There are always foods that seem to call your name, tempting you to indulge. But as a runner you need to make sure you follow a runners diet, eating healthy and nourishing your body with what it needs to stay the course. One trick to help you win is when you control what goes into your shopping basket. If you don’t buy it, you won’t have to listen to its siren song during the late hours when you are tired, and your defenses are down. Here’s a list of the 10 items you should avoid putting into your cart – and tips on what to look for by way of healthier alternatives.
10 Foods to Avoid While on Your Runners Diet
1. Breads that do not contain the “whole” grain. If the label doesn’t say it is whole grain, it does not include all the grain has to offer. That means you could be missing out on fiber, iron, and B vitamins – all necessary to fuel your body for running. If the bread, bagel, roll, or whatever is white – walk away. If it is brown, then read the label to make sure you are getting the real and whole deal.
2. Juices. If it is packaged, skip it. Even if you make it yourself, you should be wary of juice because in the natural form, juice is primarily sugar, packaged and it could have added processed sugar. Most of the fiber is gone. Some of the nutrients remain, but the best choice will always be to eat the fruit rather than just the juice of the fruit. So if you are craving orange juice – get it while you eat the orange.
3. Cookies, cakes, and crackers. Sometimes you need a snack, but cookies, cakes, and crackers are made with processed and refined sugar and flour that has almost no remaining nutritional value. Look for stone-ground whole grain crackers if you want them. You will find them more filling, you’ll get the nutrients, and they will provide you with a good crunch you may be craving. Enjoy them with some fresh raw veggies and you’ll amp up the crunch factor even more.
4. Soft drinks. Soda is a killer, and has no place in any serious runners diet. Regular soft drinks have way too much sugar and sodium. They also have chemicals that your body will need to work hard to process out of your system. This holds true of the sugar-free soft drinks as well. Too much sodium and other chemicals will leave you feeling bloated and carrying around excess water is not what you want when you go for a run. Instead, stick with water, low-fat milk, or other calorie-free drinks when you are thirsty.
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5. Full-fat dairy. Skip the full-fat cheese and milk – instead go for no or low-fat versions. When it comes to milk, you might try some of the other options like unsweetened soy, almond, coconut or other nut milk. Also, shift to low or no-fat sour cream, cream cheese, and cottage or other soft cheeses. When it comes to yogurt, choose one with 5 grams of sugar or less, or try 0% fat Greek yogurt with a bit of your favorite fresh fruit for added flavor. You might also mix it with some (no sugar added) frozen berries or fruit and a little Stevia for a healthy frozen yogurt treat.
6. Oils and fats. Your body needs fats, but you should carefully select what ones you use and keep the amount to reasonable levels while on a runners diet. Skip the butter, lards, and margarine. For oils use olive, canola, grapeseed, and coconut oils. You can also add avocados, olives, and raw nuts for healthy choices. Avoid trans-fats since these have been linked in many studies to obesity and heart problems.
7. Frozen meals. Frozen meals can make life easier when you just don’t have time or the energy to put something together. But again, you can win this battle in the grocery store by making good choices. Leave it in the store if it has more than 500 calories, 500 grams of sodium or 10 grams of fat per serving. Verify the meal is only one serving, and then look for dishes that include steamed veggies without a lot of sauce or gravy. When you prepare your frozen dinner, add another cup or so of frozen veggies (no sauce) and increase microwave time by another minute or two. You’ll get more veggies into your meal, so you will be satisfied with the portion and still enjoy an easy, effortless, and comforting dinner when you need it while still remaining faithful to your runners diet. If you want a quick, healthy snack but want to avoid frozen and processed foods check out these Healthy Recipes for Grab and Go Snacks from SHAPE Army.
8. Cream-based soups. Avoid cream of anything when it comes to soup or sauces for that matter. Go for broth-based soups with 150 calories, 150 grams of sodium, and 3 grams fat – or less – per serving. And if the broth is thick like a stew, double check the nutrition information. Also, remember that most canned soups are two servings per can. But just like your frozen meals, add in more veggies to amp up the volume and the nutrition without creating any concerns about fat or sodium. To keep the carbs down, limit any potatoes, peas, corn, or carrots you add.
9. Roasted or coated nuts and seeds. What you want is raw nuts and seeds for the most part. Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants, but like many foods, the danger in them is all about what is added. If you must have roasted nuts, make sure they are dry roasted with nothing added. All of this is true of nut butters too. Get raw nut butters with nothing added.
10. Alcohol. If possible avoid alcohol completely, but if not – steer clear of fruity mixed drinks. Stick with simple beer, wine, or spirits. Some studies indicate that a small amount of alcohol on a daily basis can help with chronic diseases such as heart problems and Type 2 diabetes. Red wine also provides some antioxidants. But no matter what alcoholic beverage you drink, it has a lot of sugar. So limit your consumption and don’t think you can skip it for several days in a row so you can have it all your servings in one big blow-out party.
Being a runner shows you are committed to what you do, it also shows you choose a healthy lifestyle. Make sure those choices are enhanced by the foods you eat and don’t eat, and you will see greater improvements in your running as well as other areas of your life. Skip the processed sugars, fats, and flours. Choose whole, healthy, and raw whenever possible as you enjoy all the good in your life.