L.A. Diet

Actress and Author Danica McKellar Tops Her Oatmeal With ‘Birdseed’ and Eats Hilo Pizza for Dinner

Danica McKellar, at home in the garden.
Danica McKellar, at home in the garden. Photo: Mike Verta

Anybody who grew up in the eighties is familiar with Danica McKellar: The actress caused a wave of preteen crushes as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. Today, though, McKellar is a best-selling author of three math books bearing names like Kiss My Math and mother to an 11-month-old baby boy. She also eats healthier than almost anyone we know, keeping an entirely organic diet, a focus that she says sharpened once she became pregnant. “I’ve always strived to eat healthy,” McKellar explains. “But nearly two years ago when I found out I was pregnant, I kicked it up a notch. Or two.” She says that being pregnant meant “a few slips here and there aren’t the end of the world, but it’s not the time to pig out on doughnuts and ice cream.” In between maintaining her Danica World blog, writing her fourth book, and fighting off the (occasional) craving for a great root beer float, McKellar shared everything she ate this week for today’s L.A. Diet.

Wednesday, August 17
After an early morning breastfeeding marathon with 11-month-old Draco, I was totally starving. With my hands full, literally holding a baby, I made instant oatmeal, so that’s my main staple in the mornings. The one I get is from Whole Foods and doesn’t have any ingredients except organic rolled oats. I topped that with raisins, cinnamon, and a heaping tablespoon of what I affectionately call “birdseed,” a concoction my mom makes and keeps me stocked with. It’s made of chia seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, all ground up together with powdered lethicin — all organic and mostly raw. It makes my instant oat paste more lively and way more nutritive.

To drink, it’s water all the way. It’s the healthiest choice. I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I might have taken up the habit in college, except my math professor made the mistake of telling me I’d never survive a math degree without coffee because of all the late nights studying, which I took as a challenge. He may as well have double-dog-dared me. To this day, I’ve never drunk coffee to stay up late, wake up, or anytime really. I never got the taste for it. I’ve always thought coffee smells fantastic, but it tastes bitter to me. This coming from the girl who loves arugula, radicchio, and rapini.

I had to be in Studio City for a meeting near lunch time, so I swung by my favorite restaurant in the area: the Sun Cafe, a totally organic, raw, vegan restaurant. They’re hard-core over there. I ordered the kelp noodle “pasta”; the noodles consist of two ingredients: kelp and sodium from seaweed, with raw pesto sauce, which is so yummy you can’t believe it’s raw kelp. It sounds crazy, but if you’re in the area, try it. There’s fresh garlic, basil, and kalamata olives, too, and I always eat it so fast. It comes with a side of kale salad, and I ordered a freshly squeezed kale-apple juice to wash it all down.

I can never resist picking up a few boxes of their mini-cookies, raw and vegan, sweetened with raw organic agave. They’re loaded with coconut, nuts, and seeds, which I’ll take over partially hydrogenated oils and corn syrup any day. They come in cinnamon, fruit burst, and chocolate. Naturally, I get a box of each. I usually end up eating a couple of cookies in the car. I chose cinnamon because those were going to expire first. I’m the picture of whimsy and spontaneity, right?

For dinner, I made a homemade tuna-fish salad: dolphin-safe tongol tuna, mayonnaise, lemon juice, chopped plum, chopped white onion, a little sea salt, half a mashed avocado, a chopped beefsteak tomato, and a little olive oil drizzled on top. I just sort of mashed it all up in a bowl. A while later I had water, like, a half-liter. Gotta stock up for the nighttime nursing session.

Thursday, August 18
I’m currently writing my fourth math book, this time on geometry. Writing my books has always been a big job, and it’s an even bigger one now that I have a baby. To have more time for writing, my mom’s been coming over for two days almost every week to help, which has been a lifesaver. She plays with Draco, and yes, makes food! After I had my instant oatmeal with “birdseed,” she came over and I got to work.

We get local, organic produce delivered every week from Farm Fresh to You. This week it included organic cauliflower and summer squash. My mom sauteed them with green beans she brought over, with olive oil, and herbs from her garden. She also cooked pasture-raised chicken from my freezer with onions, coconut oil, and curry spices. I’m a sucker for coconut oil. That was food for the rest of the day, along with some watermelon that also came from the delivery. I grazed all day, not really defining “lunch” and “dinner” so much as oh-my-goodness I’m being so productive writing, oh look mom just brought another plate. Yum.

Friday, August 19
My mom stayed the night and I awoke to discover that she had made “real” oatmeal in a crock pot all night. Yay! I should mention that although my husband was raised as a meat-and-potatoes guy from the Midwest, it’s taken some time, but he’s largely embraced the way I eat. And even he has to admit that this food is tastier in a lot of ways, though I still haven’t gotten him to try the kelp noodles.

We had plenty of chicken, rice, and vegetables left over from the day before, and my mom also steamed some broccoli and made purple barley. See? Not totally gluten-free. I like to juice about once a week, and she did the work for me today: raw cucumber, broccoli, kale, and lemon. Thanks, Mom!

Saturday, August 20
Back to my instant oatmeal with “birdseed.” I had my eye on those raw cookies from Sun Café, the chocolate, so I crumbled one into the cereal. I know, I’m a total genius.

For lunch, I made one of my summer favorites: an avocado-tomato sandwich. I toasted two pieces of gluten-free bread, spread spicy mustard on one side, mashed a ripe half-avocado on the other, layered a little crispy lettuce and a thickly sliced ripe beefsteak tomato inside, cut it down the middle and yum. I ate two of those, and had plenty of water to drink.

Dinner was an odd but tasty mix of leftovers, mostly broccoli and a little chicken, put atop my freshly cooked brown rice. But I wanted a new flavor. I love lemon juice, so I squeezed a half lemon over it, chopped part of an onion, drizzled olive oil, and added crushed pecans on top. I take a handful of pecans and crush them in my bare hands, pretending I’m a giant and the pecans are tiny cars or something. This was my second night of posting palindrome puzzles to my Twitter, and watching the answers come in was fun, so I stayed up late enough to get hungry again. A few fruit burst cookies from Sun Café did the trick.

Sunday, August 21
This morning I decided to go totally different and have … cold cereal instead of oatmeal! Did I mention what a wild and crazy gal I am? I had crispy brown rice cereal with rice milk, and some tasty granola on top for extra flavor. I forgot the birdseed today. See? I change my routine and look what happens.

We were in Santa Monica, the home of Real Food Daily. They’re another all-organic, vegan restaurant. I stocked up on food for the whole day. I was starving and got two orders of their black beans with citrus dressing and a farm chop salad with wasabi dressing. Their living wrap is the only raw entree on their menu. Instead of a flour tortilla for the wrap, they use collard greens, just these big ‘ol leaves wrapping up the inside, which is a red pepper sunflower spread, cucumbers, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and a citrus herb dressing. A house salad comes on the side, you know, just in case you hadn’t gotten enough vegetables yet. I think the flavors of this wrap get even better when they’ve sat together for a bit, so I saved this for dinner. And there was plenty of steamed brown rice left from the night before, which I ate quite a bit of. I love how healthy those wraps are, but they’re not very filling.

Monday, August 22
This morning I tried something a little different. I cooked quinoa flakes stove-top with filtered water, and added my “birdseed” and fresh-cut watermelon on top. Very light and satisfying. And the flakes cook way faster than whole quinoa grains.

For back-to-school this year, I’ve decided to donate 1,000 copies of my first book, Math Doesn’t Suck, to one of my favorite charities, MyStuffBags.org, which gives support to children taken from abusive homes during the orphanage and foster care process. The offices are located in Westlake Village, and there’s an amazing organic restaurant there called PizzaSalad that I blogged about. All of their ingredients are organic, totally fresh, and locally grown on family farms. I got a custom salad with arugula, spinach, avocado, tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, roasted chicken breast, and raspberry dressing.

A huge pet peeve of mine, why I rarely order salads with chicken anymore, is because if you look carefully at those chunks or strips of chicken atop that salad, they may have grill marks on them, but the texture of the chicken isn’t natural, meaning that the restaurants are buying prepared, processed, chicken; a glorified chicken nugget made from reconstituted, liquefied chicken parts. PizzaSalad uses fresh, raw, organic, pasture-raised chicken, no antibiotics or hormones, and then roasts it fresh. Just what I do at home, except, well, someone else is doing it. I also got a small, gluten-free “Hilo” pizza, sliced ham and fresh-cut pineapple over homemade tomato sauce, no cheese needed.

There was a little salad left over, but not enough for dinner. I turned to my friend Jen’s awesome blog for inspiration, and cooked lentils to mix with my leftover brown rice and salad. I tossed the whole thing with a little olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and a light sprinkling of sea salt.

All this talk of food has made me hungry again.

Actress and Author Danica McKellar Tops Her Oatmeal With ‘Birdseed’