Eating at regular intervals, ideally every 3-5 hours, is essential to keep blood sugar levels stable. Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to stay well hydrated and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily for general health.
Beware of the hidden fat foods, which are usually those tasty party foods quiche, sausages, pork pie, salami, and dips. Of course, biscuits, cakes and desserts should also be kept to a minimum and only eaten as a special treat.
When you buy yoghurt, go for low 'live bio' versions, which help restore the 'good' bacteria that aid digestion.
Bread, potatoes and pasta are all carbohydrate foods that have received bad press. On their own, these foods do not make you fat. However, if you have a big cheese sandwich, a knob of butter on your potato (or chips), or create a creamy sauce for the pasta, you will increase the fat you are eating.
Alcohol taken in moderation can be beneficial to health. Still, if you are watching your weight, it is relevant to know that the calories from alcohol cannot be used as fuel for exercise, nor do they provide vitamins, minerals or fibre.
The butter vs margarine debate continues to rage. The best advice is not to eat a lot of either, but to eat a little of both. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is ideal for salads and Canola oil for cooking.
Dairy products are a high source of fat and cholesterol, BUT they provide us with other beneficial nutrients. The best approach is to buy "low fat" versions of milk, cheese, yoghurt etc., as they will give you all the nutrients without the fat element.
It is not necessary to cut meat out of your diet. Instead, buy the leaner cuts and trim off any fat. Eating oily fish (tuna, mackerel and herrings) is also recommended at least three times a week as they contain the beneficial Omega 3 oil.
Finally, whoever said, "a little of what you fancy does you good", was probably right - exercise moderation in all things, and you cannot go too far wrong. It is not what you eat between Christmas and New Year that makes the difference but what you eat between New Year and Christmas.
Immunity for athletes
Hamilton (2004) provided the following advice for athletes wishing to maintain maximum immunity:
Carbohydrate intake - The regular diet should provide ample carbohydrates, accounting for 60% or more of total calories. For longer (90-plus minutes) or very intense sessions, 500-l,000mls of carbohydrate drink containing 60g per litre should be ingested every hour.
Diet quality - Immunity can be adversely affected by any nutrient deficiencies. Athletes should ensure that their diet is rich in whole, unprocessed foods, fruits and vegetables, contains adequate high-quality sources of protein and is low in fatty, sugary, fast or processed food. A broad-spectrum multi-vitamin/mineral supplement may help prevent nutrient shortfall. Still, large doses of any single nutrient should be avoided, which could create imbalances leading to impaired immunity.
Vitamin C - The evidence is too mixed for a firm recommendation, but, given its low toxicity and cost, athletes wishing to take a modest supplement (200-l,000mgs per day) have little to lose;
Glutamine - Although beneficial in the clinical setting, there's little hard evidence that it offers immune protection to athletes;
Echinacea - Athletes who contract a URTI may find that taking a standardised echinacea preparation shortens its duration. However, while echinacea does not appear on the lOC's banned substances list for 2004, those subject to drug testing should be aware that all herbs contain many biologically active ingredients which, under certain circumstances, may inadvertently produce a positive result;
Probiotics - Although the early indications are promising, very little data exists on probiotics benefits for athletes. Foods like live yoghurt and other fermented products can be included in the diet if desired, especially as they are also rich in other nutrients; indeed, they are recommended after antibiotic treatment. To date there is insufficient evidence of the benefits of supplementing the diet with probiotics, although this may change soon;
Lifestyle- Athletes should ensure they get plenty of sleep and relaxation, minimising fatigue and emotional stress where possible. Good hygiene is also important, with regular hand washing recommended to reduce the risk of transferring virus particles to the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat.
Seven things not to do after eating
Potential benefits of some foods
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