On the Menu: Fuel your new exercise regime with a good diet: Ready, steady, go

Eat the right foods and you will be better prepared to keep to your exercise plan, says Paula Mee

Your goal is to have at least two fruits and three portions of vegetables a day. Eat a rainbow. Photograph: Thinkstock

Your goal is to have at least two fruits and three portions of vegetables a day. Eat a rainbow. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

There are no quick ways of losing weight that will ensure you keep it off forever, and there are no easy ways to get fit, but there are tricks you can employ along the way. Here are some guidelines for eating healthily to complement your new exercise programme and keep you hydrated.

Fruit and vegetables

These provide antioxidant vitamins, minerals and fibre. Your goal is to have at least two fruits and three portions of vegetables a day.

Eat a rainbow. Each day, aim to have: At least one dark green vegetable (for example, broccoli, cabbage, rocket, spinach) for iron and folic acid; at least one red fruit or vegetable (tomatoes, watermelon, peppers) for lycopene; at least one type of berry or citrus fruit (raspberries, blueberries, oranges) for immune-boosting flavonoids and vitamin C; at least one orange/yellow fruit or vegetable (carrots, orange peppers, mango) for antioxidants and beta-carotene.

Bread, cereals and potatoes

These provide energy and fibre. Your goal is to have a high-fibre carbohydrate at each of your three meals.

Start each day with porridge made on low-fat milk and topped with seeds and berries, or two small slices of wholegrain toast with almond or cashew butter, topped with a ripe banana.

Make sure you choose wholegrain varieties of pasta and rice, or potatoes in their skins, or quinoa, for lunch and dinner. Choose your fillings and toppings carefully: tomato-based or vegetable-based ratatouille and sauces.

Milk and dairy products

These provide calcium, vitamins, minerals and protein. Your goal is to have three portions a day. A portion is 200ml milk, 125g yogurt or 30g (matchbox-sized) piece of cheese.

Choose low-fat yogurts, reduced-fat crème fraiche and lower fat cheese such as brie, feta and mozzarella.

Protein-rich foods

These provide protein and minerals such as zinc and iron. Your goal is to have two to three portions a day.

Choose seafood, lean red meat, chicken and turkey, fish, eggs, pulses and beans.

Mix different legumes with your meats to help them go further. Beans, pulses and lentils can bulk out meals and are a valuable source of soluble fibre.

Essential fats and oils

These provide energy, essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. Your goal is to use these sparingly.

Choose olive or rapeseed oil rather than blended vegetable oils when cooking.

Oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring) will provide you with essential omega-3 fatty acids.

Nuts and seeds are also providers of good fats, so snack on a handful of these every day.

Preventing dehydration

Just a 2 per cent reduction in body weight through dehydration causes a 10-20 per cent loss of performance and early fatigue. Higher losses cause nausea, dizziness and vomiting.

You can check for dehydration by noting the colour, volume and frequency of your urine. Aim for light pale yellow urine, high volume and high frequency.

 

Paula Mee is a dietitian and a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. Email: paula@paulamee.com Twitter: @paula_mee

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