Ten Must-Have Foods
Whether you run for health, fitness, fatloss or performance, the foods you eat to fuel your runs (and recover from them) will have a huge impact on your success. We took a peek inside the cupboards of the running4women team to bring you the top 10 healthy foods… but found so many great ideas we decided to give you 11!
Runners need carbs, but it’s best to fuel up on healthy, natural, unprocessed forms. So ditch the cereal, muesli and sugary granola for whole oats. Basic, rolled oats are great for porridge, as the base for healthy homemade muesli, for adding to yoghurt and smoothies and can be a great ingredient for baking.
Always have some eggs to hand. Not only are they the perfect form of protein (a complete protein) but contain essential fats. Hard boiling them creates a perfect portable snack, or scramble them for breakfast, make a veggie omelette for lunch, or choose eggs for a light meal.
Up your intake of leafy greens and you will reap many rewards. You’ll add extra vitamins, anti oxidants and fibre into your diet and help your body naturally rid itself of toxins. Try kale, spinach, bok choi, cabbage or spring greens: steamed, stir fried or even gently roasted with a little coconut oil.
Peanut butter is popular, but did you know that peanuts are not a nut at all? They’re a legume, and many people have a mild allergy. So switch things up and try almond, cashew, brazil nut or hazelnut butter. Delicious! Nut butters are a great source of healthy and essential fats, fibre and flavour. Eat with raw vegetables or fruit or add to smoothies.
Quinoa is an ancient super-grain and a brilliant choice of ingredient for hard-working runners. Not only is it a good source of carbohydrates but it contains good amounts of protein, too, making it a better choice than rice. It’s quick and easy to cook and holds flavours well. Try replacing cous cous or rice with quinoa.
Keep your freezer stocked with frozen vegetables so you never need to serve a meal without veg! There’s nothing wrong with frozen vegetables, in fact they are a good choice unless you have access to really fresh veg on a regular basis. Try stocking up with frozen spinach, broccoli and green beans.
Potatoes of all kind are a great addition to a hungry runner’s diet, but sweet potatoes are a wonderful source of anti oxidants, fibre and vitamins. They’re great baked or mashed but we love preparing them as wedges or fries: simply chop, toss in a little oil and cover with your choice of seasonings before baking (turning occasionally). Always a hit with kids, too!
Runners tend to snack on plenty of carbs, but don’t forget protein! Your body needs protein to repair and recover, and protein itself actually fills you up more than carbohydrates do, leading to less of a sugar high (and subsequent crash). Cottage cheese is a great choice as it can be eaten sweet (with berries, seeds or nuts) or as an accompaniment to vegetable crudites or other snacks. IF you don’t like it, try unflavoured, unsweetened Greek yoghurt, or quark (a low fat cream cheese) instead.
Most of us should eat more oily fish. A fantastic source of essential fats, there are nutritional benefits we get from oily fish that we can’t find elsewhere. Try eating it twice a week: choose from salmon, sardines (tinned or fresh) mackerel, swordfish and even lesser-known fish like sprats. If you’re cooking from fresh, try keeping it simple: grill or bake in foil with a slice of lemon.
Fruit is good for us, but it’s high in sugar and the body responds to fructose in the same way as it responds to any sugar. So stock up on berries, too, and maybe swap fruit for berries once in a while (you may find you prefer them!) It’s often cheaper and more convenient to get frozen berries and keep them on hand in the freezer. Add a handful to smoothies, mix into oats, porridge, cottage cheese or yoghurt, or simply eat as a low-calorie, low-fat, high-fibre anti oxidant snack! (Our favourite? Blueberries!)
All seeds are a great addition to your store cupboard, but we particularly like pumpkin seeds. Whether you choose pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds or a seed mix, you can add a spoonful or two to oats, porridge, yoghurt, salads or even over the top of stews and soups for fibre, healthy fats and a great source of vitamins. How many of our top 11 are in your kitchen right now? Have we missed any of your own personal favourites?