By Dietitian Jess Spendlove
I am all about educating people on how to pull together a dietary pattern that works for them – which includes their likes, dislikes, their training, what their day looks like.
To start, there are a few key fundamentals which should be included at each meal – these are all the elements, and they included:
- Wholegrain carbohydrates
- Healthy fats
The next step is to understand which of these should be adjusted based on training and which should remain consistent. In all situations, all of these elements should be present at each meal, and most of them at snacks (if you can nail all four at snacks, you get bonus points!)
This element is the building block of our body including our muscles. It is important for recovery from training, hormone and enzyme production, as well as being the main nutrient which will keep us satisfied (feeling satiated). Spreading out protein intake across the day is key for recovery as well as maintaining energy and appetite across the day. This element should remain consistent on all days.
This element is the main fuel source for our body and brain. The longer and harder we train, the more fuel we need from this element. Our brain is a very energy-hungry organ using 20% of our total energy requirements, which is why we want each meal and snack to have wholegrains and carbohydrates, but we want those pre and post our hardest sessions to have the most.
This element delivers all our vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are essential for living our healthiest lives. A netfitter should aim for 2-3 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables per day! Making sure each meal and snack has some colour is a good starting point. For our main meals, the colour component should always be the largest (or at least equal largest) portion.
On the days we are reducing carbohydrates (our less active days) we want to increase the colour component to make sure we are still eating the same volume of food, which helps keep us satisfied as well.
This element is important as it delivers anti-inflammatory properties which also play a role in being our healthiest selves. Healthy fats also help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, E, D & K), and importantly help our food taste delicious! It is essential our food is nutritious, delicious and easy.
Knowing all of this, let’s map out a netfitters day on a plate!
Some fantastic breakfast options which help deliver all the elements might be some poached eggs, avocado, tomato on rye sourdough for our team savoury netfitters. Our team sweet might prefer a smoothie bowl which is made on cows or soy milk with Greek yoghurt, or has some protein powder in there! Another fantastic breakfast option would be some overnight oats soaked with milk, added Greek yoghurt, fruit of choice, plus nuts or seeds.
With the days getting warmer it is time to make friends with salad, but we want a vibrant, filling, delicious salad featuring all the elements. Some delicious options might be a poke bowl or buddah bowl. Below is each element and some examples for each. The best thing about having this kind of lunch is you can pick and mix, keeping things interesting and different.
Protein – tin of tuna, leftover chicken, firm tofu, sashimi salmon
Colour – all the various salads
Wholegrain carbohydrates – brown rice, quinoa, pasta, buckwheat noodles
Healthy fats – extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts & seeds
Some other great lunch options can be a wholegrain wrap or sandwich with protein and lots of colour, or some sushi/sashimi with edamame. Leftovers are always a win as well!
Variety is the spice of life here! We want lots of different proteins, colours, wholegrain carbohydrates and healthy fats to keep things diverse here. Changing up cuisine is great as well!
As a starting point with your plate, you want at least even amounts of protein, carbohydrates and colour, with a drizzle of healthy fats, some options might be:
- BBQ chicken skewers with salads & potato
- Tofu stirfry with vegetables and brown rice
- Beef & bean burrito bowl with brown rice and salad
- Baked salmon with Asian greens and buckwheat noodles
- Chicken satay & vegetables with basmati rice
Snacking can be an opportunity to optimise your nutrition (or when poorly planned jeopardise). The best thing for a netfitter to do here is approach a snack like a mini-meal and make sure it has all the elements, or at least protein, colour and wholegrain carbohydrates. This helps to satisfy, fuel and nourish.
Some examples might be
- Greek yoghurt with fruit & muesli
- crackers with toppings
- Cottage cheese & tomato
- Ricotta & berries
- Smoked salmon, cream cheese & tomato
- Mezze plate with vegetable sticks, hummus, wholegrain crackers
Each meal and snack is an opportunity to nourish your body, improve your energy and fuel yourself to perform at your best!