Healthy Eating Plans

CityRow CEO Helaine Knapp Lives by the 80/20 Rule—Here’s What It Looks Like for Her

Emily Laurence

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Photo: Courtesy of Helaine Knapp; Art: W+G Creative
Ever wondered what a CrossFit champion eats for breakfast? Or how a spin instructor powers themselves through multiple classes a day? Or how an Olympic gymnast snacks? Food Diaries takes you on an inside journey through the healthy eating habits of athletes at the top of their games because, admit it, you’re curious. See More

Helaine Knapp may be the founder and CEO of CityRow, a franchise of high-intensity indoor rowing classes with studios in 10 states, but she says it took her a while to figure out a fitness and eating style that worked for her. “Growing up,  I wasn’t the fittest kid and it really wasn’t until after college that I found my healthy balance,” she says.

Knapp says she’s tried all the eating plans, including Paleo, vegetarian, keto, and intermittent fasting. In the end, she found that the 80/20 diet—eating nutrient-rich foods 80 percent of the time and less nutrient-rich foods 20 percent of the time—worked best for her. “I think it’s all about creating a baseline of eating foods that are healthy,” she says. “I love to eat local and going to farm stands. But I also love pizza and burgers.”

Here’s something else that surprises most people—even though she founded an indoor rowing company, she’s never rowed on the water. After injuring her back, Knapp couldn’t go to the spinning and HIIT boutique fitness classes that had become a regular part of her workout routine. She needed something more low-impact, which led her to indoor rowing. “The more I learned about it and tried it, the more I saw how good it was for you,” she says. So, she decided to combine her newfound love for indoor rowing with her love of boutique fitness.

Before the pandemic, Knapp says she would go to CityRow classes twice a week and also work out with a personal trainer once a week. But, like everyone else, her workout routine has now changed. While she has her own rower at home, Knapp moved from New York City to an Airbnb in Utah with some friends in March at the start of the pandemic. Now, she’s been spending more time outside, going on walks and hiking.

The pandemic may have changed Knapp’s workouts, but she says it hasn’t changed what she likes to eat. (“I’m a creature of habit,” she says.) Here, she reveals what an average day of eating looks like for her.

Keep reading to see what CityRow CEO Helaine Knapp eats on a regular basis, following the 80/20 diet.

city row ceo helaine knapp breakfast
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Breakfast

Without fail, Knapp says her day always starts with coffee. “Before the pandemic, I actually used to make a double espresso and then I would pick up a coffee at a cafe, after I was dressed and ready,” she says. “With the cafes closed, I haven’t been able to get coffee like I used to, and I realized I actually didn’t need [the second coffee]! So I’ve just been having the espresso now,” she says.

For breakfast, she likes to make a green smoothie made with spinach or kale, almond milk, frozen mango, and collagen protein—a combo she came across when she was experimenting with different diet types. Sometimes she’ll pair it with a banana and almond butter.

hearty lunch
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Lunch

For lunch, Knapp likes to make a big salad, getting in another serving of greens before dinnertime. “Lunch is such an important meal, especially if you’re running a million miles a minute, so I like to have a hearty salad full of veggies and lean protein,” she says. One of her go-tos is greens, tomato, cucumber, radish, red onion, sprouts, and feta cheese. “Cheese makes salads exciting in my mind,” she says.

popcorn
Photo: Getty Images/Vedrana Sucic / EyeEm; Art: W+G Creative

Snack

Knapp says, like most people, she gets the munchies around 4 p.m. “I love popcorn,” she says. “There always seems to be SkinnyPop in the CityRow offices.” Another staple in the office that she can’t resist? Chocolate-covered almonds.

tapas dinner
Photo: Getty Images/
OksanaKiian; Art: W+G Creative

Dinner

“For me, dinner is the biggest wildcard,” Knapp says. Before the pandemic, she was out most nights meeting friends for dinner. “If I’m going out for dinner, there’s nothing better to me than getting a bunch of small plates and sharing them with friends over wine. But I also love sushi or burgers, too.” Since, like most people, Knapp is now cooking more at home, she says fish and veggies is one of her go-to meals, all sourced locally, if possible. “But really I can’t wait to eat out again with my friends,” she says.

Knapp says she’s not much of a dessert person—she’s more of a salty eater than a sweet one—but she says she’s not about to pass up sharing some dessert with a group of friends. “If a piece of cake or a cookie materializes in front of me, I’m not going to say no,” she says.

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