Food – a topic for some serious conversation. People have become more focused on their diets for a variety of reasons, ranging from keeping their weight in check to a surge in people having a food intolerance to numerous health scares about eating bacon or whatever the culprit of the day is. Also, there are so many fads out there and health experts keep feeding us new information about what is supposedly good for us that we can be forgiven for sometimes getting lost in the food maze.
The fact remains, food is pretty key to our existence and recently awareness about the food we eat and its effect on our bodies as well as emotions has been increasing, perhaps to the extent where we are starting to see some truth in the old saying “you are what you eat”. So, if you are going to eat takeaway burgers and fries en masse for an extended period of time you are likely to put on weight, and not feel so great for it.
So, as an athlete demanding quite a lot from my body, what do I eat to ensure my body performs optimally when I need it to? I am one of those people blessed (or cursed) with a delicate digestive system, which means when I eat something wrong I will know it! I’m not purporting my diet is perfect, but I believe in a few basic principles as set out below.
- If my body is healthy and functioning as well as it could possibly be, then it should be able to perform optimally when I need it to. Which loosely translates to: I don’t eat very differently at the peak of my training season than in the off season, perhaps just a little bit more to make up for higher consumption.
- I’m in it for the long run, and this does not just refer to sport. If I’m lucky enough to live a long life, I want my body and mind to remain strong for the length of it, therefore I want to treat my body in the best possible way so it will serve me well in return. No amount of short term gain with potential long term side effects do I consider worth it.
- I therefore believe in eating freshly cooked, healthy, natural food as much as my lifestyle allows and avoid synthetic chemical additives wherever possible. I believe in whole foods and if necessary herbal based supplements for my nutrition.
- I believe in the age-old motto “everything in moderation”. Although I eat mostly vegetarian food, I don’t strictly believe in cutting out any particular food groups, although I have heard of people who are having success with such an approach.
- Most of all, I believe in listening to my body. If I’m really not feeling hungry, I don’t force myself to eat. If I really fancy a piece of cake, I have it without guilt (not every day though!) Our bodies have a wonderful way of telling us what we really need if we are prepared to listen. More so if we start paying attention to how we feel after eating certain foods. Could that heart burn be because I had food that was too spicy or acidic? Was it too much deep fried food for my system? Am I feeling agitated because I had that coffee I knew wasn’t a good idea? Was the sudden phlegm caused by eating something too creamy? Slowly we can start unravelling the puzzle of what food is good or bad for us as a unique individual.
- I also do not calorie count! It is not mind over matter for me. If I’m starving, I need to eat. To me, forfeiting a healthy lunch in order to have calories in the bank for a piece of cake or extra glass of wine at dinner does not make sense.
So, what do I eat in a day?
I’m one of those who truly needs to break the fast. Unless I had a very late or very heavy dinner, I generally wake up ready to eat. I usually have cereal, for example rice flakes, sorghum (wonderfully tasty and completely gluten free) or millet flakes (occasionally oats). I make it more interesting by adding hazelnuts or almonds, dates, raisins, cinnamon. Sometimes I add a teaspoon of coconut oil or tahini for extra flavour and oil. Occasionally I might have muesli and yogurt.
On weekends if I meet a friend for brunch I might treat myself to scrambled eggs on sourdough, or perhaps some pancakes (yum!) I usually have a cup of tea for breakfast and I add almond milk or coconut milk (quite easy to make yourself if you have a blender). I don’t have a particular dairy intolerance but I now prefer the taste of non-dairy alternatives.
This will heavily depend on where I am and what I’m doing. If I want to stay healthy in an office job I might have lunch on the go from a high street chain. I try to find food that is warm and nourishing since it sets me up well for the afternoon. I find my body in general doesn’t like cold food very much, unless it’s a very hot summer’s day.
If I’m meeting someone for lunch, I might have a nourishing soup with bread (if good quality) and butter or whatever else I fancy on the menu.
If I’m at home, more often than not I’ll have leftovers from a previous dinner, or perhaps I’ll just make a mix of chickpeas, feta cheese, perhaps an avocado, sweetcorn, olives, whatever is available, add some basil, olive oil, perhaps rocket leaves, a squeeze of lime, salt and pepper and voila! Add a couple of rice cakes with butter if I need extra calories.
After lunch I might have a cup of tea as well and if I feel like something sweet I’ll have a cheeky teaspoon of almond butter with a couple of dates. Delicious!
If I’m eating out I love a good fish and chips occasionally, I also love oriental food, good quality pub food etc.
At home, my easy and go-to meal is to chop up all the fresh organic delivery veg I receive and roast it in the oven. I serve this with pearl barley or rice or another grain, which I mix with beans e.g. chickpeas or kidney beans.
I love making fresh dahl with rice and add cooked veg. Such a simple meal and yet so nourishing.
For years one of my favourite dishes was roasted butternut risotto. Very easy to make and very tasty too.
Or a good noodle soup. Chop lots of fresh veggies in a big pot, add ginger, tamari sauce, rice or egg noodles, water, fresh coriander, and Bob is truly your uncle. Or a noodle stir fry.
Occasionally I might make a Spanish omelette or some kind of frittata.
I will usually have a warm drink after dinner to relax my body, ready for bed.