I get many questions about what I eat as a mom, elite marathoner and dietitian. And it is my pleasure to share some of my thoughts with you.
As a marathoner, once I commence a training/racing build, I avoid sweets and fatty foods. The duration has varied from 3 months with not one bite to 9 months with a few nibbles, and is something I have done for several years now. After my marathon, I fully indulge in such things as warm chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream, butter tarts, carrot cake, and pecan squares but the novelty soon wears off, which is about the time I am ready to start another marathon build. For me, it is a healthy balance but it is not for everyone. While training and racing, it motivates me and provides psychological and physical benefits. But even though I am a dietitian who values the importance of a healthy diet, it is important to note that what one eats is really only one of many parts that lead to an athlete's success.
With each training and racing build, I slightly increase my mileage and intensity so it only makes sense to sharpen the diet. To be honest, what you will read is not really anything surprising but people are intrigued and it's an interesting topic.
As a dietitian, when I meet with people to talk about their diet for diabetes, cholesterol, and weight, I tell them that we should all eat like we have diabetes, or like we are going to get it. I use the, "Just the Basics" handout, which I follow myself and is based on the following:
1) Space meals and snacks evenly throughout the day. Never skip. Eat within 1 hr waking.
2) Limit sweet and fatty treats. Enjoy small amounts, regularly.
3) Drink 8-10 cups water, and 2-3 cups skim or 1% milk daily.
4) Make plate 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 lean protein and 1/4 whole grain at lunch and dinner.
5) Do 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.
I tell people to change what they think will be easiest first, then once they've succeeded, move on to the more difficult tasks. It does not happen overnight.
As a mom, I strongly believe in the importance of modelling healthy eating as an athlete, particularly since my kids are starting to get more involved in athletics themselves. My 9 yr old son plays rep hockey, which has him on the ice 4 times per week and my 7 yr old son is starting the next level of swimming, which has him in the pool 2 times per week. I am a firm believer in practising Ellyn Satter's , "Division of Responsibility", which defines the role of the parent, the role of the child, and holds high the importance of eating together as a family.
I often tell my kids that the best food has minimal packaging, is reasonably priced, and home-made. Like many other kids, mine too ask for the packaged, processed, high calorie/salt/fat/sugar foods while at the grocery store, and other places, but once I tell them I can and will make something similar at home, they are usually satisfied. Or, I simply say no because I am the parent. I expect that my soon to be junior kindergarten daughter will ask more for these types of things since she's younger and it will be her first year of school where she sees what other kids have. But like her older brothers, I know she too will start to better appreciate real food. Kids can be picky, and they can eat a lot at some meals and not much at others, which is completely normal. As a dietitian who went into peoples' homes to help with diet-related issues, I am very grateful for Ellyn Satter's work. My kids aren't "perfect eaters" but is there such a thing anyway? And they are growing to make their own choices, not only in diet, but in many areas of life. I can't wait until Heidi Smith , sport R.D. and author of my favourite, "Nutrition for the Long Run"publishes her next book entitled, "Family Fuel" - all about how to feed a family with kids in sport. For the longest time, my kids didn't know much about fast food or where to get it. And rarely was a penny spent at arena canteens or vending machines. As a kid who also frequented the arena, I quit asking for things while there and my kids are now doing the same. You can only hear, "No" so many times I guess! But they are getting older, which includes independence and the ability to make their own choices when I am not around. So, I continue to trust that modelling the behaviour will influence them to make the best food choices. Achieving the Olypmic standard for the marathon gives me some credibility as a role model to my children and others; I know what it takes to succeed.
So here is what is important to me:
-making wise choices about everything I consume
-very little processed/packaged/refined high sugar/fat/salt/calorie foods
-high nutrient density
-appropriate portions and energy balance
-flexibility and freedom
-optimal immune function
In order to do this, I limit or avoid:
-processed foods with lengthy ingredient lists containing words I can't pronounce let alone recognize, even with a degree in nutrition!
-high-glycemic index foods
-high sugar foods
-high trans/saturated fatty foods
-high sodium foods
-high calorie/low nutrient dense foods
And I include plenty of:
-natural, unprocessed, whole foods
-brightly coloured vegetables and fruit
-low-glycemic index foods
-low-fat, high-fibre, and high-protein foods
So here's how it looks, none or very little (some of these foods I haven't eaten in over 20 years, or ever!):
-white: crackers, rice, bread, pasta, muffins, waffles, pastries, pancakes, cold cereal, potatoes, bagels, wraps, pretzels
-flavoured or sweetened yogurt, most cheeses, dairy-type spreads such as cream cheese, high fat milk/cream
-bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, salami, pepperoni, fatty meats, deli meats
-deep fried foods
-juice or any drink other than skim milk, water, coffee/tea with milk, hot lemon water
And here's what I enjoy:
-squash, sweet potatoes, beets, turnip, carrots, quinoa, beans/peas/lentils, oatmeal, steel cut oats, red river cereal, brown rice as my whole grains
-cabbage, spinach, kale, mesclun mix, zucchini, egg plant, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, celery, brussels sprouts, green/yellow beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, mushrooms, avocado and nearly every vegetable
-berries, apples, bananas, melon, citrus and nearly every fruit
-skim milk, plain greek yogurt, cottage cheese, small amounts of goat, feta or blue cheese
-tuna, salmon, sardines, eggs, lean poultry/beef/pork, tofu
-nut/seed butters or whole - almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pumpkins
-chia, hemp, flax
Meals So what does it look like? Here's a typical day...
-plain low fat greek yogurt + cottage cheese + walnuts
-steel cut oats or red river cereal or oatmeal + berries + protein powder + nut/seed butter + chia/hemp/flax
- coffee x 2
Lunch (1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grain, 1/2 vegetables with 1 cup skim milk)
-leafy greens (mesclun mix/spinach/kale) with vegetables + tuna or salmon or sardines + brown rice or quinoa
-pureed: plain low fat greek yogurt + kale + protein powder + frozen berries + nut butter
Afternoon Snack* and coffee x 2
Dinner (1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grain, 1/2 vegetables with 1 cup skim milk)
-chicken breast or pork tenderloin or lean beef (I often go to my brother-in-laws blog for ideas)
-spinach or mesclun salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
-cooked vegetable, usually something green like brussels sprouts, green beans or broccoli
-brown rice, quinoa, squash or sweet potato
-if dinner is early, around 5pm, I will usually have a medium-sized snack otherwise it's small, with a big cup of tea
1) chopped apple or pear + greek yogurt + brown rice + cinnamon + almonds + hemp seeds + raisins or chopped prunes
2) greek yogurt + cocoa or chocolate protein powder + raw slow cook oats + chia seeds + walnuts or nut butter
3) a small bowl of cottage cheese and 2 plain rice cakes with some natural peanut butter
4) a quick n' easy piece of fruit & a handful of nuts - my favourite is a gala apple with plain, unsalted peanuts
As a R.D., I struggled for the longest time with the use of protein. I'm a big believer in the big picture, getting what you need from your diet, so would often cringe when people asked me about protein use, knowing full well that their diet and other lifestyle choices could use other, more productive modifications first. There are those people I counsel who reek of cigarette smoke and insist that organic food is the only way to go. And then there's terribly inactive people who consume copious amounts of expensive, convenience foods yet insist healthy eating is expensive. I digress, back to protein. The toughest crowd is the young athletes, particularly adolescent males who desperately want to build muscle mass. Protein is important but we can only do so much about our genetic makeup.
I believe the first time I started using protein powder was when I was training in a particularly hot and humid summer for a fall marathon. I simply couldn't ingest the appropriate amount of protein necessary to recover from training. I use New Zealand grass fed cow whey protein isolate, which is the same protein that is in Emend Recovery Formula, something I can't live without! I consume about 6 cups of Emend, immediately after each 2-3 hour training session. Not only does in aid in muscle recovery but replaces lost fluids and electrolytes, and gives me some time until I get home to cook and eat my next meal. It makes my recovery.
I rarely consume protein bars because the texture and taste does not appeal to me. I prefer eating real food, and know there are hundreds of poor quality protein bars that are simply glorified chocolate bars. I kinda feel the same about protein bars as I do about granola bars, which I do not buy for my kids! Marshmallows and chocolate chips, really? Anyway, I think the best place to go is a "Goodness Me" or "Whole Foods" type store to get the best protein with the least amount of added junk. Must read those labels!
This is a fairly straight-forward topic and here's what I use:
-daily omega 3
-daily pre/post natal vitamin/mineral
Carb-loading has always been a major component before racing a marathon. For the two days prior to race day, my diet consists of mainly bagels, bread, rice and pasta with moderate protein and minimal fat, sugar and fibre.
Like I said, diet is only one part. I certainly don't obsess about it.
I enjoy routine and familiarity but also flexibility and variety, changing things up as I go.
There's always new findings from different sport nutrition studies so I'll try to keep up on some of that but to be honest, I don't get too excited about much of it, rather wait until I see consistency.
Sport Nutrition Links/Websites:
Australian Sports Commission
My Sport Science
Dietitians of Canada - Sports Nutrition (Adult)
Dietitians of Canada - Sports Drinks
Coaching Association of Canada
Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport
Eat Right Ontario - Sports Nutrition
Canadian Sport Institute
Jennifer Sygo, M. Sc., RD
Stacey Michelle - Health and Fitness (much of my diet is influenced by this woman!)
Heidi Smith Nutrition
Note: this blog post entitled, "Eating as a Marathoner, Mom and Dietitian" will be updated on occasion. Information subject to change. Last modified: June 16, 2015.
Disclaimer: This blog is presented for informational and educational purposes only and is meant to complement the advice and guidance of a registered dietitian. This blog, is not intended and should not be construed as the delivery of medical care. Persons requiring diagnosis or treatment are urged to contact their primary health care provider for appropriate care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding nutrition, health, a medical condition, food, beverage, product, supplement, nutrient or drug-nutrient interaction. The creators of this blog disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided here