Healthy eating means providing your body with the necessary nutrients to maintain your health, feel good, have energy and sustain or boost your performance. Whatever your sporting level might be, good nutrition is important for everyone.
The food we eat provides the necessary energy we need to survive and perform. Your body requires the following nutrients to thrive:
A healthy diet will include a good balance of all the nutrients above. On a basic level, food sustains every bodily function through the energy it provides our bodies with – it is, plainly, the fuel we need to survive.
There are, of course, many qualities of fuel. Providing our bodies with healthy food, especially for athletes, is not only important to lead a better life but to have enough energy to exercise and, more importantly, recover and improve.
Good eating habits will vary from individual to individual based on their activities and lifestyles, yet there are overall guidelines all fitness enthusiasts should follow to ensure success in their sporting journey.
Eating healthy does not only prevent many forms of disease, but also helps athletes perform to the best of their ability, as it impacts strength, injury risk, performance and recovery.
Good nutrition will ensure that the hours you spend training are not wasted.
Follow these seven healthy eating habits to succeed in your fitness journey.
HEALTHY EATING HABITS
Eat the right amount of calories
The key to healthy eating is to balance the energy you consume with the energy you expend. You should eat enough calories to sustain your daily activities without topping over what your body needs, as this will lead to weight gain.
Conversely, eating and drinking too little will lead to weight loss and, in the case of athletes, poor performance and an increased risk of injury.
For most people, eating the right amount of food (a balance between calories consumed and calories burnt) is the most important eating habit to follow to stay healthy.
A good and easy way to invest in your health is a quality blender, as a good one will last a lifetime, give you full control over what you add to your food, and provide you with easily digestible, nutrient-rich foods, creams or sauces.
Eat whole foods
Generally, the more processes your food has gone through, the lower its nutritional value.
The term whole foods describes natural, unprocessed foods (usually comprising a single ingredient). Whole foods tend to be nutrient-dense and have fewer calories per serving than processed foods.
To make sure you’re getting the most out of the beneficial elements packed in fruits and vegetables is to, largely, eat them in their natural form.
While there are many (often conflicting) diets out there, one consistent finding is that a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.
Having full control of what goes into your food is not only cost-effective but also the healthier option, as you can avoid empty calories and the added preservatives and sweeteners that come in most packaged food. It also means you can make meals and snacks based on your personal eating preferences and taste.
For example, with a blender you can make your own nut butter out of 100% peanuts, or a whole fruit smoothie.
Enjoy your food
Often overlooked, an important way to stick to healthy eating habits is to enjoy the food you eat.
A plain rocket salad, while excellent for athletes with its rich vitamin stores, is simply quite boring. But preparing rocket in a fun way or adding it to your daily morning smoothie are great ways to include this excellent ingredient in your diet.
Find ways to make good food interesting (and delicious) and you’re more likely to consume it.
A Vitamix Blender and accessories such as the Aer™ Disc Container lets you whip, emulsify, muddle or foam ingredients according to your needs and taste. The Vitamix allows you to get creative with your diet, adding different textures to your dishes and presenting new ways to enjoy your food.
Progress takes time, so consistency is key when it comes for forming and following healthy eating habits.
Just as one meal won’t throw off your whole diet, you can’t expect one healthy dish to suddenly make you feel great. You shouldn’t feel bad about including refined sugars in your diet – as athletes these are sometimes good sources of energy for exercise – but make sure you stay consistent in your healthy choices.
Unless you have a specific disease or dietary requirement, no food needs to be entirely off limits. By basing the vast majority of your diet on whole foods, you’ll be able to enjoy occasional treats while still achieving excellent health.
A sustainable diet is one you can see yourself following for the next two or three years. An extreme diet might work wonders at first, but will prevent you from developing long-term, healthy eating habits.
Healthy Eating Habits – Prepare your meals in advance
Generally, foods that are easy to cook are more likely to be consumed. As humans with limited time, we’re more likely to choose to eat something hassle-free, even if it’s less nutritious, over a healthy meal if this requires a long time to prep or is complicated to cook.
Having meals pre-planned and ready enables you to consistently meet your fitness and performance goals. Pre-preparing your meals brings consistency and gives you more room to think about what you’re eating (and will eat) and the amount of carbs, fats and protein in your food.
Proper regimented meal prep ensures you’re getting the right amounts of:
- Protein to support muscle growth and tissue repair
- Carbohydrate to support performance and replenish muscle glycogen
- Fat for vital functions like hormone production
Chopping or preparing your food in advance can also make your decision making easier in future as there’s less hassle involved around your food, so you’re less likely to stick a frozen pizza in the oven.
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Make unhealthy choices harder
It’s nice and comforting to have a cookie cupboard, but having easy access to unhealthy choices makes us more likely to succumb to temptation. While you don’t have to go to the lengths of forbidding yourself to have cookies, not having a separate, special place for them in your kitchen will reduce the chances of you eating them.
Create a new environment for yourself that makes healthier choices easier and bad ones harder.
For example, avoid the junk food isles when grocery shopping or add small barriers to unhealthy eating (such as putting a small amount of money away every time to finish a bar of chocolate, then donate the money to charity). Adding friction to unhealthy choices makes you less likely to take them.
Conversely, make healthier choices easier. Chopping an apple at the start of the day or replacing sweets with dates are both good places to start.
Variety is key – eat the full rainbow
Another important healthy eating habit is to eat a wide range of foods to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.
A variety of colours and textures in your food is a good way to make sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs. These include:
- fruits and vegetables
- nuts and seeds
- healthy starches
- beans and legumes
- herbs and spices.
The chemicals that give foods their colours each have unique health benefits (for example, red foods contain important antioxidants, orange foods are high in carotenoids and green foods are packed full of fibre, vitamins and minerals). Eating the full rainbow means consuming a variety of foods so your body gets all the essential nutrients it needs.
Variety in your dishes is important for good health. With a Vitamix blender you can create steaming-hot soups or frozen sorbets, chunky salsas or silky smoothies. Best of all, you can pack full rainbows in all of them.
HEALTHY EATING AND SPORT
When physically active, your body will use up more energy. This can help with weight control or loss if that is your aim, or you might find that you need to consume more food to replace the extra energy used.
Healthy eating habits for athletes can have many benefits, including:
- Improved performance
- Reduced risk of injury
- Better recovery after training
- Enhanced physical health
Healthy eating is not just going to improve your quality of life now, but also ensure you live more years free of chronic disease in the future.
Athletic performance and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition. During times of high physical activity, all athletes should ensure they meet their nutritional needs to maintain body weight, replenish glycogen stores and provide protein for the building and repair of tissue.
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All content within this article is provided for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult a dietitian before making big changes to your diet.