As we embrace Spring by exchanging winter jackets and cosy sweaters for T-shirts and shorts, it is not just a wardrobe change that’s due, but usually a shift in our diet as well.
In hot weather we tend to crave lighter, fresher foods which go hand-in-hand with outdoor sports and leisure activities. Later sunsets lend themselves to late afternoon exercise, swims and strolls and the last thing we feel like is a large cooked meal when we sit down to dinner. Over the years I have noticed that through trial and error, and considering what style of eating best suits my body, the way I refuel in the Spring and Summer seasons definitely changes.
To highlight these changes and best explain what foods are important to fuel Spring training sessions, keep energy levels stable, and hit required nutrient levels, I’ve pulled together some of my go-to everyday meals for Spring.
BREAKFAST: CONQUER THE MORNING, CONQUER THE DAY
As a former competitive varsity track and field athlete in Canada, I used to exercise for three hours every afternoon and so my dinner (aka my post-workout meal) was critical for recovery. Now I have gradually morphed to morning workouts and so it is breakfast that refuels me from training and sets me up for the rest of the day.
Skipping breakfast is not a ‘thing’ in our house, and I don’t advise it either. When you wake up your body’s cortisol level (aka stress hormone) is at its highest and nutrition can drastically influence it for better or for worse. For that reason, before jumping into training I start my mornings with a combination of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acid) and water. BCAA’s inhibit cortisol which can lead to muscle breakdown and are also credited with assisting hydration which is truly beneficial when the weather warms up!
After training, I eat a light but nutrient-dense meal of, usually, two eggs, a handful of spinach, two slices of smoked salmon and a pinch of lactose-free cheese. This is hands down one of my favourite breakfasts in Spring and it literally takes just minutes to create. If I am extra hungry, I’ll add half an avocado for some healthy fats, or a slice of gluten-free toast. (p.s. avocados are cheaper in Spring as they’re more readily available - yay!)
- In a small pan add 1 tbsp of coconut oil on medium-heat
- Add a handful of spinach
- Crack two eggs and mix with spatula
- When eggs and spinach and well combined and starting to look cooked
- Mix two slices of smoked salmon (broken up)
- (Optional) Toss in some lactose-free cheese!
LUNCH: EAT THE RAINBOW
As a self-proclaimed Nourish Bowl queen and having recently launched an Ebook which focuses on creating delicious, nutritious nourish bowls, I think it goes without saying that my lunches are almost always a nourish bowl variation.
In Spring, my nourish bowl typically consists of mixed greens, sliced veggies, my special turmeric shredded chicken (recipe in my Ebook!) and sweet potato (kumara in NZ) chips. I am not one for calorie counting or weighing my food, but I always endeavour to create a nourish bowl that is all the colours of the rainbow, and packed with healthy fats, carbohydrates, and lean organic protein.
While hot sweet potato chips might not sound like a go-to for Spring, it’s critical for me that I integrate complex carbohydrates into lunchtime meals given I often need the energy they produce for afternoon coaching or another workout.
Distinguishing between simple and complex carbohydrates is important as complex carbs take longer to digest and are a more reliable source of energy, whereas simple carbs create a spike in blood glucose which gives the body a short-term energy boost - aka ‘a sugar rush’. My top picks are sweet potato, pumpkin, and quinoa.
- In a medium size bowl, place ramekin dish in the centre of the bowl in order to support surrounding ingredients and fill with your choice of healthy crisps or a dip (e.g. hummus, or turmeric chickpea crisps- as pictured)
- chop zucchinis and carrots length-wise and place around the bowl (always grouping same ingredients together) with some cherry tomatoes
- Add one handful of spinach with some olive oil (or the anti-inflammatory dressing from my eBook)
- Finally, top off the dish with the turmeric shredded chicken and Kumara Chips from my eBook (individual recipes below!)
Turmeric Shredded chicken:
- Place 2 chicken breasts into empty pot and fill pot with water so the water covers the chicken by approximately 1 inch.
- Bring water to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and leave for 15-18 minutes on low-medium heat (I like to leave the lid partially on during this phase).
- Remove one chicken breast and cut through centre to check it’s cooked through (no light pink).
- Using two forks, hold one half of the chicken breast and begin to pull apart or shred using the other fork.
- Place all shredded chicken into a bowl and add 2tbsp of tamari sauce, 3 tbsp of mayonnaise, 2 tbsp of hummus, 1 tsp of turmeric, a dash of feta (optional) and mix.
- Heat oven to 180 degree celsius and line a tray with baking paper
- Chop 1 large kumara length wise into strips approximately 2cm thick
- Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil to coat each chip
- Sprinkle 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and lightly grind salad & pepper over the chips and using your hands, massage oil and spices into the chips
- Place kumara in oven and toss chips after 10-12 minutes to ensure they cook on both sides
- Once kumara begins to brown, take out of oven and let cool slightly before serving upright in a nourish bowl with some homemade mayo
DINNER: SPRING SPIN ON PASTA
Pasta, legumes and meats require a long time to digest so it's no surprise these food groups can leave us feeling heavy and lethargic post-meal. While many crave these types of foods in the colder months, they’re not usually first choice in warmer weather.
My summer pick? Beef (or jackfruit if vegetarian) zoodles! Not only is zucchini a perfect trade-off for regular pasta but it helps with digestion and is packed with nutrients, whereas pasta can be high in carbohydrates but low in micronutrients and fibre.
Because dinner is the last meal before sleeping our bodies don’t need to stock up on glucose to burn for energy. Therefore we have a minimal need for pasta-type meals - refined or unrefined. This is not suggesting all carbohydrates need to be avoided before bedtime - some studies have found carbs to hasten sleep if consumed hours beforehand. Also remember there are carbs in zucchinis!
- In a medium-size pan, add 1 package of organic grass-fed beef and cook with Mexican seasoning. A good choice here is Mingle’s ‘Spicy Mexican’ seasoning as it contains only natural ingredients, no added sugars or preservatives. Don’t have a pre-mix? Then toss in some paprika, garlic, cumin, salt and chilli.
- While the beef is cooking, head 1tbsp of coconut oil in another medium-size pan
- Using a spiraliser, create zoodles from 2 zucchinis and add to the empty pan with approx 500g of tomato paste (e.g. Leggos unsalted tomato paste) and mix
- Once zoodles are cooked, drain beef and add to the zoodle mix. Grind some pepper and Himalayan pink salt into the mix and some chilli if you like it spicy
- Serve with some lactose-free cheese or your choice of cheese and some basil to garnish
The changing seasons often bring about a shift in diet as many fuel-up on lighter, fresher produce instead of warmer, heavy meals. I hope this ‘Day on a Plate-Spring Edition’ has you feeling inspired this Spring to fuel-up on nutrient-dense meals that’ll leave you buzzing with energy and ready to tackle any Spring workout.
Happy Go Lucy.
Lucy is a Kiwi-born and Canadian-bred, Lucy is an international fitness trainer with energy to burn, and an infectiously happy smile to match. Her business, Happy Go Lucy is designed to help others reach their full potential by unlocking more happiness in their day through sweat, nourishment and a positive mindset
She has recently launched her eBook ‘Designing Nourish Bowls’ full of delicious bowl creations, shopping list essentials, health hacks, and artistic plating tips, you can shop her eBook here.