Salad days

vegan salad

After last week’s proclamation of a health kick, and with a few good salads under my belt, the healthy eating started in earnest this week.

I’m working towards little targets, the first being our holiday in September, which gives me seven weeks (and counting!) of being good to my body.

I’m not reviewing improvement in terms of weight or body measurements, which are more aesthetic than functional indicators, but rather, by how I feel in myself and by my running performance.

In terms of the latter, I’m building my weekly mileage back up in anticipation of the Windsor half marathon, also in September. I want to get back to doing one long-ish (over 9 mile) run a week and have committed to going to running club every Tuesday. This is, of course, on top of my usual running regime. I would also like at least one Park Run PB before the holiday, (so fingers crossed).

When it comes to how my body feels, I’m sure I’m not alone in going through periods of feeling stodgy and heavy, when being over-tired, stressed or dehydrated leads to over-eating and when too many carbs results in general lethargy.

Aubergine, avocado, quinoa and pine nut salad
Aubergine, avocado, quinoa and pine nut salad

Taking steer from Chris McDougall in his book ‘Natural Born Heroes’, I’m now focusing on eating a low sugar, low GI diet. McDougall looks at how simple carbs impact insulin release, leading to the post-sugar energy crash and hunger pangs, which may later develop into inefficient sugar breakdown and eventual insulin resistance.

In contrast to the idea of carb loading before events to improve running performance, he instead looks at how the body can be forced to use energy-dense fat as fuel, allowing you to run harder and further without the sugar crash that comes from a high-carb fuelled workout.

To encourage your body to use fat rather than sugar, McDougall suggests a diet high in protein and good fats. For him, this was meat, cheese, egg, fish and nut heavy. For me, as a vegan, it means plenty of vegetables, quinoa, lentils, nuts and tofu. I’m not cutting out fruit, soya and pulses as McDougall advocates, as I’m not in a position to fill up on animal products as he was, but I am cutting down on fruit juices and dried fruit, which are sugar traps masquerading as healthy options, and of course stripping back on carbohydrate rich foods.

Protein shake
Protein power!

I have found that alternating porridge with a protein shake made with a scoop of Sun Warrior protein, a handful of frozen berries or mango, half a frozen banana, water with a dash of soya, almond or coconut milk and occasionally some additional flax seeds or peanut butter, really helps me to feel lighter in the morning and holds off the mid-morning hunger pangs.

Doing 20-40 minutes of yoga each morning before breakfast also really helps to get my system going first thing and actually makes me feel less tired (and less likely to want a morning snack) even though I have to get up earlier to fit it in.

Basil, tomato, olive and avocado lunch salad
Basil, tomato, olive and avocado lunch salad

For lunches, I’m making salads with all of my favourite things to prevent any temptation from Pret or Itsu. I usually use a base of rocket or spinach (although yesterday I was out of leaves so I used a handful of basil from my basil plant, which was totally delicious!), then add cherry tomatoes, cucumber and pepper, some protein either from tofu, nuts, quinoa or beans, some healthy fats from avocado, artichokes, hummus, seeds, olives or sun-dried tomatoes, a steamed green such as asparagus or broccoli and maybe some aubergine, mushroom or courgette cooked with some Harissa or chipotle paste.

I’m keeping a record of my #saladdays on Instagram and would love you the share your salad ideas and pictures with me to keep me motivated.

In the afternoon, following McDougall’s fat and protein rich diet recommendations, I am now guiltlessly snacking on raw nuts, which are my favourite treats!

Then evenings are again salads, soups and other veggie-heavy dishes such as stir fries, vegetable chilli, spiralised courgette and vegetarian Bolognese, butternut squash tagines or vegetable curries.

Go nuts! mixed nuts
Go nuts!

R has also read an article which recommends regular fast days or cutting down to 500 calories a day. This means that we are aiming to skip supper a day or so a week. There are various health benefits associated with fasting days and I would direct you to Bojan Kostevski’s article on this.

So, having written this post as a means of holding myself to account, I look forward to hearing about your healthy eating resolutions and any good recipe recommendations to keep me on track!

Happy healthy eating!

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