I Tried a High-Protein Meal Plan Crafted For Celebrities

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Kelly LeVeque, CCN, is a bestselling author, clinical nutritionist, and holistic health coach to A-list celebrities like Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, both of whom she recently helped prepare for acting roles. LeVeque is known for her Fab Four philosophy, which is a healthy method of eating that achieves balanced blood sugar levels and satiety, while allowing for food freedom. In other words, it's not a diet. The formula teaches you to prioritize protein, fat, fiber, and greens — all of which, until I met LeVeque at a Now Foods-hosted wellness retreat — I was majorly lacking.

LeVeque and I sat down for a chat to analyze my meals and figure out why, on a mostly pescatarian/plant-based diet, I was experiencing a crash-and-crave cycle and felt unable to glean the full benefits of my daily workout. The most obvious reason was that I was only getting half the amount of protein that my body needs, which according to LeVeque is one gram per pound of body mass. In other words, a 130-pound person needs 130 grams of protein minimum.

"A lot of people are hitting 50 or 60 grams of protein per day," LeVeque explained. "When I was working with Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry for their movies recently, they were both under-eating protein and fasting into an afternoon meal that had protein in it, plus a dinner meal. But I added either a smoothie or six ounces of salmon or steak to their breakfast."

Not only did I stay full throughout the day, leading me to nix my usual distraction snacks, I had consistent energy and even started drinking less coffee.

Worth noting: the amounts LeVeque recommends are higher than the standard dietary recommendations of how much protein you should eat, which start at about 0.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight and can go up to 1.6 g per kg of bodyweight for very active people. There's not necessarily research showing that eating more than that has any benefits, but every person is different, and some people may feel they do better on higher-protein diets.

My biggest question: could I get the right amount of protein while maintaining a plant-based diet? "It's been 12 years for me and I've had these conversations with many a celebrity actually, where they're like, 'No, plant-based is better for you, meat is bad for you,'" LeVeque told me. "The reality is, plant-based proteins are not as bioavailable. So, if I give you 10 grams of protein in a complete animal source, you're probably going to absorb the majority of that. But if I give you 10 grams of protein in a plant-based source, it could be six grams that you absorb."

LeVeque is right that plant-based foods are often not complete sources of protein (meaning they don't contain the nine essential amino acids your body needs). But that doesn't mean you have to eat meat in order to increase your protein consumption. Combining different plant-based protein sources (like quinoa and beans or broccoli and tofu) can create a complete protein.

LeVeque elaborated that bioavailable sources of protein are used to heal, rebuild, and strengthen muscles, which informs your body's metabolism. Of course, bio-individuality plays a part, but under-eating protein is what perpetuates a blood sugar spike — and that's exactly what I had been experiencing on a daily basis. Like Garner and Berry, I was also fasting into a lunch where I then failed to fuel myself properly (celebrities, they're just like us!).

I decided to try LeVeque's recommendations for the following few weeks just to see how I felt, and the results were significant. Not only did I stay full throughout the day, leading me to nix my usual distraction snacks, but I also had consistent energy and even started drinking less coffee. I found that I could concentrate far later into the evening, which meant I got more work done and welcomed a weekly morale boost. While I certainly plan to mix up the dishes that you'll see ahead, sampling this lifestyle has certainly made my body feel better.

Ahead, see what swaps LeVeque made to my meals to instill her Fab Four plan into my routine and what suggestions ended up working for me.

Experts Featured in This Article

Kelly LeVeque, CCN, is a clinical nutritionist and celebrity holistic health coach; the creator of the Fab Four fundamentals; author of "Body Love" and "Body Love Every Day"; host of the Be Well podcast; and founder of Be Well protein powder. She has partnered with Now Foods on an informative Smoothie Builder that incorporates her renowned Fab Four formula.

High-Protein Breakfast
POPSUGAR Photography | Sarah Wasilak

High-Protein Breakfast

For breakfast, I'd always tried to curb my sugar craving by adding frozen banana to a smoothie with oat milk and half a scoop of whey protein isolate powder ($78). However, LeVeque was quick to spot the issue that ultimately led me to a blood sugar spike, crash, and inevitable sugar craving. "When we look at that blender, you have two carbohydrates if you're having a banana and oat milk, so what that mostly is is a blood sugar spike. The protein breaks down to amino acids, not glucose, but there's no fat there at all," she pointed out. "You're not going to feel full for very long and you're probably going to need a snack or you'll be thinking about lunch around 11. You'll go, 'I need a piece of fruit, a yogurt, or avocado toast.'" (When paired with carbohydrates, both fat and protein help slow the body's digestion of the carbs to minimize blood sugar spikes, according to research in the Iranian Journal of Public Health.)

LeVeque's direction? Opt for less banana and put half an avocado in the smoothie instead, which breaks down to fatty acids rather than glucose and adds fiber. Then double the scoop of protein powder, to up the total to 50 grams of protein rather than 25, and add a handful of spinach or blueberries for color. "I'm looking for vibrancy, color, leafy greens, bright berries — something like that," she instructed, explaining, "Berries are low glycemic. They're not going to drive blood sugar up like bananas or oat milk. I would pull any type of concentrated carbohydrate out of breakfast and double down on the protein."

LeVeque also suggested buying grass-fed ground beef and pre-making meatballs, then warming a couple up for breakfast. As a mostly pescatarian, this was a totally new addition for me — and, given my newfound obsession with hot sauce, a delicious one. But for people who want to avoid red meat, turkey meatballs, tinned fish, or even a black bean-and-quinoa ball could be a good substitute.

After two full weeks of blending up LeVeque's suggested smoothie in my beloved Ninja Blast ($54, originally $60) and enjoying two meatballs around 10 a.m., I stayed full until roughly 2 p.m., when I started to think about lunch, rather than panic about it in a hangry state (which happened previously).

High-Protein Lunch
POPSUGAR Photography | Sarah Wasilak

High-Protein Lunch

My go-to lunch has been Fage Total 0% Greek Yogurt topped with plenty of fruit, seeds, nuts, a drizzle of honey or syrup, and nut butter for years. Why? It's quick to throw together when I'm starving, for one. But I also became accustomed to the sweetness. I started to crave peanut butter like an addiction, and something in my brain would trigger it was time to indulge right around 12 p.m.

LeVeque looked at the bowl and explained that the nuts are a fat source (with fiber from the seeds), but there are key parts of this bowl that lead to — you guessed it — a blood sugar spike. "The strawberries? Not our biggest issue. It's the drizzle," she told me. "The density of carbohydrates there is going to drive your blood sugar up and make you crave more sugar." There's nothing wrong with having a sweet tooth, but this cycle was causing me to have energy crashes a few hours after lunch, something I really wanted to escape.

Since I also love salads, LeVeque recommended a base of olive oil-massaged kale or spinach and plenty of veggies. In order to get me to the recommended 130 grams of protein a day, she suggested red meat (which is the most nutrient-dense per ounce when it comes to B vitamins, iron minerals, and omega threes), salmon, or tuna.

Truth be told, when I used to eat my yogurt bowl at noon, I was craving a snack by 3 p.m. But once I made this change, I was full all the way until 6 or 7 p.m. LeVeque explained why: "You're just under-fed in the morning. It feels exhausting to me if I'm being totally honest with you. You're getting to dinner and it's like survival a little bit. I'd rather you feel the opposite way."

High-Protein Dinner
POPSUGAR Photography | Sarah Wasilak

High-Protein Dinner

Since I tended towards plant-based protein before, dinners usually consisted of a salad with air-fried tofu, veggies, cheese, a creamy drizzle of dressing, and either a chunk of bread or my favorite crackers that I noshed on while I cooked. This also came after an afternoon snack, which was usually an apple or something salty. LeVeque depicted my day like this: "Little spike, half crash, bigger spike, half crash, bigger spike, crash, crash — you are depleted of energy; you're starving and all you want is carbohydrates."

Of course, carbs aren't inherently bad. In fact, they're an essential macronutrient that deserve a place on our plates. So rather than cutting my carb intake, I was focusing on increasing my protein intake. (Good news, since I'm completely unwilling to give up my affinity for Trader Joe's Multiseed Soy Sauce Rice Crackers ($18).) In theory, this would help my body digest the carbs I was eating more slowly and potentially minimize the blood glucose swings I was experiencing.

As far as portion size when it comes to meat (which ranges from chicken and ground turkey to salmon, depending on what my partner and I are feeling), LeVeque suggested using my hands as a measuring tool. She instructed me to have the minimum size and thickness of the circle of my palm, but doubled. Two or three stacks of cards is another good visual reference.

"I want you to think about a big piece of salmon that you get at a restaurant, which is like maybe the size of your phone. But I want it to be maybe two inches in thickness. I want you to not be afraid of over-eating protein," she said.

LeVeque tended to recommend meat as a protein source, and I wasn't against adding a little more to my diet to see how it affected my energy and hunger levels throughout the day. But again, meat isn't essential for a high-protein lifestyle. Pairing plant-based protein sources is another great way to increase your intake of the macro.

If you need a portion reference for fats, LeVeque compared a tablespoon to the length of your thumb from the top to the wrist. "One to two tablespoons, or one to two thumbs, if you're using a drizzle."

Sarah Wasilak is the associate director of commerce at PS. With plenty of experience in the shopping market, a keen interest in SEO, and 10 years as an editor at the brand, she enjoys writing across the lifestyle and health-and-fitness categories. She has bylines at PS, InStyle, Elle, Refinery29, Who What Wear, Elite Daily, Byrdie, and The Quality Edit and aims to amplify minority voices in all her work.

Travel and expenses for the author were provided by Now Foods for the purpose of writing this story.