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Five Terrific Diet Foods You May Be Missing Out On

Five Terrific Diet Foods You May Be Missing Out On


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Is it possible to diet for a contest and still enjoy variety in your meals? I say, Yes!

When I started looking into preparing for a figure competition, I culled web sites and magazines for information on training, dieting, and contest preparation. I knew very little and was not working with a trainer or nutritionist. I read dozens of sample diets in articles, forums and web pages of successful competitors.

I was dismayed.

Everyone seemed to eat the same 12 foods chicken, tilapia, egg whites, oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, almonds, flax or fish oil, and protein powder. Do people really stick to this regimen for 3 months, I wondered? And then I found out some people narrow this list down even further in the week or two leading up to competition.

Well, Im a beast in the gym, but a foodie in the kitchen, so I decided to test out my way. I kept nearly all whole foods in my diet while preparing for competition. Fruit, dairy, potatoes, and beef. Legumes of all sort chickpeas, black beans, and lentils. Roughly 40 different varieties of vegetable. It seemed to work. I still got lean by cycling my calories and carbohydrates.

I am not a nutritionist, but I do not believe there is any magic in certain foods. And I DO believe, for me, having a lot of variety in my diet is essential for optimal health. I want to look great on stage, sure, but I also want to maintain a healthy metabolism, strong immune system, and balanced hormones.

My approach might not work for everyone. Some people find the sameness of a pre-contest diet to be simpler to manage in terms of tracking calories and shopping and prepping in bulk. But if you are like me, and you really crave variety, I suggest including the following foods in your contest prep nutrition plan:

1. Butternut squash
Sweet potato is a staple among bodybuilders, figure, bikini, and physique competitors. And for good reason sweet potatoes are delicious! Because of their sweet flavor, they taste great plain, without any seasonings.
In my opinion, butternut squash comes in a really close second. I peel, cube and steam it and eat it plain or mashed with some butter buds. I also enjoy it roasted with olive oil and several cloves of garlic, halved. Good stuff.

One cup of cooked butternut squash contains: 80 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates

2. Fennel
Fennel is the exotic cousin of the celery stick. Also called anise, it has a sweet, licorice flavor. It tastes great raw, on its own or added to salads. Or try braising it: Trim and cut two large fennel bulbs into wedges. In a medium saucepan, add cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth, a tsp. of orange zest and the juice of orange. Add fennel and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add a splash of red wine vinegar before serving.

1 cup of raw, sliced fennel contains: 27 calories and 6.4 grams of carbohydrates.

3. Portabello Mushrooms
I love portabellos because they are so meaty and filling. They release a lot of flavor when cooked. You can wash them off, slice them and grill them with a spritz of olive oil spray. I find a stuffed portabello mushroom makes a nice midday meal. For two large mushroom caps, I use a stuffing of c. nonfat cottage, cheese, 1 TB. Parmesan cheese, 1 clove of minced garlic, a TB of chopped pimientos (in water, not oil), dried oregano and basil and, if I am feeling ambitious, I thaw out some frozen chopped spinach (be sure to squeeze out excess water). I put the mushrooms under the broiler, cap side up, for a few minutes, then stuff them and broil them stuffing side up for another 5-6 minutes.

1 3 oz. mushroom cap contains: 22 calories and 4.3 grams of carbohydrates.

4. Red lentils
Lentils cook up in a jiffy faster than brown rice in fact. I like the red variety (though they appear more orange-y to me), which are less earthy in flavor than the run-of-the-mill brown ones.

Here is a tasty recipe from a cookbook I own called New Vegetarian Cuisine:

Creamy Lentil Soup
Makes 2 servings

1 tsp canola oil
cup chopped scallions
2 tsp. grated fresh giner
1 garlic clove, minced
tsp curry powder
tsp cumin
cup dried red lentils
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 14 oz. can no sodium chopped tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. white wine vinegar

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium het, warm the oil. Add the scallions, ginger and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Still in curry and cumin; cook for 1 minute. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes with liquid; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 45 minutes. Transfer soup to a blender and process until smooth. Return to the saucepan. Stir in thyme and vinegar and simmer for 10 minutes more.

Per serving: 266 calories, 48 grams of carbohydrates

5. Eye of Round Steak
This is a lean cut of beef and cooks up in no time at all. Heres an idea for making it flavorful: Place 2-4 eye of round steaks in a glass dish. In a small bowl, mix fresh lime juice, 2 minced cloves of garlic, ground black pepper to taste, and 2 TB chopped cilantro. Pour marinade over steaks and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes. Heat grill or grill pan and cook steaks for 4-5 minutes per side. Serve with grilled red onion or homemade pico de gallo.

A 3 oz. serving of eye of round steak has: 138 calories; 25 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat.

Author: Elaine Morales

Member Comments

Elaine, this is great! I really would like to add legumes in to my pre contest diet. I eat the same 10 things but really do well on beans. Do you have any tried and tested good red lentil recipes that are contest prep safe and super basic. The soup looks great but I do not spend much time in the kitchen. Also did you mainly keep legumes early in the day and around workouts or did you use them as a fibrous carb? Since they are both starchy and fibrous I am just not sure. I am trying to do sweet pots, rice and oats only for meal 1-3, but I can not seem to keep my carb macros where I need them with just veggies the rest of the day.

Any input would be helpful and appreciated!


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