Sally Gunnell shares: The five essential foods

By Ellyn Peratikou

A good diet is essential for your fitness plan to succeed. The food you put into your body before and after you exercise can do a lot to either help or hinder your fitness levels

Every item of food you eat, and what you drink, has an impact on your mind and body – some in a positive way, others not so. And, at this time of year, when you’re busy with social engagements, it’s vital to ensure you fuel your body correctly.

Ex Olympian and one of at home’s celebrity guest editors, Sally Gunnell, 47, reveals what she eats even though her competitive sporting days are over. ‘I always eat fresh, natural ingredients and lots of fruit and vegetables and cut back on comfort food carbs like bread, pasta and rice,’ says Sally. ‘I up my protein levels for extra energy.

‘The most important meal for me is breakfast and I get protein from scrambled eggs and bacon. I have a sandwich at lunchtime and I cut my carbs right back in the evenings. For snacks, I stick to fruit and nuts as I do like to pick – I also have chocolate every now and again but keep it dark as it’s better for you.’

Try to include these nutrient-rich, five essentials in your diet to keep you in tip-top health all year round.

1. Milk

An excellent source of both calcium and protein, milk is vital for strong bones. Children tend to consume more milk than adults, but it’s important to keep your consumption up as an adult, as it’s beneficial for helping to prevent osteoporosis. Its protein content is also excellent for you post-exercise, as it helps to rebuild muscles. A glass of fresh milk after a workout may even help those muscles ache a little less the following day.

2. Fruit and vegetables

High water content is essential for good health and fruit and veg form a major part of a nutritional diet. Double the effect by hydrating yourself after doing exercise with fruit or veg that contains a high percentage of water. Melons, such as cantaloupe and watermelon, are particularly good examples of this as they contain more than 90% water – and they have less sugar than many other fruits. Those with high water content include apricot, blueberry, peach, pineapple, plum, raspberry and orange. Many vegetables, which contain minerals and fibre, are also high in water, such as lettuce.

3. Bananas

Wrapped up in that innocuous yellow skin, bananas pack a powerful punch in the health stakes, and are a great choice for fitness. They’re full of potassium, a mineral that’s vital for maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart function. Potassium also helps counteract the salt loss through excessive sweating during exercise, so as well as giving you a burst of energy after exercise, bananas will also help replace lost minerals from your body. Easy to digest, bananas are loaded with fast-acting carbs, too.

4. Oily fish

Trout, sardines and salmon should be top of your list for your weekly fish intake. High in protein but low in saturated fat,
fish is particularly easy to digest, therefore it’s the ideal choice to eat before exercising as it won’t sit heavily in your stomach.

Oily fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids which are good for heart health, age-related vision loss and dementia. It can also help reduce
fat build-up in your arteries.

5. Brown rice

Carbohydrates get a bad press, but those with a low glycaemic index (GI), such as brown rice, provide long-lasting energy that’s released slowly into your body during the day. They’re also high in fibre and promote good gut health.

Cheers to your health!

Raise a glass with these super healthy drink choices


Pure and simple, but nothing better to keep you hydrated. If you find it boring, do as Sally does and add a slice of lemon to add natural flavour. You could even try coconut water, for an alternative.

Isotonic drinks

Ideal for after exercise, these health drinks provide vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and help to rehydrate you when you most need it.

Nutrient-rich fruit juices

These help to provide you with your recommended dose of antioxidants, vital for heart health. They’re full of flavour and great if you’re on the go – but avoid juices high in sugar or calories.

Sally headshot
Sally Gunnell


at home guest editor, Sally Gunnell says… ‘The amount of energy you have in a day is linked back to your fitness levels and what you eat. It’s a matter of self maintenance. I still have to watch what I eat, and I know how it affects my mood. If I ate everything I wanted to, I’d put on loads of weight!’

 Words: Jo Willacy Image: Shutterstock

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