The sports stars next door

What happens when two professional athletes from two different sports fall in love and start a family? One very healthy team effort.

The sports stars next door

Three-year-old Sebastian Romero has no shortage of soccer balls and baseballs around his house. Like the fruit in the fridge and the green juices he often helps make, they’re a familiar, healthy presence in his family’s home. He’s not pushed to play with them; they’re simply available.

Sebastian is the son of Kara Lang Romero, 31, a retired professional and Olympic soccer player for Canada who is now a holistic nutritionist, and Ricky Romero, 33, former MLB pitcher and 2011 All-Star player. With passionate, wellness-minded parents who are a true athletic power couple, there’s little question young Sebastian is destined for healthy greatness. The threesome, who live in the Blue Zone-designated seaside city of Hermosa Beach in L.A. County, provide plenty of inspiration for healthy, happy living—and they invited alive over for an intimate look at their home life.

Fueled by nature

For starters, they’re plant fueled and eat healthy. For Lang Romero, the decision came during her teens. “I made the connection that not eating McDonald’s and not drinking soda could enhance my performance,” she says, a revelation brought on by hearing players on a team she looked up to talk about giving up fast food. (For the record, Sebastian has never tried the stuff.)

Since going vegan at 17, Lang Romero has been passionate about the lifestyle that drastically improved her endurance and recovery, allowing her to train even harder. Post-soccer career, her plant-based diet carried her through a second career as a sports broadcaster. Now, as a mom, she credits her diet with keeping her energy levels up to meet Sebastian’s, sans naps.

Romero, of Mexican descent, was later to convert. He’s now 80 percent plant based, which he has realized helps him sleep better and feel stronger. He has even tried to inspire his extended family to make little changes, like switching to almond milk.*

“When I met Kara [in 2012], it all changed for me as far as nutrition and taking care of my body,” he admits. It was a perfect meet-cute: she was filling in during baseball spring training in Florida for Sportsnet (she usually covered soccer), where she interviewed her future husband. “He asked me out to dinner after that,” she says with a laugh. Conveniently, they both lived in Toronto at the time.

Lang Romero, in her third career as a holistic nutritionist, brings lots of knowledge to her family’s kitchen, where she prepares well-spiced “really good bowls,” says Romero, comprising 80 percent veggies. Sebastian attends a no-sugar Montessori preschool and is hardly exposed to candy, but he doesn’t want for sweet treats—he’s allowed all the antioxidant-rich, fibrous whole fruit he wants. “He knows where everything is in the fridge already, and he comes out with fruit, and mom is really excited,” says Romero.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, good choice!’” says Lang Romero, adding that “not keeping junk food in the house is big—if it’s not around, your kids won’t ask for it.” To that end, they don’t buy or eat anything they wouldn’t want him consuming.

Raising veggie-loving kids: Yes, it’s possible!

Here are Kara Lang Romero’s top tips for getting children on board with all things green.

  • Slip veggies into homemade vegan smoothie pops—think steamed spinach and cauliflower with mango and blueberries. “I’m not too worried if Sebastian happens to not eat all his vegetables at lunch if he has a popsicle for a snack that’s got kale and cauliflower in it,” says Lang Romero. “He’s excited about this popsicle that he thinks is a treat, and it’s half veggies. I stress less.”
  • Pair greens-heavy meals with “treats” like vegan chicken nuggets, which Lang Romero calls Sebastian’s “junk food.”
  • Get kids involved in the prep and cooking process—safely. “When he feels like he’s had a part in making it, Sebastian’s much more eager to drink it,” says Lang Romero of green juices (kale, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger or turmeric) he loves helping make. “We told him it makes him strong, so he drinks it and flexes his muscles.”
  • Start at the beginning. Eating cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale) while nursing may help increase milk production and set your baby up to eat more veg when they start on solids.

Kara Lang Romero answers top pre- and postnatal nutrition questions

Through KLR Wellness Works, Lang Romero offers holistic nutrition services. She specializes in plant-based transition and works with pre- and postnatal women (and anyone looking to improve their diet, overall health and well-being or athletic performance).

[Q] Can I still be vegan when I’m pregnant?

[A] Absolutely. A whole food plant-based diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes [creates] a totally healthy and ideal environment for growing a baby. Protein needs to be jumped from 45 g a day to 70 g a day, and some people find that daunting, but if you spread it throughout your day, it’s a lot easier.

[Q] How do I choose a prenatal vitamin?

[A] Do your research and compare the amount of nutrients in the vitamins, because there are actually huge discrepancies. A lot of pharmacy brands have much lower levels of B vitamins. You want calcium citrate, not carbonate; the citrate form of minerals like zinc and copper; and methylfolate, not folic acid. And look at the fillers, because some have ingredients I wouldn’t even want to clean my countertops with.

[Q] What can I eat to improve my milk supply?

[A] Drink as much water as you can, meet your caloric needs (there’s a reason you’re more hungry when you’re nursing) and incorporate lactogenic foods like almonds, barley, oats and mushrooms. Cruciferous vegetables are hugely important because they’re full of vital estrogens and have been shown to positively affect milk production.

Balance is everything

Lang Romero stepped back from her travel-heavy role as a soccer analyst after having Sebastian, opting to work only every four years covering women’s soccer during the World Cup and Olympics. Seeing clients at her home gives her a flexible schedule that includes lots of family togetherness. But she also makes time for herself.

It’s her best advice to moms who want to balance work with family. “Prioritizing your health is number one. My biggest trick is waking up before the rest of my house and having that quiet time to myself before I’m needed, because moms are always needed when someone’s awake.” She cherishes her early a.m. opportunity for yoga (she’s a certified teacher), meditation or getting a workout in. (Sebastian practices yoga too—at school. “He’s always excited to show off his downward dog,” she says.)

Lang Romero’s routine ensures there’s no resentment and she can give of herself for the rest of the day. “It’s so I can, as I say, fill my cup before I have to fill anybody else’s,” says the mom. “That’s been a game changer for me.”

Go play outside

Screens aren’t a big part of Sebastian’s life—in fact, devices are an emergency-only option on airplanes. “We don’t put an iPad or iPhone in front of him in the car,” says Romero. “We don’t let him watch it at home. He’s very observant, and ever since he started forward facing in the car seat, he’s in love with all the different stuff [he sees]. He’s always pointing out trucks. It keeps his head on a swivel.”

The super active boy spends at least half of each day playing in real life. “Ricky and I grew up spending most of our time outside, and we live in an area where the weather is beautiful year-round, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t be outside,” says Lang Romero, who allows her son to watch limited TV only while she prepares dinner.

When it comes to competitive sports, they’re doing as their parents did: not pushing. “We played sports because we loved them, and we hope that’s how it’s going to be for Sebastian,” says Lang Romero. “If he doesn’t love organized sports, then we’ll just encourage him to be active.”

The pair has been asked to privately coach other children, but they refuse. “Everyone raises their kids differently,” says Romero, “but when you force your kids, they’ll lose their love for the game. And at the end of the day, the only reason they should be playing is because they enjoy it.”

Relationship goals

He and Lang Romero prove the couple that trains together stays together. A majority of their alone time is spent doing something physical. When they get a babysitter, it’s for weekend morning “dates” to hike and brunch at a vegan restaurant. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, no matter what, they work out in tandem at Poise Fitness, where HIIT classes involve one-minute rotations on the treadmill, strength training and functional movement, helping prevent injuries and correct imbalances.

“It’s one of the best workouts I’ve ever done,” says Lang Romero, “and I’ve tried absolutely everything you can imagine. I love it.”

The two are reliable support systems for each other too. Romero proudly talks about his wife’s induction into the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame. “I don’t care who you are—that’s a cool accomplishment to be called a Hall of Famer,” he boasts. When their son was six months old, Lang Romero began studying holistic nutrition, a path that took a lot of reinforcement from her hubby while she worked.

And they’ve grown together. Since becoming parents, they’ve learned patience (him) and loosening control (her). “Learning not to worry and to be present is huge,” says Lang Romero, “because every day is like a little miracle with a baby, and we learn so much from Sebastian because he is so present. He literally stops to smell every rose we pass. It’s an amazing reminder to see how in awe of everything he is about these little things we take for granted.”

*Feeling inspired? Milk that feeling for all it’s worth. Check out our ultimate guide to plant-based milk to learn how to choose the best one for your fam.

Here’s why Kara and Ricky’s yoga/HIIT/hiking-filled lifestyle is a winning one for a young family: active parents have active kids. In fact, kids whose moms are active are twice as likely to be active! Yet another upside to your downward dogs, mamas.

photography / Carla Coffing

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