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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A Short Cut Saviour Meal

Nutrition Nuts, Food Evangilisim, Nutritionally Holiness. These are all good descriptions for people who are absolutely convinced (and will try to convince you too) that their way of eating is the only way to health and happiness. Unprocessed whole foods may be the ideal, but in reality, life can get in the way.

A few weeks ago I was working on the cancer wards at Belfast City Hospital, filling a gap inIMG_0095-1 the staff shortage for a couple of months. At the same time I was single parenting three ‘lively’ children, shopping, cooking, cleaning, refereeing sibling rivalries, homeworks etc. etc. blah blah

Sometimes we need food that we can just throw together in minutes, pulling stuff from the cupboard and not requiring a recipe book. This pasta meal is one of my saviours.

 

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Cooked Pasta

Tin of tomato soup

Tin of tuna

Grated carrot, onion and cheese

 

In a frying pan with oil, soften the grated carrot and onion (and what ever extra veg you would like to chuck in). Add the tin of tuna, and the tin of soup. Stir in to the cooked pasta. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

If I was a nutrition nut, I’d say that tinned tomato soup is loaded with salt and sugar. In reality, I use the reduced salt version, and the tin is divided between 4 of us. A wee bit of the ‘bad’ stuff can help the really good stuff go down more easily 🙂

 

 

 

5 Ways to NOT look haggard

When a lady gets to a certain age, we start to sit up and take notice of tubs of expensive face creams. The word anti-ageing is banded about the beauty industry with aplomb, and the pseudo science convinces us of the latest miracle product will make us look ten years younger.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some good stuff out there. According to London skin guru Caroline Hirons there are only a few ingredients that have scientific backing for effectiveness (in true dietitian style, scientific evidence is everything). Specific ingredients to look out for include sun protection (SPF), vitamin A/retinol, and glycolic/lactic/salicylic acid.

As a teenager, I would devour hand me down magazines from my Auntie Ann. images.jpegMagazines are mostly full of nonsense, but I did pick up one tip: using sun screen everyday. I’ve been doing this since I was 16, I think it’s made a difference……..although recently there are times when I catch a reflection of myself in a shop window and think “s*** I could give Iggy Pop a run for his money”.  We all know stress, sleep deprivation and smoking are bad for our skin, and I can tick a box for all three (my ‘social’ smoking habit as a student was hopefully so short lived that no long term image was done)

Here are 4 ways to look after your skin…….

    1. Smoking – if you do this, and you don’t want to have skin like an old bag. Stop. Simple as.
    2. Sun – don’t stick your face in the sun everyday to get a tan (or a ‘tawn’ as we say here in Northern Ireland). Be sensible. A little sun is important for vitamin D, but you can get this from exposing arms and legs for 20 minutes without sun cream. For your face, protect it from the sun. Apparently you don’t necessarily need to use a separate suncream everyday as a lot of moisturisers and foundations have an SPF.
    3. Sugar and refined carbohydrates – there had to be a dietary contribution to this post! If you want to reduce the wrinkles, step away from the sugar. In a nutshell, skin damage from the inside may be caused by a reaction called ‘glycation’. This is a process in which collagen fibres (the scaffolding of your face) are reduced in elasticity by losing the cross links between the fibres, leading to wrinkles and lines. Sugar and reined carbohydrates also promotes inflammation in the body, which is not good for the skin.
    4. Healthy fats – Essential Fatty Acids are important for a multitude of functions in your body. If you’re not getting enough EFAs in your diet, your skin may be dry, red and more prone to spots. EFAs can improve skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Fats are also needed for your body to absorb vitamins A, C, D and K.
    5. Sleep – this seems like kind of an obvious one, but fundamental to the cause! In a study published in 2015, chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of ageing, diminished skin barrier function and lower satisfaction with appearance. I have a number of clients who have reported that one of the happy ‘side effects’ of improving their diet has been better sleep: a very unscientific and anecdotal statement for me to make, but worth mentioning.

Anti ageing diet:

AVOID:

  • sugars – I’m not saying ‘never’, but keep in check sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar,  honey, agave syrup, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup etc. Yes, unfortunately even the trendy sugars are ‘sugar’.
  • high glycaemic index foods – These are refined carbohydrates which are digested quickly – white breads, white rice, cakes, biscuits, fruit juice, sweet fizzy drinks, energy drinks etc.

DO EAT:

    • healthy fats – these are anti inflammatory and help to keep blood sugar levels lower – salmon, mackerel, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, cashews, olive oil, avocado, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. Here’s a guide to healthy fats. Healthy fats in sensible amounts are good. If you are overweight then go easy on these – have a handful of nuts rather than the bag, one mackerel fillet not three.
    • whole grains – replace refined carbs (generally anything made with white flour or sugar) with wholesome alternatives as these have a lower glycaemic index so keeping blood sugar levels down. Beans, lentils and oats are particularly good.
    • antioxidants – sunlight and smoking cause oxidative damage by generating ‘reactive oxygen
      Eat it, don't lie in it

      Eat it, don’t lie in it!!

      species’. So lots of vegetables, the more variety in colour the better…..red cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, beetroot, kale, carrots, peppers, and spinach. Fruit is good too with top marks for deeply coloured strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, apples. Green tea and black tea (builder’s tea).

So in a nutshell (excuse the pun!!), here’s yet another reason fill your boots with loads of colourful veg, some fruit, oily fish, nuts, lentils, beans, and other whole grains. If you need recipe ideas, here you go: recipes.

 

 

Chilli Con Carne

This chilli recipe works really well for the whole family. Fabulous for protein and iron from the beef mince, lycopene from tomatoes, vitamin C from red peppers, fibre in all the veg…..the list of health benefits could go on.

I’ll make it without the chilli powder for the kids and call it “Children’s Chilli”. It still images-3.jpegretains the chilli flavour with cumin and paprika but without the heat form the chilli powder. When they’ve been served up, I’ll add the chilli for the adults. It’s perfect with a variety of optional extras: rice, jacket potato, tacos, coleslaw, sour cream or grated cheese.

Watching your weight?

You can swap beef mince for turkey mince, cut right back on the rice (or skip the rice altogether) and images-2serve with coleslaw, salad or any other veg you fancy. Filling a few big iceberg lettuce leaves with the chilli and coleslaw is quite delicious. Aim to fill at least half your plate with veg/salad, and about 1/4-1/3 of the plate with the chilli.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 500g lean minced beefphoto-5
  • 1 beef stock cube in 300ml boiling water
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • boiled rice or Tacos

 

  1. In a pan, heat the oil, add the onions and cook over a medium heat until soft
  2. Add the garlic, red pepper, chilli powder, paprika and cumin. Cook on low for a few minutes.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the minced beef, stirring and prodding for about 5 minutes to break up the mince.
  4. Pour in the beef stock
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and sugar
  6. Squirt in the tomato purée and stir well.
  7. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring to stop the chilli ‘catching on the bottom.
  8. Turn off the heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop and to cool down.

 

9 of the Healthiest Supermarket Ready Meals

Microwavable Ready Made Meals: the antithesis of healthy eating. In an ideal world we’d spend the morning tending our vegetable patch/chickens in the back yard, then the afternoon pootling about  in the kitchen performing alchemy with our produce.

Historically, ready meals have been relegated by chefs th-2.jpegand dietitians to the bottom of the culinary and nutrition pile. Little boxes of mush, hidden from view in cardboard boxes, often providing your full daily requirement for unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar.

I took a detour down the ready made food aisle at my local Sainsbury’s the other day (that loon taking photos of the food was me). Things have changed. We appear to have had a quiet food revolution.

Aware of the growing market for health foods, supermarkets have used dieticians, nutritionists and chefs to develop a new generation of microwavable ready meals. Can you now ping yourself to health (on full power) in 3 minutes? Is a healthy microwavable meal a contradiction in terms? I’m prepared to eat my words and cautiously say, yes, maybe……

What to look for in a healthy ready meal:

  • you want to see what you are going to eat, so a clear container
  • an ingredients list that only has the names of actual food, like carrots, beans, chicken and rice. Not modified maize starch, stabilisers, di-, tri- and polyphosphates, citric acid, firming agents and maltodextrin
  • aim for 300-400kcal
  • how much veg can you see? Look for meals with about 1/3-1/2 colourful veggies
  • a good protein portion: 20-30g: the label on the back will tell you this, make sure you look per portion
  • Not too much carbohydrate – about 1/4 of the meal. Extra points for wholegrain rice, baby potatoes, quinoa, beans, lentils
  • Below about 1g salt per portion: Colour-coded nutritional information on the front  tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low (red means high, amber means medium, green means low)

 

Here are some of the best of the supermarkets’ own ranges:

306923270862Sainsbury’s My Goodness range: (£3.25, currently on offer £2.50) typically 300-400kcal per pack, plenty of lean protein, a lovely mix of colourful veg, with a controlled portion of carbs. Look for the ones with a green circle stating ‘high protein’.

 

M&S Balanced For You range: high protein, moderate carbohydrate meals. All meals provide slow release carbohydrate from various sources such as beans, puls20150617_084623es and vegetables. 20150617_084525

Miso Chicken Noodles; Aromatic CHicken Skewers; Spiced Cauliflower Rice and Chargrilled Tikka Chicken

 

 

Tesco Healthy Living: £2.00 Some of the Healthy Living range meals can be high in salt, lacking veg or a bit low on protein. Here are two of the better ones: Chicken Noodle Laksa, South Individual Indian Curry With Pilaf.

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Waitrose Love Life range: (£3.30, currently 3 for 2) fresh ingredients, 300-400kcal, high in protein (typically 27g per pack), lots of veg.295655

Chicken Madeira; Green Thai Chicken Curry231596-1

4 no effort meals

Most of my sports clients struggle to put the theory of macronutrients, calories, protein and carb grams in to practical day to day meals and snacks. Unless they have a special interest in nutrition, the last thing any player or athlete in training wants to do is to analyse food labels for carbs/protein/fat, or search for the hottest ‘superfood’ ingredient. Passing out on the sofa is mostly what is needed!

So here are four easy, no effort meals using food you can get from any supermarket. All are balanced for protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats, not forgetting important vitamins and minerals from veg. (Quantities depend on the individual, your S & C coach/nutritionist or I can help with that).

Meal 1

4002359642685_LMeatballs, tomato sauce, pasta, broccoli. Cook the meatballs in a frying pan with some olive oil until brown on the outside, add the Dolmio, simmer for 10 minutes. Cook pasta, broccoli: boil/steam in microwave. 600kcal meal: 6 meatballs in the sauce provides 30g protein, a mug of cooked pasta 50g carbohydrate.

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Meal 2

Ready cooked rice, roasted chicken/grilled or stir fried chicken breasts, mixed veg, humous/chilli sauce to dip. Frozen veg can be defrosted/heated in the microwave or boiled in water for a few minutes.

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Meal 3

Rice noodles, baby veg stir fried (add olive oil, soy sauce, ginger puree, garlic puree), chop up 1-2 salmon fillets add to stir fried veg. Salmon can be tinned/fresh/ready cooked.

already cooked, just add to stir fried veg

rice noodles – already cooked, just add to stir fried veg

ready cooked salmon

ready cooked salmon

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Meal 4

1 or 2 jacket potatoes or tortilla wraps, tin of tuna, tablespoon mayonnaise/natural yogurt, 1 whole chopped up red pepper and 2 chopped spring onions mixed in.

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Microwave in 5 minutes

Tuna wrap

Tuna mayo wraps with pepper & spring onion

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Just mix the tuna, chopped pepper, spring onion, mayo and natural yogurt together, and fill the potatoes/wraps.

Dressing Up – 5 ways to add oomph to veg

A good dressing can transform a plate of salad or vegetables in to something quite spectacular. We all know that we should eat more veg as they have been shown beyond doubt that they are very, very good for us. Why vegetables are fab:

  1. Add amazing colours and textures to your plate
  2. Prevention of chronic health conditions  (heart, diabetes, strokes, obesity, cancer)
  3. Low in calories, you can eat LOADS
  4. Fibre prevents constipation
  5. Encourage the good bacteria in your gut
  6. Vitamins & minerals are needed by your body’s millions of metabolic processes
  7. There is a huge variety so you never need to get bored
  8. Vegetables can taste really good…………….

If you feel that veg can get a little dull, or need some extra oomph, here are 5 very simple dressings to turn a plate of the good stuff in to something pleasurable and delicious.

A big benefit of adding a dressing is that the oil helps with the absorption of vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble, therefore need fat for our bodies to absorb them. As for most things in life, don’t over do it with the dressing, use it to complement the salad or veg rather than drowning your plate in it. Unknown-1  

You don’t need any special equipment. Inspired by Jamie Oliver, I use an old jam jar……just put all the ingredients in the jar and shake well.

Extra virgin olive oils are a bit like wine as they can vary dramatically in taste, depending upon the type and quality of the fruit that is pressed, the time of harvest, the weather during the growing season, and the region from which the olives were produced. If you are feeling adventurous and budget allows, experiment! If you find the taste of extra virgin oil too strong, you can use olive oil instead. I prefer a ‘tangy’ dressing, so usually add more vinegar/lemon juice.  

Classic 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons of white or red wine vinegarimages-4 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil pinch of salt, pepper  

Lemon 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil juice of 1 lemontumblr_nb0yhi3gkn1tpkb57o1_500 pinch of salt, pepper  

Balsamic 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar Pinch of salt, pepper  

Creamy 6 tablespoons natural yogurtimages 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil pinch of salt, pepper  

Thai 4 tablespoons lime juice 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 1 tablespoon soy sauceimages-1 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated/finely chopped 1/2 clove garlic, crushed/finely chopped