British Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington shares the healthy foods she meal preps with, admitting eating well doesn’t come naturally to her
Despite being a former competitive swimmer, Rebecca Adlington admits to me she loves dessert and has it every day. I met her at an cooking class with lovepork.com, which is a website encouraging the use of our British pork with delicious and quick recipes. Over a glass of wine (although Rebecca says she’s more of a G&T fan), we reminisced about her glory days when she became a world record breaking swimmer and British hero at the young age of 19. Competing in four Olympic finals, Adlington, now 28 won two gold and two bronze medals in Beijing and London respectively, as well as a cheeky OBE.
Since she retired in 2005, she’s been presenting sport on TV and has appeared as a contestant in I’m A Celebrity (2013) and Celebrity Masterchef (2017). But leaving swimming behind, her usual athlete diet consisting of six Weetabix for breakfast, four sandwiches for lunch and a huge spaghetti bolognese in the evenings led her putting ‘on a lot of weight’ and a knock to her self confidence in the process. To shape up for her wedding to ex-husband Harry Needs in 2014, she embarked on a strict Harley Street clinic weight loss and detox programme involving vegetable juices, daily yoga and long walks. It paid off, as she famously lost over two stone.
Healthy eating doesn’t come naturally to me and I love carbs.
Mother to one daughter, Summer, Rebecca is now looking her most slim but only works out four times a week. ‘I’ll do a swim, a 10K run, a 40 minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) circuit at home with Summer, and CrossFit once a week. I don’t have time to do any more than that,’ she says. Much like the rest of us then. ‘I try to do at least one workout on an empty stomach as it fires up my metabolism. I have a really slow metabolism as well as PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome, a set of symptoms due to elevated male hormones in women], so monitoring my sugar is important and fasting really helps that.’
Admitting healthy eating ‘doesn’t come naturally’ to her, Rebecca shares her healthy food essentials.
I use my Vitamix every single day without fail to make things like nut butter, milkshakes and smoothies. For a smoothie I tend to juice some apples in a juicer first, then blend that with spinach, berries, a banana to thicken it. Sometimes I add dates, cacao or maca powder.
Home made cashew milk
I make my own cashew milk in the Vitamix because I love the taste of cashews, but they are also a lot less faff than almonds which you have to soak for a few hours or overnight. You put double the amount of water to cashews which makes a cream. The consistency is variable to the amount of water you use. I use about four parts water and one part cashews. Then I strain it through a nut bag which is like a strainer. You can get it on Amazon they are so cheap. I like it runny as I use it for things like protein shakes after the gym, and porridge. I don’t add any sweeteners but you could add vanilla or maple syrup to sweeten it if you drink it on its own. It can stay in my fridge for a few days.
I have to monitor my sugar because I have PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome, a set of symptoms due to elevated male hormones in women). If I want something sweet I’ll have a square of dark chocolate over milk chocolate and I use natural sugars in baking where I can, too. I made banana loaf the other day which doesn’t need as much sugar anyway because of the fruit. You can use all sorts of things like coconut, honey or maple syrup. Your body is better at taking in natural sugars than raw sugar and it’s just healthier.
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream
Having said that, I love pudding and it’s my favourite thing. I always have to finish on something sweet which is why I always have Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the freezer. I try and only have two spoonfuls at any time because it’s so high in sugar and fat. But I believe if you’re going to have ice cream, you might as well indulge and have the proper thing.
I dress salads with oils but my number one thing is balsamic vinegar which goes on so many of my meals. I especially like it with avocado and tomatoes in a salad, it adds so much flavour. The glazed one is the best kind as it’s more like a sauce.
This is always in my fridge for a healthy breakfast. I have it nearly every day with a mix of chia seeds, bananas and berries. Or I will have it as a pudding and break it up with dark chocolate with blueberries and strawberries. Sometimes I use it to make an acai bowl, which is just acai powder and greek yoghurt blended together.
I make my own granola at the weekend so I always have it either to sprinkle over my breakfast or snack on. I use gluten free oats, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and a tiny bit of maple syrup to make it sticky. I whack it in the oven for half an hour to make it crispy, and then add dried fruits, sometimes linseeds or pumpkin seeds.
Healthy eating doesn’t come naturally to me and I love carbs. Because of swimming, I’ve always had a carb diet and I will never be one of those people to cut them out. Things like oats, rice, noodles and sweet potato. I don’t eat bread but I do like to make my own wraps or flatbreads and eat them with some humous or pesto which I make myself. My daughter, Summer, is a fussy eater but will loves these. I always have some form of carb in the day too.
After swimming and crossfit I have a protein shake. I use my homemade cashew nut milk and I Neat Nutrition protein powder in vanilla – it’s delicious!
A healthy dinner for Rebecca.
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