooked a day ahead and stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator.
  3. In a large sauté pan, heat the 2 tablespoons oil over high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes without touching. Stir and then cook until the mushrooms are golden brown and dry, 10 minutes.
  4. Add the barbecue sauce and a splash of water to the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are glazed, about 2 minutes; transfer to a medium bowl and let cool to room temperature.
  5. Mix the quinoa, chickpea puree, and cilantro into the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper if needed. Cover the mixture and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
  6. Make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  7. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs and a tablespoon of water and season with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Put the quinoa .our on a small plate and whisk in 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
  8. Form the mushroom mixture into 4 burgers (I like to use a 4-inch ring mold). Set a burger on a slotted metal spatula and gently dip it into the egg bath. Remove and let excess drip off. Dredge in the quinoa flour and tap off the excess. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining 3 burgers.
  9. In a large nonstick sauté pan, heat ½ cup oil over high heat until it begins to simmer. Fry the burgers in the hot oil until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels before serving with the mustard–green onion sauce.

Per serving: Calories 555; Protein 23g;
Carbohydrates 79g; Dietary Fiber 13g;
Sugar 6g; Total Fat 17g; Saturated Fat 2g

“Full disclosure: I had never met a veggie burger that I liked—until now, that is. A few months ago, I had to create a veggie burger on the fly for a battle on my show Beat Bobby Flay. Don’t ask me what made me grab mushrooms, quinoa and chickpeas off the pantry shelves, but I am glad I did. The trio makes a perfect combination of flavors and textures. The star ingredient is the quinoa flour, found just about everywhere these days; it provides the crunch that regular all-purpose flour doesn’t. While this burger is not a hamburger, I still think it is pretty delicious, and it’s now featured at all the Bobby’s Burger Palaces. Top it as you like and serve it on your favorite bun.”

Serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, sliced paper thin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 (20-ounce) bag frozen edamame in pods, thawed

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small sauté pan, heat the oil over low heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove the garlic chips with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt. Reserve the oil.
  3. Put the edamame in a bowl, add the garlic oil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat. Spread the edamame in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until the pods are charred and the beans are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven, transfer to a platter, and top with the garlic chips and additional salt, if needed.

Per serving: Calories 123; Protein 5g; Carbohydrates 5g; Dietary Fiber 2g;
Sugar 1g; Total Fat 9g; Saturated Fat 1g

“I have to give my respects to Nobu in Los Angeles for this recipe—it’s one of my favorite appetizers there. Japanese restaurants typically serve edamame steamed and salted in the pod, and those are great, too, but this preparation is so much more noteworthy. Charring the soybeans inside their shell adds a great depth of flavor, and sweet and toasty garlic makes this virtuous snack irresistible.”

Bobby Flay Vanilla bean and granolaVANILLA BEAN AND ESPRESSO GRANOLA
Serves 8 (4 ½ cup servings)

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons hot coffee
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups almonds, chopped
1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup dark chocolate–covered espresso beans, coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, espresso powder, coffee, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla extract until combined. In another small bowl, mix together the almonds and oats. Add the almond mixture to the coffee mixture and toss to combine.
  3. Transfer to the baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 15 minutes. Stir and then bake for another 10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove and let cool completely.
  4. Break into small pieces, put in a bowl, and stir in the espresso beans.

Per serving: Calories 123; Protein 5g; Carbohydrates 5g; Dietary Fiber 2g;
Sugar 1g; Total Fat 9g; Saturated Fat 1g

“Before I changed my ways, I used to stop by a popular coffee shop on my way to the office for a medium double-vanilla latte to start off my day. A few hours and one sugar crash later, I would follow it up with another. That is more than 500 empty calories and 12 grams of fat, all before noon! I love the flavor of coffee paired with anything, but I particularly like it with vanilla and chocolate. Having sworn off the vanilla lattes, I now just do a skim-milk latte and eat a handful of this more nutritious latte-inspired granola instead. It is also great stirred into yogurt or sprinkled on oatmeal.”

Recipe information Reprinted from Bobby Flay Fit. Copyright © 2017 by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Ed Anderson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

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