By Ali Lopez
On a recent MRG podcast, Miranda Monroe and I chatted with Heather about stocking a healthy pantry. It got me thinking that it might be helpful to create a guide to stocking a healthy pantry for runners. It’s important for runners to consume enough calories from a variety of different food sources. Most important: carbohydrates, protein and fats.
Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for endurance and power, as they are the most efficient fuel for energy production. In addition to fueling our central nervous system, carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen, which can be used when needed during physical activities. Here are some of my favorites:
- Rolled or Steel Cut Oats – not “quick.” Great all-around food — breakfast lunch or dinner. Some of my recipes are here »
- Brown Rice – great to have on hand, cook up a batch to eat all week, B vitamins.
- Quinoa – great source of carbs AND protein, cooks so quick.
- Sweet potatoes – so versatile and full of complex carbs and rich in fiber. Check out these recipes here »
- Whole wheat bread, crackers and tortillas, rice cakes – make sure there is a short ingredient list.
- Whole wheat pasta – more fiber than white pasta, and B vitamins.
Protein is what rebuilds and repairs your muscles after a tough workout, but it also primes the pump to make sure the right amino acids are available to your muscles during the workout. For this reason, protein is needed both before and after your workout. Here are some of my favorite protein sources for runners:
- Eggs – my favorite protein and so easy to prepare many different ways, like here and here
- Greek or Whole Milk Yogurt – look for “live active cultures” for probiotics, and fat is good!
- Cottage Cheese – packed with protein, calcium and B vitamins. One of my favorite quick protein foods. (In fact I think I will do a whole future post on the benefits of cottage cheese!)
- Canned beans – filled with carbs, protein, fiber and so many ways to make delicious meals.
- Canned tuna/salmon – look for chunk light vs. albacore tuna (less mercury) and wild salmon (less toxins)
- Canned sardines – packed with omega 3s, calcium, protein and so handy and inexpensive. Another favorite of mine.
Fats. Some fats are good. They provide energy and essential fatty acids to your body. Fats also help your body absorb certain nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants, as well as keep your brain, nervous system and skin healthy. These are some great ones to have on hand:
- Avocado – Omega 3s and creamy deliciousness! My #1 choice for adding fat to your diet! Check out some ideas here »
- Cheese – go for the REAL thing! Sharp cheddar, goat cheese and parmesan are some of my favorites.
- Oils – Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and flaxseed are some good ones to keep on hand.
- Nuts and seeds (also nut and seed butters) –healthy fats and protein, and look for no added oils or sugar. Just nuts or seeds and maybe a little salt!
- Flax seeds and Chia Seeds – protein, fiber and Omega 3s.
Fruits and Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Essential for a healthy diet, as they help to unlock the energy stored in food so your body can use it as fuel. Some of my picks:
Vegetables: Seasonal! Good basics year round are carrots, celery, broccoli, greens (kale, spinach, swiss chard, collards) sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms. Also keep some frozen veggies in the freezer for quick meals.
Fruits: Seasonal! Good basics year round grapefruit, oranges, apples, pears, frozen berries (and tart cherries!) and definitely keep some frozen fruit in the freezer, for smoothies and snacking!
And of course to build a great meal, here are some things to keep on hand to help make your meals tasty and nutritious:
Miscellaneous Pantry and Fridge Items
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Lemons and limes
- Canned tomatoes
- Dried fruits; dates, raisins, cherries, cranberries
Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at heather [at] michiganrunnergirl [dot] com
Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here » She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »
You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »