Marathon training: sorting your food #2 (Switching out that sandwich…)

Well it’s been an exciting week for all nutrition enthusiasts. I was out to breakfast with HK, enjoying some delicious poached eggs and babagnoush on spinach at Jam (one of our Taka fave’s) when I spied this headline in the NZ Herald “Switch that sandwich filling.”

Hmm..  why would this be news? Despite clinical trials testing the saturated fat/heart disease association finding no such relationship, this has yet to be common knowledge in the public sphere for health and nutrition so, for most people (despite the flaws) this would be considered ‘old news.’

The reason for the most recent flurry was the release of a paper that reviewed saturated fat intake of New Zealanders and risk of heart disease, and the possible benefits of switching out the saturated fats for unsaturated ones (think margarine, canola oil, that kind of thing…) Two very good blog posts went up about this almost immediately, so there is no need for me to cover it when both Julianne and Grant put forth good arguments that, for better health, we shouldn’t be switching out the butter for canola oil margarine.  And, if you read the comment sections in Grant’s  post, there is this two and fro debate between the author of the paper, Nick Wilson, Grant, and Jamie Scott.

It’s funny, you know. We (as researchers, professionals in the field) get so wound up around media releases like this one  –that serve to further perpetuate nutrition beliefs that have been accepted as true for the last 50 years by the general public (but are, in fact, incorrect). I’m like a converted smoker on anything to do with nutrition. But, actually, I wonder how much of this information actually penetrates at the level that we would want it to. My students are a case in point. I teach first year nutrition and health paper, and when I asked if anyone saw either the Stuff article or the NZ Herald article, most looked like this:


True, at 18 years old you’re kind of bullet proof right? But even people who might be beginning to notice their age (and lifestyle) catching up on them are, I think, just as likely to briefly skim the headline, have something register in the back of their mind along the lines of ‘yeah, that’s what I’ve been told for years’ and then skip to the business section of the Herald. And government? It’s not like research like this would ever influence a governement who is more concerned with obesity surgery rather than obesity prevention. So a storm in a tea cup in our little corner of the world. If eating crap food actually hurt the way walking out in front of a bus did, then perhaps people would care more about what they ate, and take more notice of what is reported in the news. If you’re reading this then you’re in the minority. However, Grant reminded me on our run this morning that the more people like us write blog posts and bang on about nutrition and health, the more it will penetrate down those that need to hear it most.

Anyway. Back to you and stabilising your blood sugars throughout the day after your awesome training run this morning (or in prep for your afternoon session – or actually just for life in general). I’ve spoken about eggs before. I love them. I hope you do too. I’ve covered good breakfast options that include a good deal of protein so I encourage you to go back to this post and try some if you’re looking for a protein boost in your breakfast meal. Lunch is an area where a lot of people struggle. Often people go light on the protein and are starving by 3pm. Let that not be you. I’ve mentioned a few of these ideas before, but they are worth repeating.

  • Make meatballs (spice mix plus mince meat – that’s it). Bake in oven, on tray, for 25-30 minutes. Done
  • Bake chicken drumsticks with rosemary, salt, olive oil
  • Buy cans of natural salmon, tuna, sardines to stockpile at work and add to salad
  • Rotisserie chicken ½ from supermarket (for two lunches)
  • Grill good quality sausages to chop up into salad
  • Mussels added to fresh tomato soup
  • Woodsmoked salmon
  • Frozen prawns (thawed by the time lunch comes around)

Add these to a salad, steamed vege pack (i.e. Watties steamlocked vege) or just choose a couple of vege to cut up and have raw or cooked with the protein option. For example, chopped zucchini, carrot and tomato to make a raw salad. For a bit of flavour, ensure you also have on hand:

  • Jar of olives, capers
  • Salt and pepper
  • Good olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Seeds and nuts

If you take these to work with you and keep them on hand, then you’ve got a few things that can be added to a supermarket salad or leftovers the night before. If you’re used to having a sandwich, then play around with adding the above fillings to lettuce leaves, cabbage leaves or Nori wraps. I find microwaving the cabbage leaves for around 20-30 seconds an easy way to relax the leaves and make them easier to work with. Cos lettuce leaves, and baby lettuce / cabbage also work really well. Some examples could be:

  • Leftover mince, avocado and grated carrot in lettuce leaves
  • Sardines and hardboiled egg, mashed, with grated carrot and courgette in red cabbage leaves
  • Nori wrapped around salmon and avocado, with cucumber and pickled ginger
  • Sliced ham, cheese and tomato wrapped in lettuce leaves

If you are grabbing a takeaway lunch, and are used to a 6 inch sub or kebab, then switch these options to a salad and ask for either double meat (if from Subway or Pita Pit, or another sandwich type place that goes light on the protein) and/or add avocado/guacamole to it.

Your carbohydrate needs depend on your energy needs and whether you’ve trained (or still to train). For those with body composition goals (i.e. fat loss) you might be best with the fat / protein option as outlined above. Those people who require additional energy could do well off adding a baked kumara/potato, or adding a piece of fruit after lunch. Ideally that would satisfy you for the afternoon. Even adding a couple of slices of this pumpkin and walnut loaf for a change would be good. If you are still hungry, then you will need to add more protein/fat to your meal.

Switching out the sandwiches at lunch, for most people, would be beneficial – not switching out the filling, especially if you’re after a more satisfying lunch option.

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