Plus, find out the WNBA star’s go-to snack and a sweet game-day superstition that she’s been following since college.
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Candace Parker sitting on a gym bench drinking Muscle Milk
Credit: Muscle Milk

Candace Parker is a legend on and off the court. A starting player for the Chicago Sky, the reigning champs of the WNBA, Parker just tipped off her 15th season of professional basketball. Off the court, she's a busy mom of two, an analyst for NBA games and has recently partnered with Muscle Milk to launch the Lifting Project contest, which will help an aspiring trainer provide free strength training classes in their community. 

So what does the winning athlete eat to stay strong? EatingWell chatted with Parker to learn what she eats in a day—plus, read about a superstitious ritual she still practices from her college days.

Breakfast

During the WNBA season (which runs from May to August), Parker likes to start her morning with overnight oats or oatmeal—and we're big fans of that. Oats are not only a great make-ahead breakfast, but they are also high in fiber. Fiber has a slew of health benefits, one of which is helping you feel full for longer—making it the perfect start for Parker before she heads into a busy morning of practice. Occasionally, Parker will switch it up with a bagel or scrambled eggs with turkey bacon or chicken sausage. Both of these meals are packed with protein to help provide Parker with the energy she needs during the season.

After the season ends, Parker practices intermittent fasting six days a week. As a result, she doesn't eat breakfast and will begin her day eating around noon. While this diet may work for Parker, EatingWell does not recommend the time- or caloric-restrictive diet, especially if you're looking to lose weight, have a history of disordered eating or have diabetes. (If you're curious about intermittent fasting, consult with a dietitian or doctor before making any adjustments.)

Lunch

After a morning of practice with the Chicago Sky, Parker says the team has lunch together. One item that is often on their plates is fish, especially salmon. Outside of the season, Parker noshes on avocado toast, a Cobb salad (minus the bacon as Parker doesn't eat pork) or leftovers from the night before. Her 12-year-old, Lailaa, who often makes dinner, is a fan of leftovers as well—often cooking for dinner what she wants to eat for lunch the next day. Currently Lailaa is on what Parker describes as a "pesto kick," so pesto pizza and pasta are in frequent rotation.

Candace Parker playing basketball with her daughter
Candace Parker playing basketball with her daughter, Lailaa.
| Credit: Muscle Milk

Snack

Whether it's before or after practice, one of Parker's regular snacks is a Muscle Milk protein shake. Another snack she likes to keep on hand is almonds—"they're my snack if I'm starving and I'm in the car and I just need something," Parker says. Almonds are a great snack choice as the nut is high in fiber, calcium and vitamin E. Plus, one of the benefits of snacking on nuts like almonds is that they are packed with protein, fiber and healthy fat, a combo that helps keep hunger at bay for longer, making nuts the perfect snack between meals.

Dinner

Parker digs into a bowl of pasta or chicken to help keep her fueled the night before a game. Chicken also appears on Parker's plate post-game, as her go-to meal for celebrating a big win is chicken tenders with honey mustard or barbecue sauce and french fries with ketchup. Parker says, "French fries are literally my nemesis. I could eat french fries every single day," and many of us probably echo that sentiment. That said, any food, including french fries, can be part of a healthy eating pattern in moderation.

Dinner in the off season is a family affair, as everyone takes turns making the meal. Parker is "the griller in the family" and likes to cook up rib-eye steaks and lamb chops, in particular. Or she fires up the pizza oven she got for Christmas, a favorite at her home since everyone can easily satisfy their cravings. If Lailaa is in charge of the meal, she's likely making a dish inspired by something she saw on TikTok. (We think Lailaa would love our Salmon Rice Bowl or Baked Spinach & Feta Pasta, both inspired by TikTok trends.)

Parker's wife Anna cooks too, often making fish or chicken. But her standout meal is borscht. Anna, who is Russian, "makes the best borscht that you will ever have in your entire life," explains Parker. The beet soup holds special meaning for Parker, who played abroad in Russia. Anna makes it every year around New Year's, along with all of Parker's other favorite Russian foods.

Dessert

On the court, you can rely on Parker to make a clutch jumper or rebound, and off the court, you are guaranteed to find her eating ice cream the night before a game,"It's a superstition from college," she explains. Whether she goes out for a scoop or makes an ice cream pizookie (a cookie topped with ice cream) at home, she keeps the superstition alive —and with two Olympic gold medals and two WNBA championships to her name, it seems like it's working!

The Bottom Line

Parker's day is a great example of a balanced diet, as she enjoys nutritious foods like salmon, oats and vegetables, as well as other foods she enjoys like french fries and ice cream in moderation. After all, for Parker, eating well is about finding the balance between foods that taste good and are also good for the body—and we think she's doing a great job.