Photo: Getty Images
You can go ahead and stop giving the “I’m super busy” excuse for not eating well and exercising—because compared with Sophia Bush, we’ve all got free time.
The 33-year-old former One Tree Hill star juggles a starring role on Chicago P.D. with her charity work at The Girl Project, all while co-running clever perfume startup I Smell Great, which creates scents designed to be layered that reactivate up to eight hours after application.
Add to that the red carpet events, interviews, and media appearances, and you could forgive Bush for skipping the gym every night. Except, well, she doesn’t. Instead, Sophia balances her love of food (she’s a self-professed foodie) with healthy snacks, meditation, and regular boxing classes with her personal trainer in Chicago.
There’s more to her healthy lifestyle too—like the fitness app she’s obsessed with, recipes she swears by, and Instagram stars who keep her motivated—so we chatted with Sophia for a little insight into her food and fitness diary.
For breakfast I had:
I’m trying to start every day with a cup of warm water and lemon. It’s so good for jump-starting your system, as well as helping to keep your body alkaline. This has been on my health to-do list for ages, but with my ever-changing schedule on my show, I’ve found it hard to actually form a habit.
As far as food goes, today I had a fall breakfast hash, full of sweet potato, parsnips, kale, fennel, turkey, prosciutto, and scrambled eggs. Two of my other favorites are avocado toast with smoked salmon and lemon juice, and chia pudding made with either almond or coconut milk. So good!
For lunch I had:
Grilled salmon with olive and artichoke tapenade and a spinach salad with lots of avocado, beets, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. I love to use a clean extra virgin olive oil as a dressing and just use a little pinch of sea salt and fresh pepper. I always have an iced tea with lunch, and once the temperatures really drop in Chicago, I start making hot tea.
For dinner I had:
I always try to have a good protein, either a small steak or some lamb (or fish if I haven’t had it for lunch). I’ll do some veggies, and then I try to get creative with a side dish. Lately I’m trying to substitute comfort foods like potatoes and rice with healthier options, so I’ve started experimenting with parsnip mash and cauliflower “rice.” You use a cheese grater to grind the cauliflower down to a rice-like shape and size. It’s wonderful. I actually got the idea from a great company based here in Chicago called Home Chef. You select recipes you want to try, and they ship you a gorgeous box of food that’s all portioned out, prepped, and ready to cook. Genius.
Today I snacked on:
Our set is a danger zone of chips, cookies, donuts, and other unhealthy treats. I mean, they’re everywhere. So this fall, I started working with an amazing food specialist in Chicago to make snacks I can bring to work. She’s taught me how to make the perfect kale chip—perfect, I tell you; she’s a wizard—protein truffles, healthy cole slaw with kale and turkey, and all sorts of other great snacks that do right by my body. I still fall victim to the naughty snacks, but not as often, which is really helping me get through the day.
Photo: I Smell Great
My go-to healthy drink is:
Unsweetened green tea. I love coffee, but try not to have more than two cups a day. Green tea is such a good substitute. I’m also crazy about the herbal elixirs from Dragon Herbs in Santa Monica, California. I take packets of them everywhere!
The one thing I would never eat is:
Never eat?! I’m a foodie! I love to try all kinds of wild foods from all over the world, so I can’t imagine saying there’s something I’d never eat. Actually, I can’t handle heat in my food, so I would never eat a ghost pepper—I think my heart would probably stop!
My favorite workout is:
Boxing, which I started about 10 years ago. I love what it does for me mentally and physically. Boxing trains your mind in such a unique way. Plus, it’s great for my job—all of the stunt work I have to do on Chicago P.D. is only enhanced by my ability to do intense physical choreography when I’m boxing regularly. I work out with an amazing trainer in Chicago named Robbie Cole. He’s a scrappy English guy who kicks my ass, and we also laugh a ton while we train. I’m also trying to do more yoga—I feel like I’m always saying that, but it’s true!—because flexibility is key to strength.
My guilty pleasure food is:
Pasta. All of it. In New York, I love to see what Mario Batali is cooking up at Babbo and what sort of crazy special ravioli Marc Forgione is making at his place in Tribeca. In Chicago, I’m quite partial to the ragout at Nico Osteria. Formento’s has an insane orecchiette that I cannot get enough of. And in L.A., the classic gnocchi at Dan Tana will always be at the top of my list.
The next big health and fitness trend will be:
I think people are really beginning to look at wellness in a more holistic fashion. Eastern medicine has looked at the integrated approach for so long, and it seems to me that the Western world is catching up. I started to examine all this stuff about seven years ago when I first started seeing an Ayurvedic doctor in California. She taught me so much about the difference between causes and symptoms, and put me on an anti-inflammatory health plan (which sometimes I stick to and sometimes I don’t!). My asthma virtually went away—it was unbelievable.
That’s when I really started looking at food as medicine—I know it can be tough, but seeing the results of whole body health that come along with treating myself from the inside out is just incredible. I think that’s why plans like the Clean Program and Whole 30 have really taken off and become such a part of our experiential lexicon. They’re teaching people new habits of self care by experiencing the benefits that come with change.
My favorite healthy restaurant is:
I try to dig around no matter where I am and find a truly farm-to-table restaurant to try out. Knowing where your food comes from, and thus knowing what isn’t in your food when it comes to preservatives and nasty chemicals, really helps make a difference in how you feel after you’ve eaten. I know we can’t all eat this way 100 percent of the time, but every little bit helps. I love Tender Greens and Lemonade in Los Angeles. They’ve made fast, simple, yet incredibly healthy food so easy.
My favorite healthy snack is:
I am a savory person, so I love seaweed snacks and kale chips. They satisfy my urge to eat Doritos! And I love a good smoothie—I prefer them to juice because you keep all of the fiber and good nutrition from the fruits and veggies you’re blending up.
My best friend @jedidiahjenkins’ feed does the same. He’s a writer and an editor, and he spent a year and a half biking from Oregon to the end of Patagonia. Incredible.
Also: @humansofny tugs on my heartstrings every single day, @elitedaily makes me howl with laughter, I get all my news from @time and @ryotnews. Fashion accounts I love include @consciousco, @manrepeller, @fwrd, and @reformation. Lastly, @youareluminous and @astrologyangelmediums offer constant reminders to be an openhearted being.
The three ingredients you’ll always find in my kitchen are:
Good olive oil, coconut oil, and turmeric. And so much turkey jerky.
My biggest health tip for travelers is to:
Pack your own food for the days you are flying. It’s tough to get good food in airports, and travelers are always in a rush. If you pack a meal and snacks, you’ll stay on track for your health goals, and you’ll also save some coin.
My signature healthy dish is:
I make an amazing scramble for Sunday brunch with kale, leeks, fennel, turkey, feta, and truffle oil. I’m pretty proud of it, not going to lie.
The health app I couldn’t live without is:
Headspace. I learned Transcendental Meditation 10 years ago, and I know how much meditation can improve your life. I also know how crazy fast paced life is and how hard it can be to carve out time to dedicate to a practice, so I’ve found that Headspace is my lifeline. I can always find 10 minutes to put my headphones in—whether I’m in a van headed to set, on a train headed downtown, on an airplane, at home—and get present. Even if you’ve never meditated before, you can download the app and get started.
The top three songs on my workout playlist right now are:
“Givin’ Em What They Love” by Janelle Monáe, “Follow Running Foxes” by The Jane Doze, and “Fresh Blood” by Eels.
The best part of my job is:
I feel incredibly grateful to wear so many hats. As an actor, I get to offer windows into people and worlds to an audience and provide recognition, catharsis, or a thought-provoking experience to those viewers. As a philanthropist [with The Girl Project], I have the incredible opportunity to address inequity and injustice, and as an entrepreneur, I get to address holes in the market as I see them and speak to the needs of my customers and fan base.
Sophia splits her time between acting, philanthropy work, and running her perfume startup I Smell Great. (Photo: I Smell Great)
I start an average day by:
My schedule is so unpredictable … I long to be one of those people who has a regular schedule and can commit to the same Pilates or spin class every week! Since things are so hectic around here, I try to plan the evening before. That way, if I have to be out the door at 4.00 a.m., my clothes are laid out, my work bag is packed, my water bottle is already full, and a lemon is waiting in the fridge for me. The only thing I guess I do every day no matter the time or day ahead is walk my dog, Patch! He gets the king treatment no matter what.
My signature fall scent is:
My favorite thing about I Smell Great, besides the goal of affirming women every time they use a product, is that the entire line is meant to layer. So I spent all summer layering my very favorite scent, Wild Honey, with Beach Babe. Now that temperatures are dropping, I’m layering Wild Honey with Angel Cake.
My winter health tip is:
Stay hydrated! Going through an entire season with the heater on blast can really suck moisture out of a person, which you see in your skin and feel in your body. We often mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated can help stop you from mindless eating too.