L.A. Diet

Beth Littleford Eats Spicy Noodles in Her Car, Drinks Iced Tea Everywhere

Beth Littleford with her iced tea at Panera.
Beth Littleford with her iced tea at Panera. Photo: Lesley Balla

Between playing the role of Suzanne Berger on The Hard Times of RJ Berger and popping up on shows like Desperate Housewives, former Daily Show correspondent Beth Littleford has her hands full making sure her 5-year-old son gets properly nourished. “He eats a whole lot better than I do,” Littleford explains. “For a while there I’d been getting into mom food habits that were bad, like eating cold fries or grilled-cheese crust off my son’s plate. I’ve tried to return to my old, good habit of only eating what I really want and stopping as soon as I feel even slightly full.” Juggling acting roles, auditions, spoken-word gigs, dance classes, and family life, Littleford treads carefully around craft services — and like many Angelenos, often finds herself fending off starvation while driving in her car, possibly one of the reasons she refers to herself as “a savage” when it comes to food. Just take a look for yourself — Littleford shared everything she ate over the past week for this edition of the L.A. Diet.

Wednesday, March 30
I often wake up at the crack of dawn. I’ve found that I can’t go back to sleep until I’ve had something to eat. I buy Trader Joe’s pop-tarts because they are the only pop-tarts in existence that (a) don’t have artificial color, and (b) taste good. I try to avoid food with artificial ingredients in the house. I grew up inhaling Doritos but I now realize MSG gives me a weird head.

I toasted the pop-tart, cut off the crusts, and buttered it with Irish butter. Those Europeans do good butter. I had it with a glass of Lactaid nonfat milk. They say that once you start to drink skim milk regularly, drinking even 2 percent milk feels like you’re drinking heavy cream. That’s true. Skim milk feels like a refreshing liquid. Whole milk feels like a semi-solid.

I went back to sleep and had to jump out of bed to get the kid fed and to school, and then go to a voice-over audition. I had a handful of pomegranate seeds — I go into a mini-depression when they go out of season. I had some black tea with a bit of agave and a bit of Sweet ‘n Low. I grew up in Central Florida. My mom always had iced tea with Sweet ‘n Low and now I drink it all day long. My favorite is from Panera, giant-sized. Almost every day I have my Panera cup with me. I squeeze in at least six lemon slices and put in four Sweet n’ Low packs and nurse it all day long.

After the audition, I went to a diner that’s been around since 1959: Talleyrand, in Burbank. I love a good diner. It usually means it has a good BLT or club sandwich, good fries, and great classic iced tea. I can’t bear the “passion fruit iced tea” the nicer restaurants are always peddling. Had a BLAT on wheat toast. I’ve heard SoCal called “The Salad Bowl,” as opposed to the “The Dust Bowl” or “The Rust Belt,” because the produce is always good, and indeed, the avocado was great. I picked my sandwich apart a bit. I love bacon, but not bacon fat or bacon grease. So I took out all the bacon, pulled off the fat, and patted the grease off with napkins. Most people are either fascinated or repulsed by this, so I tell people not to watch me eat. It’s a bit of a freak show.

I glanced at a picture in a magazine of a strawberry shake and thought, Must have strawberry shake! Out of nowhere the thermostat had jumped to 95, so I drove to Swingers and got one. It totally hit the spot. Every time I have something sweet, I need to cut it with something salty, so when I stopped for gas, I picked up some cacachuetes con chile y limon. If this were a U.S. snack, it would contain MSG. Happily, these spicy good peanuts did not. I ate a couple handfuls.

I dropped my son off at the sitter’s, where she makes him a good dinner. If I’d had time, I would’ve hung around looking hungry and she might’ve offered to feed me, too. But I was rushing to an appointment and realized too late that I was starving. I ate some leftover Fritos from my son’s lunch and more peanuts. This I consider practicing bad food habits. What I wanted and needed at this point was a decent dinner.

When I parked, I saw a liquor store. It was basically a giant store of booze and nuts and chips. But they did have those microwavable frozen burritos that I used to get from 7-11 when I was a teenager. I microwaved it in their broke-down, leaky microwave. One side reached the boiling point and turned the steak to rubber, and the other side still had frozen beans. I know this from biting into the boiling rubber steak part and the frozen bean part. I tried to smush the two parts together so that the hot part would defrost the beans. I might as well have been 17 and wasted. It was just pure savagery.

I got out of my appointment. I was so hungry that the smell of the Thai food being cooked next door made my mouth water. I went in and said, “I’ve never been here before — what should I get?” She recommended drunken noodles with shrimp. It was marked as a spicy dish, but I asked for it mild to medium. Their idea of mild to medium is my idea of hot. I got the noodles to go and started inhaling them in the car. They were great, but my mouth started burning. So I decided I was going to get rid of all the little tiny hot pepper seeds. I found the easiest way to do this was to take a noodle and run my fingers down it, effectively wiping it free of pepper seeds before sticking the noodle in my mouth. I would do this at a red light. Thank God I was alone in my car, because this was worse than wasted teenager or savage. This was full-on simian; I had turned into an ape.

Thursday, March 31
At six, I had a pop-tart and milk. Then at seven, it was pomegranate seeds on my way to the Desperate Housewives set. I was guest-starring, shooting three scenes. I knew they’d have a breakfast truck. It’s interesting to me how actors are sort of infantilized. Production doesn’t want you wandering off, so they have people wait on you.

I knew a BLT on wheat toast would be decent but greasy. Asked the A.D. to ask the catering truck to pat off the bacon grease with a paper towel. A long shot. And of course, the sandwich contained mounds of greasy bacon that had soaked through the bread and wilted the lettuce. I did my fat removal and napkin pat-down in the privacy of my trailer, then went to get my hair done. I also got a great cup of fresh-squeezed OJ. An A.D. or a P.A. probably had to crank the juice squeezer down on orange after orange for me to get that cup.

Around eleven, it was time to check out craft services, tables full of food every show or movie has out all day. Big buffets make me giddy. It goes back to the church potlucks of my youth. I have to try a little bit of everything. Craft services are mostly all the same, but still, I like to sample. I had a quarter of a cake doughnut, some berries, and a few pistachios. And then I was called back to set. Whenever I’m on a new set, I’ll tell the second A.D., “If you don’t see me, I’m most likely at craft services.” I really do loiter there.

We had a catered lunch. Little bit of chicken piccata, little bit of pork loin, little bit of tilapia, a little cauliflower, green beans, cheesy potatoes, and salad. Lemonade. Their iced tea was fruity and sucked. For dessert, a little chocolate ice cream with whipped cream, nuts, and cherry. Then, a little strawberry ice cream with whipped cream, nuts, and cherry.

Two of the three scenes I did were all about chocolate-chip cookies, so I wanted to eat the props. Instead I went to crafty and tried a chocolate-chip cookie there, which is far better than prop cookies would’ve been. I also ate a cranberry-oatmeal cookie and grapes. Around five, it was a bowl of corn chowder and a tiny bit of ice blended coffee with Sweet ‘n Low.

I had a slice of red pepper dipped in ranch, which had been sitting in the sun all day. Stomach troubles ensued the next day. And a little bit of canned tuna with red onion and sweet relish. Little bit of Hawaiian Maui Onion potato chips, a few pieces of popcorn, pistachios. I resisted the dinner they brought from Popeye’s. Popeye’s biscuits used to be my breakfast of choice when I was a junior and senior in high school, but my diet has improved since those days. If I ate anymore that day, I’ve blocked it out.

Friday, April 1
I started the morning with Fage Greek nonfat yogurt mixed with Fage 2 percent yogurt and honey sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and Trader’s Maple Pecan granola cereal, extra pecans thrown in.

At noon, it was Trader’s sesame pita chips dipped in hummus that I doctored up with olive oil, lemon, white pepper, kosher salt, and tons of cumin. I love using tons of condiments. When I go to a Mexican fast food joint with the salsa bar, I always empty the entire bowl of cilantro onto my taco and then yell, Sorry — looks like you’re out of cilantro!

Lunch was at Stanley’s in Sherman Oaks where they have a salad I could eat every other day and never get sick of: Amy’s grapefruit salad with butter lettuce, shredded chicken, grapefruit, avocado, and sesame seeds. It’s the Asian-y sesame dressing that makes it. I put a lot of salt and fresh cracked pepper on it. Iced tea, lots of lemon.

Around 3 p.m., it was attack of the bad stomach, so I went to Jerry’s Deli for take-out chicken broth. I’m always eating their matzo-ball soup, but for that day’s purposes, I got broth and had them give me ten packages of crackers which I emptied into the broth. The broth is so good, it must be full of MSG, but Jerry’s Deli and I have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy in place about that.

That evening, a neighbor kid was having a birthday party. We share a babysitter, Ana, with this family. Ana and the abuela, both from El Salvador, had spent two days making beans, rice, and meat for tacos. I avoided the party’s margaritas because of my upset stomach, but I couldn’t resist a taco. Good, homemade. Ana had brought in a gorgeous cake from Porto’s, an incredible Cuban bakery. As a rule, I never like cake, especially birthday cake. But everyone was raving, so I took a small bite. It was good, red velvet with cream-cheese frosting. But I still don’t like birthday cake. So I had some fruit salad with lots of berries.

Saturday, April 2
The yogurt, granola, and pomegranate for breakfast again. I always get hungry two hours after that breakfast. Was in the car, so ate some chili-lime peanuts and half a snack bag of Goldfish I’d stolen from Desperate Housewives craft services.

One o’clock, I was starving. Met a friend at a café on Montana. Ate two pieces of dark raisin-nut bread with butter. Got a cup of zucchini soup with croutons. So good, I slurped it all down. And a Cobb salad, no beets and no eggs, dressing mixed in. Was a third of the way through it when I found a hair. I pulled it out and kept eating. I would rather there not have been a hair, but it wasn’t going to stop me from eating.

Had decaf latte with Sweet ‘n Low after the meal.

I continued to wander through life like a hungry, inept college student, hoping someone would feed me. Took Jackson to our friends’ and kept anticipating food. The parents finally put out an Amy’s Organic frozen flatbread pizza. Alas, sometimes healthy food is not the tasty food, so I took a few bites and put it down. They live across from the mall, so I left Jackson for a bit and walked to Fuddruckers. Fuddruckers has good iced tea and good strawberry shakes. It was a child’s-size shake, which hit the spot. Got an iced tea, saved to nurse later.

In the car coming home, some more of those chili-lime peanuts. At home, some raisins, some fancy cheese from Whole Foods, eaten with crushed multi-grain sesame pita chips that were left over from my son’s lunch. A bit of yesterday’s Jerry’s Deli broth with all the mushy crackers in it. Still good.

And I had a Trader Joe’s Bedtime tea.

Sunday, April 3
At 9:00 a.m., I had a half grilled American cheese on multigrain bread, with some bacon, fat all cut off beforehand. I eat at least a bit of bacon almost every day. It’s like a one of my four basic food groups. Mu husband Rob insists on Oscar Meyer center cut. I’d like Jackson to be eating the less-nitrate-y Niman Ranch, but I buy it sometimes and then realize that as a family we’ve consumed $28 of breakfast meat in one sitting.

At ten, Return of the Bad Stomach. I had a probiotic health drink with zillions of active bacteria to combat the collateral damage of the antibiotics that I’d been taking for a sinus infection. At noon, went to take my usual dance class but was feeling so depleted, I couldn’t do it. A doctor from the class told me to have only clear liquids, broth, miso soup, sorbet, Jell-O. No dairy, damn! No citrus, damn! Nothing fried or oily. Damn! Damn!

At five, I had miso soup and rice from my favorite sushi restaurant, Iroha. l wished I could’ve eaten my regular meal: spicy tuna on crispy rice cakes and a nice side salad. They have good iced tea, too. At eight, I had an all-natural berry Popsicle. Some Gatorade. Bleh. And at ten, Trader’s Bedtime tea.

Monday, April 4
Still wasn’t feeling well, so I didn’t eat. Dropped Jackson off at school, then went to Trader’s to shop. Wanted comfort food so badly. I did buy shortbread cookies with raspberry filling and fantasized the whole time about eating them. I allowed myself one when I got home.

At noon, green tea and instant miso soup. I don’t love miso soup, so I had only a little of this freeze-dried packet soup. Had to eat something or I wouldn’t be able to pick Jackson up from school. I also had a few multigrain pita chips and hummus.

Drove Jackson to Chipotle. Had a kid’s meal with a carnitas taco. Allowed myself cheese on it, guacamole, a tiny bit of medium-spicy salsa, lots of chips, but not sour cream. That was my no dairy compromise. I was like a contestant on Survivor who’d been starved and then served a feast. I couldn’t stop eating the chips and guac. I argued to myself, avocado is fairly mild, and tortilla chips are fairly mild, and these are nice and salty. I need to replace the salt I’ve lost.

I was doing a spoken-word performance a few hours later. I was queasy, so I had a ginger chew and some saltines in the car. About 7:30 p.m., adrenaline burned off nausea. I was about to go onstage and had to eat. Producers put dark-chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds backstage and I had a granola bar in my purse. After the performance, I had a quarter of a peanut butter and jelly on wheat and half of the chocolate-chip cookie producers put out.

At home, it was two of those shortbread cookies and Bedtime tea.

Beth Littleford Eats Spicy Noodles in Her Car, Drinks Iced Tea Everywhere