What are the best foods to start your day?
If you’re training in the morning, a quick coffee or shake before the gym is a great option. Science in Sport (SIS) is a good protein shake brand. Not only does it support some of our best athletes and teams like Manchester United, it actually tastes good too. Post-workout, I’d recommend a combination of eggs, veggies and fruit, or a shake made up of protein, oats and berries.
If you are not doing a workout, the best combination you can have is lean protein like turkey or chicken and a healthy source of fat like nuts, seeds or an avocado. The meal will help you set up your neurotransmitters in the brain for the rest of the day. This will help you stay focused and stabilise blood sugar levels, so you feel full until lunch.
Are there any breakfast no-nos?
Cereal! It’s often filled with lots of hidden ingredients and sugar to make it taste good. If you need a quick option, go with a homemade smoothie filled with oats and fruit.
Fruit and veg aside, what’s a healthy morning snack?
Overnight oats are a great option. You can put anything in overnight oats, but I’ll usually go with oats, full-fat milk, protein powder and some seeds. Alternatively, you could take a homemade smoothie to work. A simple combination of nuts, fruit and dark chocolate will help curb cravings. Try to avoid things like office biscuits, doughnuts or cakes. They’re all filled with unhealthy fats and lots of sugar.
Onto lunch then, what’s the healthiest option if you’re eating on the go?
Most of the big chains now offer healthy lunch alternatives. Pret a Manger does a really good omelette. Both Leon and POD have a great variety of healthy lunchtime options you can also pick up when you are on the move.
Eating out when you’re trying to be healthy is tough. What advice do you have if it’s a big part of your life but you want to eat well?
You can still have a really tasty meal while on a night out. Steak and vegetables are delicious and you won’t feel like you’re going without. Simply swap out things like chips for a side of vegetables and limit the amount of alcohol you’re drinking. Opt for coffee or fruit instead of overindulging with dessert. If you really do have to drink, limit the amount you have and stick to lower-calorie options like gin and slimline tonics.
If you have to eat late due to work, what do you suggest?
There’s a common misconception that eating late will lead to weight gain for all. This completely depends on activity levels, overall daily food consumption and what you’re eating. Mindful Chef now has a range of delicious, healthy frozen meals which only take seven minutes in the microwave. Failing that, grab some chicken and a stir-fry vegetable pack on your way home. Combined with the right spices or sauce, you can have a delicious, healthy meal in under 10 minutes.
For someone who travels regularly, what advice would you give to stay on track health-wise?
Take food with you whenever possible. It that is not realistic, opt for healthy snacks along the way: nuts, fruit and, if you can get your hands on them, lean protein snacks.
What are the best foods for a better night’s sleep?
Foods with B vitamins like broccoli, lentils and tuna can help promote good sleep. Avocados are a good source of magnesium, which has also been proven to help with sleeping. On their own these foods won’t have you sleeping like a baby, but they may help your body function during sleep.
Meat Free Monday is quite a thing now, planet aside is there any personal health benefit of going vegetarian one day a week?
Good-quality organic meat from fantastic suppliers provides a hit of nutrients that guys need to perform optimally, but it is great to have a day off meat every now and again. I have two favourite plant-based recipes from Mindful Chef: Mexican veggie breakfast is super easy to do and only takes about 10 minutes to make; the other is a jackfruit curry. Jackfruit gives a meaty texture while also soaking up all of the delicious flavours of the ingredients. And of course having just one veggie day, and thereby reducing your meat intake, is an easy way to help the current global climate crisis.
What is the best way to protein load without eating meat?
Protein can be found in lots of food other than meat. Beans, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds are all good examples of protein sources which have a whole host of other nutritional benefits too. Pulses include lentils, butter beans, chickpeas or kidney beans. One of my favourite recipes is a red Thai aubergine chickpea curry. Obviously it can help supplementing with a good protein powder as well and, if you’re vegan, there are numerous alternatives to whey on the market these days.
What is the correct portion size for a guy?
I like the portion-control method used at Precision Nutrition. Use your palm to measure your protein, a cupped hand for carbs, a fist for veggies and your thumb to measure the amount of fat on the plate. For guys I normally say double the amount and see how you get on. The best thing is you can do this anywhere (your hand always comes with you) and you can tailor it to meet your goals. Remember this is just a starting point, so stay flexible and adjust portion sizes according to your needs.
What would you suggest to someone wanting to shift some stomach weight?
The first thing to do is remove all processed food from your diet. Go back to whole, unprocessed food at regular intervals. The second thing is to reduce the amount of alcohol and sugary drinks you’re consuming. If you’re serious about getting a six pack, you have to make a couple of sacrifices. After that, exercise regularly, get 7-9 hours of sleep a night and stay consistent in your habits.
And what about carbs – can you eat them if you want to lose weight?
Absolutely! Ultimately, losing weight comes down to energy balance: calories in vs calories out. The nutritional quality of your food plays a big part. Eating 500 calories of veggies compared to 500 calories of processed food is very different.
Finally, is there anything else you’d recommend for a healthy lifestyle?
Create behaviour goals. Saying ‘I want to get a six pack’ is an outcome goal. Making sure you go to the gym five times a week is a behaviour goal. Making sure you get eight hours sleep a night is a behaviour. Behaviours are the things that will get you to your outcome goal.
Myles Hopper is co-founder of Mindful Chef, a health-focused food box company. Visit Mindful Chef
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