This time last year, I knew nothing about nutrition. I would go through phases of eating salads, low fat foods and mainly all shop bought packaged food. I’ve calorie counted in phases too, only to get too obsessed with it and stop again. After buying three cookbooks and Kayla Itsines’ HELP guide since January, I have started to finally understand more and more about what I should be eating.
Because of this, I try and include certain things in my daily diet to benefit my health and fitness…
Vegetables: Vegetables provide so many different vitamins to your body that are essential for keeping well. There is a lot of fibre in vegetables that not only keeps everything ‘moving’ inside, it also makes you feel fuller for longer, so pile up your plate for a meal or snack on vegetables throughout the day to fill a hole. I eat a variety of different vegetables but tend to have peppers, green beans and tomatoes daily.
Meat: I’ve heard so many times that eating meat every day is bad for you – I don’t know why still but honestly, I love meat in my meals. It keeps me so full and since recently adding in more red meat to my diet, it provides me with iron and protein to complement my exercising.
Fats: One thing I have learnt a lot about this year is the use of good and bad fats. Bad fats are found in foods such as white bread, sweets, chocolate etc. Good fats are found in foods like avocados, nuts, olive/coconut oil – I try to include these in cooking, for example Deliciously Ella’s pesto includes nuts, oil and avocados, but in a small serving.
A small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids such as omega-3 – “essential” because the body can’t make them itself.
Fat helps the body absorb vitamins A, D and E. These vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.
Fruit: Fruit is another great way of giving your body the vitamins that it needs. However, fruit contains a lot of sugar so I aim to never eat more than two portions a day. I always eat a banana late afternoon before an evening workout to fuel my body.
Protein: After you exercise, your body needs protein to be able to recover and provide energy back to your muscles and body. I get a lot of protein in my diet, through meat and vegetables; however, I do use a natural whey protein powder which I mix into my homemade protein shake (recipe here). Protein is the main ingredient needed to build muscle and the more muscle you have – the quicker you burn off fat!
Carbs: Carbs provide us with energy however too many carbs in our body, that aren’t used for energy, will be stored as fat in the body. I personally try not to eat a lot of carbs as I know they make me gain weight quite quickly. When I do eat them, I make sure I eat brown healthier carbs such as brown rice and brown pasta which I always eat on days I exercise for energy.
Healthy eating is so much easier when you see it as a lifestyle rather than a ‘diet’. I have learnt to find healthy recipes that I enjoy and therefore don’t feel the need to binge on sugary foods all the time. I treat myself to meals out at weekends and I appreciate food a lot more than I used to, whilst also considering what I am putting into my body and how it will or will not benefit me.
For anyone wanting to learn more about nutrition and food groups, I would highly recommend both Deliciously Ella and Madeleine Shaw’s books. The recipes taste amazing and are simple to make.