(Step By Step)

Kristin Cavallari’s Health Advice Is Rooted In Balance

Go ahead, have the burger.

Courtesy of Dennis Leupold
Kristin Cavallari

Sometimes it’s the smallest changes that can make a big impact. This rings especially true when it comes to one’s health. In TZR’s series Step-By-Step, tastemakers speak to the minor moves that can lead to mighty changes.

When Kristin Cavallari made her first foray into pop culture back in the early aughts — in all her low-slung jeans and choker-wearing glory — she instantly solidified her status as the quintessential cool California girl. And although the CEO of lifestyle brand Uncommon James spent her childhood and early teen years in Denver and the suburbs of Chicago, respectively, and has made Nashville her home for the last several years, the sentiment remains the same. The relaxed, carefree, no-B.S. attitude that first won over fans during those Laguna Beach days is alive and well, as evidenced most recently by her newly launched podcast, Let’s Be Honest, in which she shares refreshing takes on everything from dating advice to beauty secrets to her philosophy on food and fitness. When it comes to her advice on the latter, Kristin Cavallari is as relatable as you’d hope. “It’s everything in moderation,” she says.

If you’ve always pictured the former The Hills star as the kind of woman with whom you could grab a green juice post-Pilates, then later split a pitcher of margaritas, you’d be correct. While this kind of balance may seem on brand for Cavallari, it hasn’t always been the case. “I was raised in the ’90s [with] my mom making us casseroles. I didn’t have a really great sense of health, but to be fair, I don’t think most people did at that time,” she tells TZR. “I moved in with my dad in Laguna Beach when I was in high school. He was kind of always at the forefront of what was going on in the health world. And so I felt like I had this balance between my dad being very healthy and instilling this foundation in me, and me also being a teenage kid and going to Jack in the Box.”

While Cavallari says her dad planted those early seeds of living a healthy lifestyle, she didn’t fully ditch the bouncing from extremes until she became pregnant with her first son, Camden. “I think in my early 20s, it was all or nothing for me,” she clarifies. “I was either super healthy and strict or the wheels had fallen off — there was no balance,” she explains. During that initial pregnancy, her relationship with food completely changed. It was the first time Cavallari balanced the two worlds she grew up in: being considerate about her general health, but also letting loose without self-judgment. “[I thought] I’m going to be mindful of what I’m eating, but I’m going to enjoy it and not worry about how much weight I gain,” she explains. “That whole mentality. And I didn’t gain a lot of weight; the weight was easy for me to take off, and I just had this freedom and this really healthy relationship with food. And I’ve tried to maintain that over the last 12 years.”

Cavallari’s mom may have raised her kids on those aforementioned casseroles and other similarly rich classic Midwestern dishes, but when it came to her own food habits, she jumped from one fad diet to the next. Witnessing this sort of fear around food, Cavallari realized she wanted to set a healthier example for her own kids — though she admits that in their younger years, she was more cautious about everything they put into their bodies. “I think when my kids were really little, it was important to me that they were eating as clean as possible,” she tells TZR. “[They’re] older now; they go to school; they come home with candy; they come home with all this crap. And I’ve had to teach myself to let go of that because I want them to have balance so that they don’t go the opposite way. I don’t want to be so strict with them that [unhealthy foods are] all they want.”

Instead, she’s learned to lead by example, and it mainly boils down to an 80/20 philosophy: 80% of her diet is focused on whole, responsibly sourced food and the other 20% allows room for more dining out with friends, splitting the occasional bottle of wine, and so on. “They see the way that I eat,” she goes on. “They see that when we go out to dinner, I eat whatever I want. They see the healthy relationship that I have around food now, and I hope that they can just take that on as they get older as well.”

This isn’t to say that Cavallari hasn’t fallen for some of the biggest diet and wellness trends in the past. She admits to having tried out a keto diet and intermittent fasting years ago when they first became buzzy. “Nothing messed up my metabolism more than doing those two things together,” she explains. “Only in the last few years I have finally stabilized. I think those things mess up your body so much. It’s shocking to your body. I was afraid to eat a carrot! It’s insane. I think diets are garbage — all of them.” Rather, the Let’s Be Honest host fills her plate with what she calls “real food” by going on weekly farmers market runs (her “favorite day of the week”) and cooking at home as often as possible. And while she doesn’t obsess over the calorie or fat content of the food she buys, she’s a devoted label reader. “I try to eat food as close to its natural state as possible,” she adds. “They’re making it very difficult for us, but I think if you can know your source, where you’re getting your meat, and just eating more whole foods, there’s more wiggle room.”

Cavallari also works with L.A.-based functional medicine doctor Ryan Monohan, who ordered thorough tests to examine any underlying health issues before pointing her in the direction of select supplements. “I had small intestinal bacteria, so I wasn’t absorbing any nutrients,” she explains. “Here I was taking all these vitamins, and it was a waste of time and energy. So for the last two years, we’ve been getting my gut back to where it needs to be, and now we’re adding in all the antioxidants and stuff like that. So I’m very hesitant to recommend any supplements to people because of that. It’s not one size fits all.” While the former Very Cavallari star acknowledges that comprehensive blood tests can be quite expensive, she suggests going that route if you have the means — especially since you may be already spending hundreds on supplements that aren’t benefitting you in the long run.

That said, there is one supplement she’s excited to talk about: colostrum. “This might be a little controversial,” she says of the nutrient and antibody-rich “first milk” derived from cows. “I get mine from a brand called Crucial Four because it’s very clean,” Cavallari says. “When babies are born and [breastfeeding], it has all the benefits they need. I put it in smoothies and I give it to my kids, too. It’s really good for your gut also. Basically everything.” The peptide- and protein-packed supplement claims to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties as well as boost your overall immunity, and a 2021 study found it to help prevent upper respiratory illness and increase intestinal absorption in a sample of both healthy and sick individuals.

Another important pillar of her balanced lifestyle? Working out. “Fitness is such a huge part of my mental health because it’s such a release,” she says. After years of trying out different methods, Cavallari explains that only in the last year or so has she found a rhythm that works best with her body. Her perfected formula consists of three days of lifting weights per week (one of them guided by her trainer), and one day of cardio, which consists of 30 minutes on a StairMaster or VersaClimber. She’ll also pop into the occasional yoga or Pilates class, especially when she visits New York or Los Angeles.

Cavallari also counts meditation as one of the daily wellness practices she swears by. “I do the semi-guided sessions with Andy [Puddicombe] on Headspace,” laughs the multitasking mom. “This summer, I would get up before [my kids] and meditate on my front porch. My kids were sleeping in until 9 a.m. this summer, which was awesome. Now that they’re back in school, it’s pure chaos.” These days, she makes the most of her mornings and kills two bird with one stone by taking those important moments of mindfulness in her infrared sauna — one of her favorite wellness luxuries. “I’ll drop them off, come home, work out, and then do the sauna for 20 to 25 minutes,” she explains. “I’ll meditate there for 10 minutes. Otherwise, to be honest, I won’t do it.” She also finds journaling to be a majorly productive use of her much-needed “me time.”

It’s easy to still envision the CEO as that quintessential California girl — in both her appearance and lifestyle — but if there’s one takeaway when it comes to her general outlook on health, food, and fitness, it’s that we should all give ourselves a little more grace. Cavallari wants to make it clear that she struggles with insecurity as much as the rest of us. It’s been a journey, but she says what’s helping her of late is embracing more positive self-talk. “Lately, I’ve been trying to be so mindful of what I say to myself, and I think if people started to do that more they’d realize how negative we actually are to ourselves,” she shares. “When a negative thought comes in, you’ve got to switch it to something positive. Mine is usually about body image, and it’s been like that for a huge part of my life. Now, I tell myself, ‘I feel good, I’m strong, I look good.’ Just telling myself all those things instead. Our thoughts create our reality.”