Ok, so one of the prevailing problems that crops up time after time on the forum is the question of eating right. Thing is, regardless of what your aim is - weight loss/ gain/ maintenance- we all require the same basic nutrients, minerals and dietary requirments. Putting it very simply, if you're looking to bulk, eat more, if you want to lose weight, eat less. But most importantly make sure you do not starve your body of what it needs and make all your calories come from healthy nutritional sources. There's a big difference between gaining 600 calories from a Big Mac and getting it from a balanced, nutritious meal. The general guidleines are that for weight training eat a 40% carb 40% protein 20% good fat diet, and for non- weight training athletes up the carbs to about 50-60%.
So.. just to help out anyone who's a little stuck or confused about how they should be eating, or even how to provide themselves with the food they need, I've put together a basic 'shopping list' of good foods that should help you get on the right track. Hopefully others will add to this with other ideas about what are good foods to include and post hints and tricks for eating clean day to day.
For the store cupboard
- foods you should have on hand to make simple meals:
brown rice/ pasta
mixed dried herbs
tinned tomatoes (great for pasta sauces/ soups)
packets of unsalted, plain nuts for adding to salads- sunflower, sesame, almonds, cashews
extra virgin olive oil
flax oil (probably have to get this in a health food shop)
pulses- dry, bagged variety such as chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils super easy to cook, high in protein and iron rich. Brilliant to add to salads, lentils are a fantastic base for soup. Try to buy dry instead of tinned/ pre-soaked which often have added salt.
Fresh foods to buy
- preferably organic or from a farmers market, as fresh as possible:
fruit- all types, but include lots of 'easy to eat' fruit you can carry as a snack like apples, oranges, plums, peaches
a great tip I heard recently was to freeze raspberries or grapes and eat them as a snack in the evenings for those 'in front of the tv and wanna eat' moments
bananas are great post-workout but watch their high carb content
all berries and citrus fruits are high in antioxidants and brilliant to add to natural yoghurt/ skim milk for smoothies
vegetables- again, all types, especially broccoli, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, carrots, cucumber, mangetout, onions, peas, spinach.
lots of leafy salad leaves- lettuce, cabbage, spinach, watercress, rocket.
sweetcorn and potatoes are great but high in carbs so consider this when adding them to a meal. Use new potatoes if possible, a lower starch content gives them a lower GI factor.
wholemeal pitta bread
wholemeal/ seeded bread/ bagels
Bulgar wheat/ cous cous
tinned tuna- buy steaks in tins as opposed to chunks
lean meat cuts, but particularly turkey/ chicken breasts and fillets
salmon steaks (expensive but so good for you- wrap in a loss tin-foil parcel with lemon juice, a little oil and pepper and bake for 20 mins- yum!!)
yoghurt- organic if possible, and live (bacteria-containing)
milk (personally its skimmed for me to get all the vits, minerals and protein, none of the cals)
peanut butter- you can buy it with nothing but 100% peanuts in it in health food shops, great for putting on corn cakes for snacks
rice/ corn cakes
baked beans- easy to eat snack, buy no-added sugar varieties.
Try to make sure every meal you eat has equal amounts of carbs and protein (or higher in protein if you're lifting). Use fats and oils sparingly, but include a small amount at every meal.There's no real need to have butter/ salt/ sugar added to any meal, use herbs and spices to taste meats, and nuts to give a kick to salads. While you may hear about athletes surviving on very minimalist and extremely restricted diets, this sort of eating will not sustain you for everyday living. The 5-a-day rule for fruits and vegetables is vitally important, they are the easiest and healthiest way to obtain many of the vitamins our bodies need in order to function, as are the minerals found in meats and pulses. Ensure you get pently of calcium and vitamin C -two of the most frequently neglected nutrients in Irish diets, but if you really feel the need to supplement (which you shouldn't if you eat properly) try a probiotic multi-vitamin like multibionta. There's also a great book called 'Food for Fitness
' which is aimed at healthy eating for athletes, but has hundreds of recipes that are super-easy and quick to prepare and suitable for everyone's daily diet.
And of course there's the treats... For me, as a rule I don't keep any 'cheat foods' in the house. If its there, I'll eat it, simple as. This means that I have to actually plan to go out and buy cheat foods, so I'll make a conscious effort to treat myself with something that's not too
sinful. It's often low-fat ice-cream or Green and Black's chocolate (I like to tell myself that all the flavenoids in the latter are really doing me lots of good
). For others its a burger, or sweets or a take-away. There's nothing wrong with a little bit of badness, but try to maintain an 80% clean attitude to food, that way you can eat treats virtually guilt-free!
When you make meals- if in doubt, just bung it all together, add a little seasoning and eat it!! That's how I've discovered most of my recipes (who knew that bulgar wheat, tuna, sweetcorn and spinach were so tasty together??!) As long as everything you put into it is good, there's nothing to lose. And above all else, enjoy what you eat. Cooking and eating shouldn't be a chore, and the more pleasure you get from eating the more it'll reinforce your healthy eating habits