Celebrity Health - Karen Clifton

“Dancing is the best way to keep fit!”

Strictly Come Dancing star Karen Clifton talks to Liz Parry about her favourite healthy recipes and her gruelling 10-hour training regime

Venezuelan-born professional dancer Karen Clifton (formerly Hauer) has become a popular member of the Strictly Come Dancing cast since joining the show in 2012. She has waltzed with Westlife’s Nicky Byrne, jived with Jeremy Vine, tangoed with ‘Hairy Biker’ Dave Myers and cha cha cha’d all the way to the final with TOWIE star Mark Wright. Married to fellow Strictly Come Dancing pro Kevin Clifton, Karen is a keen cook and fitness fan and regularly tweets her latest recipes and fitness videos.

Q: Would you say that living a healthy lifestyle is important to you?

Karen: Living a healthy lifestyle is something that was implemented by my mom when I was very young. She would make sure that we were always outside playing sports and eating healthy food. Although I didn’t like eating all my vegetables when I was younger, I have learned to appreciate all of my mom’s healthy cooking and habits. It’s always been very important for me to stay, feel and look healthy. It helps keep sickness and injuries at bay.

Q: What do you eat during a typical day?

Karen: For brekkie I will have two pieces of rye toast with cottage cheese or avocado and a green tea or coffee. As a mid-morning snack I’ll have a bowl of Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries. Lunch is a bowl of tuna, tomatoes, onions and coriander salad with a spritz of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. In the afternoon I’ll snack on fruit salad and a cup of almonds. Dinner is chicken breast with sautéed kale and a side of roasted sweet potatoes. I also try to drink one to two litres of water a day.

Q: Are you interested in finding out about the latest superfoods and health trends like juicing or spiralizing?

Karen: I like to read about what the new food and diet trends are but I don’t usually follow any of them. I like to stick to my old-school way which is to eat your vegetables!

Q: What is your favourite healthy food recipe?

Karen: My absolute favourite healthy recipe is salmon with quinoa, avocado, onion and tomato salad. You need three quarters of a cup of red or white quinoa, a 1lb wild Alaskan salmon fillet – skinned and cut into four portions – plus some olive oil or canola oil cooking spray, one large tomato, one ripe avocado and half a red onion. It’s healthy, simple and ready in no time.

Q: Do you try to avoid sugar in your diet?

Karen: I try not to have too much sugar on a daily basis but it’s hard to say no to Nutella at times! The key for me is moderation. As long as I get a small taste then I’m satisfied instead of denying myself, which will then make me go on a sugar binge.

Q: Do you take any vitamins or supplements?

Karen: I have to admit that I have always been terrible at taking vitamins so now I try to get all my vitamins from what I eat.

Q: Besides dancing, do you enjoy other forms of exercise?

Karen: I love fitness. I have recently started posting on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube short workouts showing what I do to stay in shape. I do these workouts wherever I go. They are easy, fun and you don’t need a lot of space or time. I don’t have that much time to go to the gym so I do the workouts in my living room or right by my bed most of the time. I have also started adding pilates to my regime three to four times a week. My goal is to focus on and maintain a healthy range of motion in my muscles and build strength from within which will further my longevity as a performer.

Q: How many hours a day do you spend training for Strictly?

Karen: While on Strictly I train for approximately 10 hours a day. There’s a lot of dedication, work and effort that goes into making sure that your celebrity partner has the confidence and trust to go out there and perform. You try to train for as many hours as possible.

Q: What is your favourite dance style?

Karen: It has to be the Charleston. It’s a quirky, character-driven style which makes it a lot of fun to perform.

Q: Would you say that dancing is a good way of keeping fit whilst having fun at the same time?

Karen: Dancing is the best way to keep fit. You can just play your favourite song and dance pretty much anywhere - either alone or with a partner. It keeps your heart rate up and makes you sweat while you’re having fun. It’s a win-win situation.

Q: Do you think more and more people have become interested in taking up dancing as a result of Strictly?

Karen: Strictly has been a major factor in making dance so popular. It brings families together every Saturday night. People are interested in learning how to dance now. They can see that it’s fun and it's a skill that anyone with a little bit of practice can do easily.

Q: What plans or projects do you have for the coming year?

Karen: There’s a couple of projects on the horizon for my husband Kevin and me. We are very excited about what the future holds so watch this space!

©Image of Karen Clifton courtesy of Chris Mann: www.chrismannportraits.com

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