It can be hard to avoid putting on weight over the winter months. The cold, darker days can leave us craving stodgy, warming food – particularly if you’re training hard and want to fuel your depleted energy stores. However, if you’re conscious about gaining weight, or are keen to keep your diet as nutritious as possible to complement and fuel your training, it might be worth swapping out refined carbohydrates for some healthier alternatives. These options, put together by nutritionist Christine Bailey, will keep you satisfied, well fuelled and will help you to beat the bloat.
A wonderful winter fuel. A bowl of porridge makes a perfect pre-run meal. Oats are a useful source of slow releasing carbohydrates and B vitamins, manganese and magnesium, important for energy production. Avoid instant porridge mixes, which are often packed with sugar. Stir in a spoonful of cinnamon which studies suggest may help stabilise blood sugar. For a protein boost mix in a scoop of protein powder once cooked. If you want a little more flavor top with fresh or stewed fruit and go for honey over sugar if you want some extra sweetness.
Quinoa protein bowl:
If you’re looking for a lighter hot breakfast then try quinoa porridge. This gluten-free grain has about twice as much protein as brown rice, making it great for muscle recovery plus plenty of magnesium to prevent cramps. A good dose of soluble fibre means it has little impact on your blood sugar. For speed use quinoa flakes (available in health stores). Place 250ml milk or milk alternative in a pan with 35-40g quinoa flakes and a pinch of salt and simmer for two to three minutes until thickened. Stir in a spoonful of nut butter and sliced banana to serve.
Ditch the bread:
If sandwiches and bagels leave you feeling bloated then switch to some lighter alternatives. Avoiding gluten may also help. Try gluten-free oat cakes, wholegrain rice cakes, raw crackers and seeded crackers. You can use these to accompany a warming soup for lunch or top with some protein. For an energising snack. Steer clear of refined white carbs and include those with nuts or seeds for an extra protein boost. For a virtually calorie free wrap use little gem lettuce leaves as “cups” or wraps for fillings like roast chicken.
A bowl of pasta is the ultimate comfort food but it is also likely to pile on the pounds especially if accompanied by a calorific sauce. Fortunately there are some delicious low carb options to try. Kelp noodles (made from sea vegetables and available from www.rawliving.eu) are packed with iodine making them ideal for supporting a sluggish metabolism and are very low in calories. Simply soak and then toss in your prepared sauce.
Shiataki noodles are also a fantastic option; made from the almost calorie free natural fibre of a native Asian vegetable. Being high in fibre, they are also ideal for keeping blood sugars stable (www.goodnessdirect.co.uk).
Buckwheat (soba) noodles are another nutritious alternative. Buckwheat has more protein than rice, wheat, millet or corn and is rich in a nutrient called rutin, important for healthy veins and circulation. It is also a valuable source of magnesium, which can often be low in runners.
If you can get hold of spaghetti squash then use this to replace noodles in a dish. Simply cut the squash in half and scrape out seeds. Drizzle over some olive oil and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. Scrape out the strands of squash and toss in your sauce. Another popular option is using a potato peeler or spiraliser and peeling thin strips from carrot or courgette to form vegetable noodles or wider pieces to replace lasagne sheets.
A sweeter potato
Packed with beta-carotene for skin and respiratory health, sweet potatoes are a great choice for runners. A good source of vitamin C to support your immune health, they are easy to digest and rich in soluble fibre to help you feel fuller for longer. Use them to replace baked potatoes or add them to curries and stews. They are also delicious pureed and added to cakes and brownies or made into hash browns, potato wedges or fritters. If you love mashed potato then try mashed celeriac, cauliflower or parsnip instead. These are lower in carbs and calories and being rich in soluble fibre will keep energy levels from dipping during the day.
A favourite among paleo lovers. Cauliflower rice makes a wonderful lower carb alternative to rice. Simply place raw cauliflower florets in a food processor and blitz until they form little rice-like pieces. Sauté the “rice” in a little stock for four to five minutes until just soft. Alternatively switch to red rice, a great source of iron, zinc and antioxidants – ideal for a healthy immune system.