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A Runner-Nutritionist Shares Her 5 Daily Go-To Foods

Call me a creature of habit, but there are certain foods I love to eat every day. Although I’m a dietitian who often creates healthy and tasty recipes for the masses, my favorite foods are the simple staples that I always keep in my pantry and fridge. You may be surprised to learn that these are my five go-to foods that I eat each and every single day.

Breakfast—Oatmeal

I’m one of those people who is excited to eat breakfast each and every single morning. When I wake up, I’m hungry and ready to eat. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that a breakfast that is too heavy or too light will leave me feeling ‘off’ all day long. For as long as I can remember, I’ve started my day with a bowl of oatmeal. Although it may sound boring, I jazz it up by adding things like fresh fruit, unsweetened coconut or nut or seed butter. I also boil the oats with half water and half milk to add a bit more protein to my breakfast. One-half cup of dry oats (one cup cooked) contains five grams of protein, 27 grams of complex carbs, 15 percent of the daily value of fiber, 10 percent of the daily value of iron and just 150 calories. As a runner, I love that it has fiber and carbs to keep me full throughout the day and power my workout. And as a vegetarian, the iron content is a nice added bonus.

Lunch—Spinach

Of course I don’t eat plain ol’ spinach every day, but I do have it in some form. Whether it’s a spinach salad or spinach in a sandwich, wrap or soup, I make sure this dark leafy green is part of my daily diet. With the rise in popularity of kale and other dark leafy greens, spinach doesn’t get the love it deserves. I originally added spinach to my diet because it’s a good source of plant-based iron, and vegetarians need to be mindful of where their iron comes from. With 10 percent of the daily value of iron in two cups, plus copious amounts of vitamins A and C, and even a little bit of protein, spinach is an essential part of a well-rounded diet.

Afternoon Snack—KIND Bar

Let’s get real for a second. While I would love to eat fresh fruit as a snack every single day, I’m usually on the go and need something portable. Whether I’m headed to a meeting or fueling quickly for a later run, I’m usually short on time. That’s why I always have a KIND bar in my bag. As a spokesperson for the brand, it’s only natural that I love that these bars are made with ingredients that you can see and feel good about. I usually opt for the KIND Nuts and Spices variety, with the Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt being my favorite one. Unlike some other bars that are primarily sugar, the first two ingredients in these are almonds and peanuts, and each bar has only five grams of added sugar. With six grams of protein and just 200 calories, these portable sources of protein and healthy fats satiate me and give me energy to power through the afternoon. Plus, what runner can’t use a little dark chocolate fix in the middle of the day?

Dinner—Beans

You may be thinking I’m super boring again, but beans are a versatile and affordable source of plant-based protein. Plus, they are really tasty in the right situation. For less than $1 a can, black beans can serve as the base for a quesadilla, veggie burger or even a great dip. Plus, in just half of one cup, you will get seven grams of protein and 10 percent of your daily serving of iron for just 100 calories. My quick and simple dinner consists of throwing black beans, a few veggies, cheese and a squeeze of lime juice into a tortilla and grilling it up for a quick quesadilla. And when I’m feeling like dessert is necessary, I whip up some black bean brownies (trust me, you’ll want to try this).

Related: Vitamin Packed Fudge Black Bean Brownies

After Dinner Snack—Popcorn

I’m seriously addicted to pretzels—so much so that I had to stop buying them. When I was marathon training, I would buy a big bag of pretzels and eat it within two days. The downside to this habit is that pretzels are loaded with sodium and don’t contain many nutrients. To kick my pretzel habit, I started making air-popped popcorn every night after dinner. Not only does it satisfy my need for a salty snack, but it’s made with just whole grain corn kernels. You can buy an air popper for about $20 and a bag of corn kernels is about $2. It’s the cheapest and healthiest snack around. Many forget that popcorn is a whole grain snack with loads of fiber and just 40 calories per cup of popped popcorn. You can also dress it up with fancy toppings, like parmesan, nutritional yeast or cocoa and cayenne powder.

Related:

10 Ways To Transform Plain Oatmeal

3 Bars You Should Be Eating (According To Someone Who Makes Them)

Natalie Rizzo

Natalie Rizzo

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition communications expert, specializing in sports nutrition. Natalie has written for many food and nutrition publications, such as Eating Well, Spright and Food & Nutrition Magazine, and she has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. Natalie received her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. When she’s not writing, she’s creating delicious recipes, running and helping other runners reach their peak potential through food. To learn more about Natalie and read about sports nutrition topics, visit her blog, Nutrition à la Natalie or follow her on Twitter.