The vitamins and minerals provided by fruit and vegetables play a role in exercise performance and recovery following strenuous exercise, and maintaining health and well-being. These nutrients cannot be synthesized by the body so it’s essential that athletes consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to support daily training and recovery from training.
Sub-optimal intake of fruit and vegetables does affect your sport performance. A minimal intake of the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables can lead to fatigue, muscle damage and impaired immune function, all of which can have detrimental effects on training and recovery for competition.
Set a goal – If fruits and vegetables are minor items in your menu, start by eating one extra fruit or vegetable a day. When you’re used to that, add another and keep going.
Try something new – Don’t get tired of the same old thing every day. Try a new vegetable or a new fruit.
Take advantage of prepared veggies – They’re a little bit more expensive when you buy them this way, but if it’s easier and you’re more likely to eat then it’s a better use of your money. Bagged salads, prewashed spinach, peeled and diced butternut squash are great ways to cut down on prep time for dinner.
Stock your freezer – Frozen vegetables won’t go bad any time soon, and are easy to add to dishes you already make
o Throw them in with pasta water in the last few minutes of cooking
o Add to soups
o Stir fry them with meat and serve with brown rice for a quick dinner
o Frozen berries, mango, bananas
o Add to oatmeal or yogurt with granola
o Make smoothies with yogurt, low-fat milk, ice
Roast them – Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 425° F for 15 minutes. Try broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, carrots, butternut squash
Snack – Try baby carrots, celery sticks, broccoli florets or homemade sweet potato chips, dipped in salsa, light ranch dressing, spiced yogurt or hummus. Spread peanut butter on celery, apples or bananas
Cook with them – Sauté fresh or frozen spinach with garlic and olive oil, season with a dash of salt and pepper. Add spinach, onions, asparagus or broccoli to omelets.
Improve on nature – Don’t hesitate to jazz up vegetables with spices, chopped nuts, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, or a specialty oil like walnut or sesame oil.
Eating Out – Add vegetable toppings to your pizza. At a fast food restaurant, add a side salad with your burger, and eat it first. Ask to substitute a side of vegetables for rice or pasta when you’re dining out. Try the carrot cake if you’re ordering dessert!
Tara Boening is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian with a Board Certification in Sports Dietetics. She currently works as a sports nutrition consultant in Houston, TX.