Athlete’s Top 10 Shopping List

For professional, elite and serious amateur athletes, heavy training schedules can mean massive amounts of calories need to be eaten each day. 4500kcal for a rugby player is normal, for a tour cyclist this could be 7000kcal, while for a 45kg gymnast they may only need 1700kcal. Whatever the calorie needs, athletes need to pack in as much nutrition punch as possible. That means forgoing nutrient empty junk food, and swapping for food and drinks that will fuel the training and recovery. So what are the things that regularly appear on the pro’s daily shopping list?

For optimum nutrition, performance and health, there is nothing better than REAL food. The incredibly complex makeup of food simply cannot be artificially produced in a supplement powder or pill. Real food provides phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and possibly, many other beneficial constituents that science hasn’t identified yet.

Sports drinks, supplement shakes and bars can be useful as a stop gap, when good food is not readily available, or when calorie requirements are so high that it is difficult to achieve with food alone. I often use an analogy of the bricks of a house being food, and supplements being the chimney. If you don’t have the nutrition basics of food (walls and roof) in place, it is daft to think that there is any point to having a chimney (supplements).

Here are some top foods that should feature on your shopping list. These are all mostly ‘nutritionally dense’ meaning that they are choca-block full of good nutrition allowing your body to train, perform and recover to it’s maximum potential:

  1. Vegetables – often overlooked in favour of carbohydrates and protein, and served as an after thought with just a spoonful on the plate. Vegetables are absolutely essential to maintain health, providing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phyto chemicals, fibre etc. all of which simply cannot be bottled or put in a pill. Vegetables also ‘feed’ the healthy bacteria in the digestive system. Easy staples include broccoli, onions, spring onions, peppers, and carrots – not very adventurous, but that is fine! Fresh, frozen, boiled, steamed, microwaved, stir fried, raw…….just get. them. in!LN_012697_BP_9.jpg
  2. Oats – for breakfast, you can’t go far wrong with oats. They are high carbohydrate, so idea to have before or after training. Oats come in various textures, from the very fine in Ready Brek, to the chunky Flahavins. You can add all sorts of things to basic oats to add some oomph: milk, raisins, sliced banana, cocoa powder, cinnamon, desiccated coconut etc. You can also put them in a smoothie for breakfast or for post training recovery. 10 ways with oats
  3. Milk – protein, carbohydrate, low fat, calcium for bones and muscle function. Added to tea, coffee, porridge and breakfast cereals. Research shows that milk post-exercise is just as effective and recovery and rehydration, if not more so, than commercially-available sports drinks005045.jpg
  4. Coffee – because it’s one of life’s pleasures, but also when taken before/during exercise, caffeine has been proven to enhance athletic performance. A recent study showed that two cups of coffee improved endurance performance by 4%.
  5. Peanut butter – good for protein, energy and good fats. If you are trying to drop body fat/weight then go easy as it’s very high in calories – too much is often one of the biggest mistakes for my weight loss clients! Mix a tablespoon in to porridge or spread on oatcakes/rice cakes.
  6. Eggs – one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat: high in protein, omega 3 fats, lutein, choline, all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, and iron.  Omelettes, poached, scrambled, fried or to make egg fried rice. You can even mix one in to hot porridge (just don’t put in the microwave with the oats or you’ll get scrambled oat-eggs……yak!)
  7. Rice – carbohydrates are very important for fuelling exercise,
    for recovery, and for the immunity. White rice can be particularly useful when there is only an hour or two between training sessions and fast release carbs are needed. Whole grain rice is higher in fibre, digested more slowly, and is more filling.
  8. Chicken – high protein, low fat, and very versatile. There are endless ways to use chicken: plain grilled, a whole chicken roasted, stir fried, mixed with light mayo and veg in wraps, stuffed with pesto and cheddar cheese. One of the easiest ‘recipes’ is a whole chicken in a slow cooker for 6 hours.
  9. Yogurt – the high protein ones can be particularly beneficial for athletes eg. Total greek yogurt, Danio, Liberte etc These have double the protein of normal yogurts (greek ‘style’ is not usually higher in protein), so good for muscle repair and maintenance. Yogurt also contains ‘probiotics’ which are beneficial for the digestion and immunity.
  10. Salmon – or any oily fish (mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna). Oily fish is the best food source of anti inflammatory omega 3 fats which is essential in every athlete’s diet to reduce muscle inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness. Aim to take at least 2-3 times a week. If you don’t like any of these fish, then I advise taking daily fish oil supplements.288543.jpg

 

For loads of recipes using all of the above ingredients click…….here!

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Seriously Healthy Pancakes (2 ingredients)

It’s Shrove Tuesday, yay for pancakes! But do they seem like a chore to make? Would you like a super speedy, easy AND healthy pancake recipe??

This pancake mix takes about 1 minute to prepare using a banana and 2 eggs. It’s ready to cook immediately! They are awesome with a big dollop of greek yogurt and some warm berries……I use frozen berries that have been blasted in the microwave to defrost 🙂

The pancakes mix is easier to make with a blender – just blast all the ingredients together,  but it can also be done with a fork.

Ripe bananas

1 Ripe banana

2 Eggs

2 Eggs – high protein

  1. Mash the banana very well – the more ripe the banana the easier this is
  2. Crack in two eggs and mix with a fork. (You can also do this in a blender).
  3. Optional: add in a handful of oats to increase the carbohydrate and fibre for sustained energy.
  4. Pour some mixture in to a lightly greased frying pan (ideally a non-stick one), allow to cook on a medium heat for a minute or two. You’ll see little bubbles appearing, take a peak underneath to see if it turning brown. Flip over and cook the other side.

Extras: a simple drizzle of honey/maple syrup, or greek yogurt topped with berries.

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Take to work or school (pic courtesy of my sis!)

 

Tip: if you are watching your weight, studies show eating eggs for breakfast can help. Eggs seem to help you to feel full up for longer and keep your blood sugar levels steady.

 

Wee Bytes – Ready Brek

Ready Brek – it’s such a kiddie food, surely no self respecting grown up would be eating
this for breakfast?! And isn’t it loaded with sugar?

Well you could be missing out…….this is pretty great stuff, and doesn’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush as other sugary breakfast cereals.

Ready Brek is simply ground up oats with vitamins added (there is no added sugar). The ingredients are: Wholegrain Rolled Oats (60%), Wholegrain Oat Flour (38%), Calcium, Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B6, Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12. Add some milk, and you’ve a wonderful combination of carbohydrate, protein, soluble fibre and all those lovely vits and minerals.

Two ways with Ready Brek:

In a bowl: Put a mug full of milk in a bowl, microwave for about 90 seconds, or until boiling. Sprinkle in the Ready Brek and mix until you get your desired consistency. Tasty extras to add:

  • cinnamon
  • raisins
  • chopped banana
  • a scoop of protein powder
  • a teaspoon of cocoa powder
  • an egg – yes really, crack one in and mix well while the RB is piping hot

Add more milk if it’s too hot or you like it extra milky.

Smoothie: Blend together 200-300ml milk, 1 banana or some berries, 1/2-1 mugful of Ready Brek, drizzle of honey. Quantities of ingredients depends on how hungry you are, or how hard you training. I came up with this smoothie idea for one of my little GB gymnasts who was struggling with fatigue due to training coming up to the World Championships…… they got a Gold by the way 🙂

Perfect for sport

Because the oats are ground up, Ready Brek is easily and quickly digested, therefore brilliant to have 1 hour before an intentse training session e.g. a swim, run or bike; or after for recovery refuelling.

Before a 6am run or swim, I usually have a ripe banana and milky coffee, and then have a Ready Brek Smoothie as soon as I get home. I need very quick recovery food otherwise I feel very tired later in the afternoon.

 

 

4 minute Crispy Tortilla Pizza

Being a bit of a foodie, but short on time, I love to find something new to feed the family.

I would love to be more organised with food shopping, but am usually juggling dietetic clients, lecturing (that’s teaching actual real-life university students, not giving my own 3 children the third degree, although I also do that most of the time), looking after said children and generally running the house.

It was 2.55pm, I had been at my laptop most of the day writing patient reports, and I had to pick my the children up from school at 3.15. No snacks of any use in the house to satisfy ravenous little people’s large appetites. All I could muster was some frozen tortilla wraps, a near empty jar of pesto and some cheddar cheese.

Sometimes the best results come from these moments of desperation. Like when you have to panic buy a top to wear from the supermarket (for whatever reason), and it becomes a favourite that lasts for years.

Child and adult friendly, these tortilla pizzas are fabulous as a snack, in a lunch box or on a picnic. These are very adaptable so you can add or subtract ingredients (although keeping the wraps is kind of fundamental to the whole operation).
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I find that with fewer ingredients the filling of the ‘pizza sandwich’ is less likely to fall out while walking. If we’re at home or if it’s in the lunch boxes, I might add grated carrot, ham or tuna. Experiment to your heart’s content!016417

Ingredients:

  • 2 tortilla wraps
  • tablespoon of pesto or ready made tomato sauce e.g. Dolmio
  • Fillings of your choice (optional)
  • grated cheese

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Method:

  1. Lightly oil a non-stick frying pan, allow to heat up on a fairly high heat.
  2. Add one tortilla wrap to the pan, spread on the pesto/tomato sauce.IMG_0886
  3. Sprinkle on the cheese and other fillings.
  4. Add the top tortilla.
  5. When the bottom tortilla is browning and a bit crispy, carefully flip the tortilla sandwich over with a spatula
  6. Cook for two minutes on the other side.

The cheese will have melted and the wraps should be nice and crispy. Chop in to quarters or sixths. Can be eaten hot or cold.

One Pot Chicken Chorizo Jambalaya

Who likes mess and lots of washing up? Not me!

Who likes tasty food? Me!IMG_0881

I love this meal because it has minimal faff and hassle: everything is chucked in to my lovely big Le Cruset pot that sits permanently on the stove. It has the perfect combination of carbohydrates from the rice, protein from the chicken and chorizo, with the tomatoes, onion, pepper and garlic providing super healthy phytonutrients. The original recipe used Cajun spice mix which in the words of my 3 year old is “a little bit spicy”, so I’ve adapted it to use smoked paprika, which provides a warming barbeque flavour. Unknown-1

For my wee people, I’ve renamed it ‘Barbeque Rice Treasure Hunt’. I know, I know. I don’t like pandering too much to this type of nonsense, but anything for an easier life. They’ve to find the chunks of chicken/chorizo in the rice. Also for a less stressful mealtime, I grate the onion as my eldest won’t eat chunks of the stuff. Sigh, raised eyebrow*

Did you know? One of the fabulous things about onion and garlic is that they are wonderful ‘foods’ for the healthy bacteria in your gut, helping to ensure they flourish. Healthy gut bacteria are very important for good digestion and your immune system.

Watching your weight or for extra nutrition oomph? Leave out the chorizo as it’s high in fat and usually has nitrates (not very healthy at all); add extra chicken, some prawns, extra vegetables, e.g grated carrot, red pepper, spinach, or another tin of tomatoes.

 

Ingredients:IMG_0895

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 onion, diced or grated
  • 1 red pepper, chopped in to cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 75g chorizo sausage, sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp smoked paprika or Cajun spice mix
  • 250g long grain rice
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 350ml chicken stock

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or casserole dish with a lid. Brown the chicken for a few mins.
  2. Tip in the onion and cook for a few minutes until soft.
  3. Add the pepper, garlic, chorizo and smoked paprika. Cook for 5 mins more.
  4. Add the uncooked rice.
  5. Add the tomatoes and stock.
  6. Cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until the rice is tender. Add more chicken stock if it gets a bit too dry.

My favourite thing is when I let it ‘catch’ on the bottom of the saucepan, allowing it to crisp up a bit/caramelise.

Easy Cheesy Pasta Bake

On Friday, we had two of my children’s friends over to play after school. So with five little, but very hungry mouths to feed, I needed to produce something quick, easy and a lot
of it! When I suggested told my crew that they were having pasta bake, they were a bit “meh”, as I serve this up once a week. But our 7 year old and 4 year old guests were delighted (my children: take note of their beautiful manners) and everyone devoured second/third helpings. These simple things in life, like a stress free dinner and happy, full up children make me very happy!

Pasta Bake

This is a easy combo of pasta, sauce and tuna. Pasta is a fabulous source of energy for growing and hungry children; tuna for protein and cheese sauce for extra energy and calcium. I make the white sauce from scratch – but it is a very easy method that doesn’t involve making a roux (and the potential for lumps).

Here are 5 ways you can add extra health oomph:

  1. tinned salmon/poached fresh salmon/smoked salmon for healthy omega 3 fats – anti inflammatory, beneficial for brain, heart and eye health
  2. add in some vegetables e.g. sweetcorn, peas, steamed broccoli
  3. use a tomato sauce instead of the white sauce – lowers the fat and calorie
  4. gluten free pasta and flour – for those following a low FODMAP diet, or with gluten intolerance/coeliac disease
  5. high fibre pasta – most people don’t get enough fibre which is important for digestive health and is more filling than white pasta

 

Ingredients (serves 4-5)IMG_0864

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • about 500ml milk
  • about 250ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • handful of grated cheese
  • Pasta shapes, about 500g dried (a whole bag) – cooked
  • 2 tins of tuna, drained

Method:

  1. In a sauce pan, put the butter, flour and milk.
  2. Whisk so that the flour dissolves in to the milk
  3. Over a medium heat, allow this to heat so the butter melts. As the mixture heats up, make sure you keep mixing. It will thicken as it gets towards boiling point. Keep stirring. Stir, stir, stir. Turn the heat down as it thickens. Keep stirring.
  4. When it has thickened, add the stock and cheese.
  5. Add the tuna, and extra veg e.g. sweetcorn/peas etc.
  6. Put the cooked pasta in a dish and pour over the sauce
  7. Grate some bread to make bread crumbs, sprinkle over pasta
  8. Sprinkle on some grated cheese
  9. Grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese and make the breadcrumbs crispy. Watch carefully as it can burn quite quickly!

Oaty Banana and Date Cookies

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Crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle, with a lovely sweetness from the bananas and dates. These healthy no added sugar cookies are chocca block full of fibre, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium.

Many of my dietetic clients and friends ask me about fruit being full of sugar and therefore being ‘bad for you’. Yes, fruit is sweet, but the sweetness comes from ‘intrinsic sugars’ which the body processes and responds to differently to the sugar found in biscuits, cakes, sweets and fruit juice (extrinsic sugar). Whole fruit is a wonderful source of essential vitamins, minerals and phyto chemicals that are very nourishing for the body. The fibre is also important for the digestive system – not only does fruit keep things ‘moving’ along, it also maintains a healthy micro biome (the beneficial gut bacteria).

 

Ingredients:

2 large ripe bananas

½ cup datesIMG_0866.JPG

¼ cup vegetable oil or coconut oil

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups of oats

small handful raisins or dark

chocolate chips
 

Method:

  1. In a food processor, put the bananas, dates, coconut oil, cinnamon and baking powder and whizz up until smooth.
  2. Mix in the oats and raisins/dark choc chips with a spoon.
  3. Spoon generous dollops (about 2 tablespoons) on to a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Gentle press down so thy splodge out a bit.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes at 170c.
  5. Remove from the hot baking tray and let cool on a cooling rack (no one likes a soggy bottom!)