Nutrition for an Active Lifestyle

How to Come Out Swinging with the Help of Food

Exercise! We all do it (or at least try to 🙈) in some way, shape, or form. With the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines stating that adults under age 65 need to have at least 150 minutes of moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise per week, it’s no wonder that physical activity is becoming a hot topic amongst not only our clientele but also our family and friends. Our bodies were simply made to move and even adapt with each workout – it’s no wonder, then, that being active comes with so many other benefits as well, such as reducing the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers [1]. Everyone seems to know this, but there is still one area relating to physical activity that is a bit of a mystery to most people, and that’s what to eat to support your work out.

A balanced diet is not just complimentary to exercise – it’s a necessity!

With so much information available online (think: almost everyone on YouTube or Instagram nowadays) it’s easy to get confused and try to figure out what applies to you and your exercise routine. The good news is that the vast majority of people who exercise don’t need to tweak their eating habits too much. The new Canada’s Food Guide is super helpful in this regard and helps to ensure that you’ll get enough of the nutrients (in particular protein, carbohydrates, and fats) that you need to improve your health and support your active living.

Let’s take a look at the new Food Guide so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about:

PROTEIN

The amount:

Getting enough protein is important for everyone, but it proves to be crucial for physical activity. Because protein is the building block of your muscles, you need to be able to get a bit more of it in your diet if you’re working out intensely to help your muscles grow and recover from any exercise you might do. This is why you’ve probably heard that you need 0.8g of protein per kg of your body weight normally but that number goes up depending on how long and vigorous your sessions might be [2] [3]. As a result, try to have at least a quarter of your plate be a source of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition to having protein during your main meals, talk to a Registered Dietitian about how much more protein you might need to also incorporate into your day through snacks and pre-/post-workout bites.

The timings:

One thing that seems to be universal for most people that exercise is the benefit of having protein during or directly after your workout. Research has shown that having about 20g of protein at these times can help build muscle faster [4]. It might be easier to save the protein for after rather than during, though, as it could be a bit heavy on your stomach when moving around so much.

So what kind of protein should I be having?

You should try to reach for lean protein foods. These are good quality protein sources that are lower in fat but still have the nutrients you need. Think of skinless chicken, turkey, tuna, shellfish, and pulses like beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

CARBOHYDRATES

The amount:

Carbs are the #1 source of energy in our bodies, so it’s no wonder they play a large role in exercise nutrition [5]. In fact, whenever you eat, carbs are broken down into glucose and are used by cells in the body that need it. After these cells have been fed, extra glucose is stored in your body as “glycogen”. During intense workouts, this glycogen can be used up, causing you to feel tired and need to stop.

To avoid this, make sure you’re having enough carbohydrates in your diet. This depends on your level of exercise intensity and how much you work out, but ensuring you have a quarter of your plate be sources of carbs (such as whole grains) during breakfast, lunch, and dinner is a good start. A Registered Dietitian will be able to guide you on how much more you might need during snacks or around workouts as well.

The timings:

If you happen to be doing intense, over 1 hour workouts (or if you’re playing intense sports for that amount of time) having carbs before and perhaps even during your exercise could help refuel your body and keep fatigue at bay [4].

So what kind of carbs should I be having?

Aim to have whole grains such as whole grain pasta, brown rice, oats, and quinoa during meal times. These will provide you with fibre and lots of B vitamins to promote bowel health and give you energy [6].

Incorporate fruits and low-fat dairy/dairy alternatives into your diet too. While these are not in the “whole grains” section of the Food Guide, fruits and dairy/dairy alternatives are sources of carbohydrates and are good sources of energy. Fruits, in particular, are also a good source of antioxidants like Vitamin C that protect your body’s cells from damage and stress associated with exercise [7] [4]. Dairy and dairy alternatives like fortified soy, cashew, and almond milk all provide calcium and vitamin D to help keep your bones strong and resistant to injury.

FATS

The amount:

Remember all the anti-fat propaganda from the 90s/00s? They were wrong! Fat is actually an important part of a balanced diet. In fact, fat provides us with energy and even helps our bodies absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K [8]. Fat even helps with your brain health too – without it, we wouldn’t be able to function and work out, so it’s a good thing you only need about 2-3 tbsp of healthier cooking oils or a 1/4 cup of certain nuts and seeds daily [9] [3]. Because fat is in so many foods, this is the only amount you’ll need to think about adding into your meals in order for you to get 20-35% of your total energy coming from this great macronutrient [10].

The timings:

More good news! Because the amount of added fat needed is so little, timings aren’t really an issue. You could easily get this amount before dinnertime even rolls around through the cooking oil and margarine you might have in your meals.

So what kind of fats should I be having?

Limit sources of saturated and trans fats, like pastries and fast food. These have been linked to heart disease and wouldn’t be conducive to an active lifestyle [11].             

Reach for sources of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats instead, like olive oil, avocados, flaxseeds, and walnuts. These will help improve your heart health and work together with exercise to build a stronger you.

FLUIDS

The amount:

While there are a lot of fancy calculations out there to help you figure out exactly how much water you need, you can simply drink water throughout the day. This will stop you from getting dehydrated and help you achieve your best exercise performance [4].

The timings:

Before, during, and after exercise are all good times to stay hydrated. In particular, drinking water while you are active and keeping it closeby at all times is a great way to replenish any fluids your body is losing through sweat. Listen to your body: if you don’t remember having had water in a while or if you feel thirsty, don’t be afraid to take a time out and grab some H2O. Your body will thank you!

So what kind of fluids should I be having?

Water should be your drink of choice when being active. In the event that you are working out at a high intensity for over 45 minutes, consider sports drinks that contain electrolytes as well. This is because your body doesn’t just lose water when sweating – electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chlorine escape as well [12]. These losses (particularly of sodium) can even cause cramping, so in intense cases where this can happen sports drinks should be considered [4].

In conclusion… 

As simplistic as it may seem, combining all of these ideas into one meal plan actually creates what many of us already do or are striving towards: having three meals a day (with the odd snack in between meals) as well as fluids like water and dairy beverages throughout. I hope the tweaks to this old-age formula are not too daunting and you find yourself able to adopt a diet that can support you on your exercise journey 😌. 

It is important to remember, though, that these are all very general guidelines on exercise nutrition. Every active person is different: macronutrient and caloric needs are dependent not only on age, height, weight, and sex/gender but also the type of physical activity you partake in, the amount of time you spend training/competing daily, and the intensity at which you perform. Seeing a Registered Dietitian is therefore very important and can help you create an individualized meal plan that works best for you and can contribute to optimal performance. If you feel like that’s something you’d benefit from, contact us and we can work together to build a stronger you!

Until next time 😉,

Huda Amareh, MAHN, RD

References:

[1] Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and Participaction (2018). Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. Can be accessed from: https://csepguidelines.ca/adults-18-64/

[2] Unlock Food (2019). Introduction To Protein And High Protein Foods. Can be accessed from: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Protein/Introduction-To-Protein-And-High-Protein-Foods.aspx

[3] Unlock Food (2019). Sports Nutrition: Facts on Carbohydrate, Fat and Protein. Can be accessed from: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Physical-Activity/Sports-Nutrition-Facts-on-Carbohydrate,-Fat-and-P.aspx

[4] Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528. Chicago

[5] Jequier, E. (1994). Carbohydrates as a source of energy. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 59(3), 682S-685S.

[6] Government of Canada (2019). Eat whole grain foods. Can be accessed from: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/make-it-a-habit-to-eat-vegetables-fruit-whole-grains-and-protein-foods/eat-whole-grain-foods/#section-1

[7] HealthLinkBC (2018). Antioxidants and Your Diet. Can be accessed from: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthy-eating/antioxidants

[8] HealthLinkBC (2018). Types of Fats. Can be accessed from: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa160619

[9] Chianese, R., Coccurello, R., Viggiano, A., Scafuro, M., Fiore, M., Coppola, G., … & Meccariello, R. (2018). Impact of dietary fats on brain functions. Current neuropharmacology, 16(7), 1059-1085. Chicago      

[10] Coaching Association of Canada (2020). Training Diet Fat – Get the Essentials. Can be accessed from: https://www.coach.ca/training-diet-fat-get-the-essentials-p154688

[11] Heart and Stroke (2018). Dietary Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol. Can be accessed from: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/fats-and-oils

[12] Baker, L. B., De Chavez, P. J. D., Ungaro, C. T., Sopeña, B. C., Nuccio, R. P., Reimel, A. J., & Barnes, K. A. (2019). Exercise intensity effects on total sweat electrolyte losses and regional vs. whole-body sweat [Na+],[Cl−], and [K+]. European journal of applied physiology, 119(2), 361-375.

Mango Banana Protein Smoothie

Serves 2

Looking for a bit of protein and carbohydrates to go with your workout? Look no further than our Mango Banana Protein Smoothie! It’s light, easy to make, and super tasty. Think of all the vitamin C from the fruits 🤤! The vitamin D and calcium from the added milk 😯! And most of all: the flavour! I’d be lying if I said I don’t make this even on my non-workout days 🙊. So have at this luscious drink and let us know what you think in the comments!

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped mango
1 cup cut banana
1 scoop protein powder
3/4 cup cow’s milk OR unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup ice cubes

Instructions
1. You know what to do! Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until extra smooth.
2. Happily serve ☺.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
190 kcal / 13g protein / 30g carbs / 3g healthy fats

Photo credit: Taste of Home

Is Whole Wheat the same as Whole Grain?

You may have heard that whole wheat (or brown bread) is healthier than white. But is whole wheat the same as whole grain? Let’s find out. 

Grains have 3 parts to them: germ, endosperm and bran [1]. Whole grains are the least processed and have all 3 nutritious parts. Whereas whole wheat and white flour have some or all of the germ and bran removed – leaving them with less nutrition. 

Whole grains

  • Lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers [2]
  • Help in keeping a healthy weight
  • Are the least processed: have all 3 nutritious parts of a grain i.e. have more vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and healthy fats [1]

Whole wheat

  • Is a refined grain – i.e. partially processed to remove some of the germ and bran
  • Has less fibre, minerals, vitamins and healthy fats
  • Can still be a healthy choice [3]

Tips when choosing Whole Grain bread

  • Look for “100% whole grain” –  make sure it’s 100%
  • Look for at least 2g of fibre per slice (low in sodium, sugar and fat)
  • Make sure the first ingredients have the word “whole” before them ex. Whole grain wheat flour, whole rye etc
  • Multigrain / Stone Ground / Enriched ≠ Whole grain 

Tips when choosing Whole Wheat bread

  • Whole wheat ≠ whole grain
  • Look for 4g of fibre per serving
  • Where possible, choose whole grain bread more often

Conclusion

To summarize, whole grains have all 3 parts of the kernel, therefore they contain more nutrition and have more health benefits than refined grains!

Until next time,

Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD

*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit our Contact Us page to book your first appointment.

References:

[1] All About Whole Grains. (n.d.). Retrieved December 17, 2019, from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Cooking-Food-Preparation/Cooking-with-Whole-Grains.aspx.

[2] Choosing Whole Grains FAQs. (n.d.). Retrieved December 17, 2019, from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Canada-s-Food-Guide/Choosing-Whole-Grains-FAQs.aspx.

[3] How to Choose the Best Sliced Bread. (n.d.). Retrieved December 17, 2019, from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Grocery-Shopping/How-to-Choose-the-Best-Sliced-Bread.aspx.

Cashew Chicken Curry

To all the curry lovers out there (like me :P), you have to try this cashew chicken curry! It’s simple to make, only requiring 3 spices (chili powder, garam masala and black pepper), uses healthy fats, and lean poultry. Enjoy it with whole wheat chapati or brown rice along with your choice of cooked vegetables like gobi (cooked cauliflower), okra or eggplant.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 skinless chicken breast (1lbs), cubed
  • 1 cup low fat yogurt
  • ⅓ cup cashews (or almonds), soaked in warm water (or use 2 tbsp of cashew powder)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garam masala

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onions on medium-high heat till soft.
  2. Add ginger garlic paste, and saute for 1 minute. Add chicken and sauté until its color starts changing to white (~2-3 minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, blend yogurt, soaked nuts (or cashew powder) and black pepper. Set aside.
  4. Add chili powder and salt to the chicken. Mix well and cook for 1 minute. Add the yogurt-nut blend and mix well. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 15 minutes on medium heat.
  5. Once chicken is tender, add garam masala and cook for another 2-5 minutes. Serve hot!

Nutrition Information (per serving):
218kcal / 26g protein / 9.5g carbohydrate / 9g healthy fat

Photo credit: Twosleevers

Quinoa (Yes! Quinoa) Tacos

Serves: 4

Tacos are a fun and tasty choice for get-togethers but did you know that they can be super healthy too? We’ve added lots of colourful veggies like orange bell pepper, tomato, and red onion to ours to make this meal balanced.  Our recipe uses quinoa too, which is a complete protein (the same way beef, poultry, and fish are) but plant-based, making it more environmentally friendly and a good choice for our Meatless Monday 🙂 Take a chance and make these tacos today, you won’t regret it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (180g) quinoa
  • 1 cup (250 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) cumin
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 tortillas
  • Avocado (optional)
  • Black beans (optional)

Instructions

  1. Use strainer to rinse quinoa. Place in a saucepan over medium heat and allow to roast for 4 minutes.
  2. Add stock and water to quinoa and allow to boil. Bring heat down to low and cook quinoa covered with a lid for 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
  4. Remove quinoa mixture from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
  5. Add onion, bell pepper, tomato, lime juice, cumin, and chilli powder, to the quinoa mixture. Mix together well and place on a baking pan. Place in oven for 25 minutes until ingredients are crispy.
  6. Divide into four portions and place in soft- or hard-shell tacos. Happily serve 🙂

Nutritional Information (per serving):

250 kcal / 40g Carbohydrates (includes 6g Fibre) / 10g Protein / 3g Healthy Fats

Photo credit: Plays Well with Butter

Is Raw Sugar Healthier than White or Brown Sugar?

You may have seen raw sugar (or turbinado sugar) being served at coffee shops or sold in grocery stores. Some brands claim that raw sugar is more natural and beneficial than white or brown sugar. So what’s the difference?

Raw sugar:

  • Is processed by boiling the cane juice only once to remove some molasses
  • Contains trace amounts of micronutrients (calcium, iron, potassium and antioxidants)
  • Has a caramel flavour, and are golden brown crystals
  • Is more expensive (2-3 times the price of white sugar)

Similarities between the 3 sugars:

  • Similar nutrient profile per tsp: 16 calories, 4g carbs [1]
  • Per 1 tsp, all 3 sugars do not provide even 1% of recommended daily intakes of calcium, iron or potassium, nor has a significant amount of antioxidants
  • All 3 are sucrose and are processed from sugarcane / sugar beet [2]
  • All 3 are added sugars that can raise blood sugars 😦

So although raw sugar has trace amounts of minerals and antioxidants, you would have to have cups and cups of raw sugar to get the same amount of minerals and antioxidants from nutritious foods like bananas (potassium), spinach (iron), milk (calcium) or blackberries (antioxidants) [1]! So if you choose to have raw sugar, consider it for its flavour more than it’s nutrition!

Bottom Line

To summarize limiting added sugars is part of a healthy diet, whether that’s white, brown or raw sugar!


Until next time,

Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD


*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit our Contact Us page to book your first appointment.

References:

[1] FoodData Central. (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/.

[2] Thalheimer, J. C. (2015, September). Added Sugars and Heart Health. Today’s Dietitian, 17(9), 38.

Photocredit: Mother Jones

Brilliant Black Bean Quesadillas

Serves: 4

This easy-to-make dish is a family favourite that we can’t wait to share with all of you 🙂. Quesadillas are a colourful addition to your weekly food plan – and a healthy one too! This strong source of protein is packed with veggies and cheese, making it not only a fun dinner choice but a complete meal option as well 😉. These are super quick to make so whip up a few for your family and friends and let us know what you think in the comments!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 can (17 oz/500 mL) black beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) cumin
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) red chilli powder
  • 1 cup nonfat mozzarella cheese
  • 4 soft tortillas

Instructions:

  1. Drain and rinse black beans in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan on high heat. Add onions and stir until they start to become soft and almost clear in colour.
  3. Turn heat down to medium-high and add beans, corn, red pepper, as well as cumin and red chilli powder. Stir for about 4 minutes.
  4. Remove mixture and heat the first tortilla on the saucepan.  Add ¼ cup of your cheese on top along with ¼ of the mixture on half of the tortilla. Fold over the other half and cook until golden brown and crispy.
  5. Happily serve 🙂.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

350 kcal / 20g protein / 50g carbs / 6g healthy fats

Photo credit: Lauren Allgood, Pinterest

Bran Muffins

Makes 12

Need help getting enough fibre? Try these fibrous and easy to make bran muffins! (No electric beater required!). Add it to your breakfast or grab it as a snack! The fibre will keep you full and help keep you regular! Wheat bran not only contains B vitamins, minerals and some protein, but also has soluble fibre – which forms a gel in your gut trapping some cholesterol and removing it 🤯! So why not try these yummy muffins that can improve gut health along with your heart health ❤!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (87g) wheat bran
  • 1 ⅓ cups (165g) all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup (68g) sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon, ground (optional)
  • 1 ⅓ cup (330 ml) 2% milk
  • ⅓ cup (75 ml) canola oil
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. In a medium sized bowl, combine wheat bran, flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set it aside.
  3. In large mixing bowl, combine milk, egg and oil with a whisk. Add dry ingredients and stir only until combined.
  4. Scoop batter evenly into twelve muffin pan cups greased with cooking spray or lined with paper muffin liners. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until a fork/toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Serve warm.

⚠ Always remember to increase fibre intake slowly and to have more water when you have more fibre to avoid discomfort! Talk to a dietitian to find out if you are having enough.

Nutrition Information (per muffin):
161kcal / 4g protein / 23g carbohydrate / 3.5g fibre / 7g healthy fat

Photo Credit: AllBran

Honey Garlic Salmon

When I come home from a long day and want to make something quick, yet healthy, fresh and tasty – I make honey garlic salmon! With ingredients that can be found in our fridge and cupboards, and a short cooking time, dinner will be ready in minutes! High in protein, healthy omega fats, and a good source of vitamin D!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp (10ml) honey
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) low sodium soy sauce 
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp (10ml) lemon juice
  • 2 tsp (10ml) canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • 4 salmon fillets (4-5 oz or 150g each) 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Season salmon fillets with a mixture of honey, soy sauce, lemon juice, pepper, paprika and thyme. Let fillets marinate for 15 minutes in the fridge, covered.  
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, and saute garlic for 1 minute. Add salmon fillets, along with the marinade into the pan. Cook each side for 4 minutes, while periodically basting the top of the fillets with the marinade. 
  3. Place fillets in a baking sheet,and  broil the salmon in the oven for another 5-6 minutes or until cooked.
  4. Serve with sliced lemons, and drizzle with any extra marinade.

*Tip*  Great with a side of steamed greens and a whole grain such as bulgur, quinoa or wild rice. 

Nutrition Information (per serving):

256kcal / 25g protein / 3.8g carbohydrate / 12g healthy fat

Photo Credit: Cafe Delites

Mexican Veggie Burgers

Every now and then on cold days such as these (when the snow is at full blast and I can’t walk to the corner store without risking frostbite) I like to prepare meals that remind me of warmer and happier times. One such meal is the wonderful Mexican veggie burger 😌. My mum would always prepare these for us as kids during the summer holidays and I have fond memories of fighting my siblings to the death for the last patty. Ah! Such fun 😅. Whip some up today and maybe double the recipe so no one gets hurt!

Ingredients:

  • ½ can (10 oz/280 mL) lentils, drained and rinsed
  • ½ can (10 oz/280 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup (125 mL) breadcrumbs
  • 1⁄3 cup (80 mL) onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) paprika
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) water
  • 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) shredded Cheddar or Swiss cheese
  • Low sodium salsa

Instructions:

  1. Mash lentils and chickpeas in a large bowl using a small-holed masher or fork.
  2. One by one, slowly add in most of the other ingredients (breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, paprika, red chilli powder, water). Mix after adding each one to make sure the mixture is incorporated well.
  3. Add cheese and start to form the mixture into patties. Aim for burgers that will be about 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) thick.  
  4. Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat and cook burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve with salsa over hamburgers buns and enjoy! 

Nutritional Information (per serving):

248 kcal / 14g protein / 30g carbs / 14g healthy fats

Photo Credit: Cindy Kurman, Kurman Photography