If you’re looking for a set of easy ‘home remedy’ changes to make in your nutritional plan that will compliment your training as well as weight-management, look no further than these healthy tips. – BY CHRISTINE PETERS, REGISTERED DIETICIAN
There are bad habits when it comes to nutrition, and there are good habits. Unfortunately, the bad habits tend to be easier to develop, and the good habits tend to require us giving up something we love, or decreasing the amount of ‘prohibited substances’ or treats that we consume, or when we consume them. And finding the good habits that compliment our endurance sports activities best is another challenge… but there are some simple yet effective changes you can make to your diet that will get you where you want to be.
1 Eat regular meals: Never skip meals, because this slows down the metabolic rate and contributes to bad blood sugar control, both of which promote weight-gain. Regular meals also help to make sure your body does not miss out on key nutrients, especially breakfast, because a large portion of your daily fibre comes from that first meal.
2 Skip the bad fats: Don’t overindulge, especially in bad fat, i.e. Trans fat. Fat is much more energy-dense than protein or carbohydrate (9 calories per gram versus 4cal/g). Fat sources may be visible (oil, margarine) or invisible (fried foods, processed meats, baked goods like pies and pastries, gravies, dressings, etc).
3 Choose healthier fats: Look for oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, pure nut butter, humus, avocado and Carotino oil. These fats are rich in essential fatty acids and/or mono-unsaturated fats, and are linked to important health benefits such as protection against heart disease, hyperactivity, depression, etc.
4 Legumes are great: Substitute protein foods with beans, split peas, lentils and chickpeas one to three times a week. Legumes are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and are an excellent source of soluble fibre.
5 Get more fibre: Increase your intake of fibre, a type of carbohydrate, by including wholegrain breads, wholegrain cereals, fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes in your diet. Also, always give preference to unrefined foods, e.g. brown rice instead of white rice. Fibre regulates digestion, helps control blood sugar levels and promotes the feeling of fullness.
6 Less drinks: Remember that alcohol does contain calories (7cal/g) and promotes bad blood sugar control, and therefore should be used only in moderation.
7 Control your sweet tooth: Avoid too much sugar and sweetened foods, as these provide ‘empty calories’ devoid in essential vitamins and minerals. Remember, 5g of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. Limit daily intake to 6 teaspoons per day, if any!
8 Drink more water: Drink six to eight glasses of water or pure herbal tea per day. Start with a glass of water on waking to help encourage thirst throughout day. Drink the majority of water before 4pm, in order to avoid over-drinking later in the day, because a large amount of fluid in the evening promotes urination during the night and sleep disturbance.
9 Grill, steam or bake food rather than frying: Judicious use of herbs and spices is encouraged, instead of using too much sugar or fat for flavour. Vegetables should be steamed or boiled, with no added sugar or margarine.
10 Fry healthily: Use non-stick frying pans with little oil or fat, or cook with a little wine, rather than large amounts of oil or fat. Avoid margarine, and avoid deep frying and re-frying oil!
11 Take note: Read food labels and compare the sugar and nutritional content of different products.
12 No big dinners: Avoid large meals at night by eating smaller portions, waiting 20 minutes and then going for more vegetables or salad if still hungry.
13 Most importantly, exercise regularly! New guidelines recommend 50 minutes of exercise, five times a week, including weekends, so plan your week’s training and map out time to fit it into your schedule and commitments.