1) Make vegetables and fruit part of every meal
Eating more fruit and veg means that you’ll take in more vitamins, such as vitamin C to help aid recovery from tough workouts and minerals, such as potassium and magnesium for healthy fluid balance and bones.
Choose one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.
Dark green vegetables are rich sources of folate, great for heart health. Orange vegetables and fruit are high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that promotes recovery and protects you from infection.
Here’s how to put this resolution into action:
a) For breakfast: make a delicious smoothie from a handful of frozen (or fresh) blueberries, melon, orange juice and yogurt.
b) For lunch: make a soup with butternut squash and carrots, or a salad with roast peppers and rocket.
c) For dinner: Add broccoli or spinach to pastas and stir fries. Switch to sweet potato instead of mashed or roasted potatoes.
2) Choose water instead of fruit drinks
The US Beverage Guidance System, which ranks drinks from best to worst, recommends that you satisfy your thirst with water and limit sugary soft drinks to a maximum of 235 ml (two thirds of a can) a day.
Fizzy drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks contain lots of calories but are often low in nutrients.They don’t make you feel full, so you don’t compensate by eating less later.
According to an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, if the average person replaced a quarter of the calories from sugary drinks by food containing the same energy, they would save 8000 calories a year, 0.9Kg (2lbs) of flab.
And while 100% fruit juice does contain vitamins, you will get more nutrients and fibre by actually eating the whole fruit instead.
a) Drink water before, during and after exercise so you stay hydrated. While sports drinks are useful for intense workouts lasting an hour or more, you can consume more calories than you burn if you’re not working hard enough.
b) Sip water throughout the day when you feel thirsty. We often mistake hunger for thirst, so keep a glass of water nearby while you work.
c) Low fat chocolate milk makes a great post-training snack or nutritious dessert.
3) Plan your meals for the next few days
Once a week, plan your menus and decide what you’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for snacks. Write it all down and stick your list on the fridge.
This will eliminate guesswork at mealtimes and stop you from ordering a takeaway pizza. Plan for the week, make a shopping list and then buy your food accordingly. If you hate supermarket shopping then shop on the internet.
a) When you’ve got time on your hands, make ‘freezer’ dinners for later. Or double a recipe and eat half and freeze half. Then all you have to do is throw some fresh vegetables into a saucepan – or steamer – or make a quick salad.
b) Make your money go further – bypass the rows of ready meals, sauces, filled pasta and tempting desserts. Instead, stock up on basic ingredients, a few herbs and spices and a good cookbook and make more of your meals from scratch.
c) Don’t shop on an empty stomach otherwise you’ll fill your basket with snacks.
4) Promote rapid recovery after exercise
Recovery nutrition is the cornerstone of every serious training programme. By eating carbohydrates with a small amount of protein shortly after a workout, the time it takes to recover can be reduced.
This allows you to begin your next workout better prepared. The ideal post-training meal or snack should contain carbohydrate and protein in a 4 to 1 ratio. Aim for 10 – 20 g protein and 40 – 60g carbohydrate.
a) Have 500ml low fat milk or flavoured milk within 30 minutes of training – Northumbria University researchers found milk alleviated muscle soreness and improved muscle recovery better than sports drinks or water
b) Take a recovery snack with you to training. That way, you can begin refuelling immediately. Fruit yoghurt, cereal bars, yoghurt drinks and fruit with nuts are good options.
c) Try this recovery milkshake: whizz 150g fruit yoghurt, 1 banana and 150ml skimmed milk in a blender.
5) Eat more fish
The Food Standards Agency recommends that we eat two servings of fish every week, including one serving of oily fish, such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, herring or fresh tuna.Fish is an excellent source of protein, low in saturated fat and a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids help keep your heart healthy, increase the delivery of oxygen to muscles, speed recovery and reduce joint stiffness. The richest natural source of omega-3s is oily fish but other food sources include nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.
The omega-3s in plant foods are less potent than the omega-3s in fish but are still valuable to the body. The Vegetarian Society recommends vegetarians consume 4g ALA (a plant source of omega-3s) a day, equivalent to a handful (50g) of walnuts or two teaspoons (10g) of flaxseed oil.
a) Wrap halibut in parchment paper along with vegetables and herbs and bake in the oven. The fish will pick up the flavours from the veggies and will be moist and tender.
b) Mix a can of salmon with an egg and breadcrumbs to make mini patties and serve with a low fat yogurt and dill dip.
c) Experiment with different flavours. Try lemon, garlic, dill, orange-ginger, teriyaki or soy sauce.