By Felisha M. Mina

Training for peak performance means having a diet up to scratch.
Although it’s common knowledge to stock up on fruit, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and lean meats, meal planning can still go wrong if food’s not prepared in a way that maximises nutrition. This month, we go that step further and talk about how to get the most out of what’s available for our bodies. These pointers are super easy to apply as part of a healthy lifestyle, so keep them in mind the next time you’re stocking up and unloading your groceries.

Fresh fish should be chosen over tuna. Glossy fish with clear, bright and plump eyes show signs of health. You’ll be able to tell if fish is unhealthy or mishandled in the same way, by noticing cloudy or dried out eyes. To get a delicious serving of omega 3, sprinkle it with a bit of olive oil and lemon to cook. If you prefer to have it without the oil, simply wrap it in foil with some herbs or spices and leave it on the grill for 8-10 minutes. For convenience sake (if you’re in despair for the canned stuff), stick to ‘spring water’ or ‘brine’ varieties – they’re not as processed and contain less sodium than those with flavoured labels.

Browse through articles across the net, and many will argue that sweet potatoes are better for you than white potatoes. We’re going to say that both can be enjoyed as a good carb source, just as long as they’re not served mashed or deep fried. Go for potatoes that appear firm, without any soft, dark or green blemishes. Once bought, keep them in a place that’s dry, cool, dark, ventilated and away from the onions (they’ll go off quicker). As an added note, don’t refrigerate them, as the starch will convert to sugar.

Green vegetables
To name a few, spinach, broccoli, kale and asparagus are some of the common key ingredients of an athlete’s diet. Despite their benefits, however, not all vegetables are made equal. Purchasing the good stuff is all about picking those with crispy green leaves, firm stalks and uniform colouring. Boiling, overcooking or microwaving vegetables will strip away their nutrients, along with their flavour. A bamboo steamer will do the trick, and is a wise investment for those who take their diet seriously. Simply add some herbs, spices and vinegars, and dinner is served!

Lean meat
A protein-rich diet is essential for fuelling muscle growth and boosting energy for those intense workouts. Meat should always be butchered fresh without any brownish or greenish tinges. Opt for cuts with lower saturated fat content, such as chicken breast, steak fillets and if you’re up for it, throw in some kangaroo. When it comes to cooking, having access to the right kitchen utensils can also be an advantage. Former UFC champion, Georges St-Pierre, had a private chef who recommended having a stove top, cast iron grill – not only does it reduce excess oil, but it’s easy to clean, too (and that’s a win-win for everyone!).

When it comes to fruit picking, apples, berries and bananas are popular picks amongst MMA professionals. Nutritionists recommend going for produce that’s rich in colour and free of bruises and leaks. Storage also plays an important role in keeping them fresh and making them edible past their prime. Bananas age faster in the cold, so keep them at room temperature. Berries and apples should be refrigerated and eaten within a few days, however apples can stay crisp for about a month.

Beans and lentils have extremely long shelf lives. They can be bought in bulk and stored in airtight containers to be used as ‘emergency staples’. Simply soak legumes in boiling water with a hint of flavouring for a vitamin-rich side dish. High in fibre, protein and good fats, they take just a few minutes to prepare and are versatile to compliment virtually any main meal.