Part 1 of this series detailed how to set goals for the new year. Part 2 explores the importance of good nutrition, and how you can take charge of your diet by cooking at home.
Part 2: Commit to Cooking
Although good shoes and a healthy dose of motivation help you improve as a runner, there's another set of tools you should use: an oven and a stove. Eating food you prepare at home guarantees you know exactly what you're eating (no chicken breast prepared in butter) and keeps your calorie count down. "According to the USDA, you eat 134 calories more per meal eating out compared with meals at home," says Cassie Dimmick, M.S., R.D., a sports dietitian in Springfield, Missouri, "Plus, when you eat out, you eat fewer whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and more unhealthy fats and sodium."
If you're ready to commit to a healthier diet and homemade meals, spend time learning how to shop for the right groceries. On your next trip, bring along our Ultimate Supermarket Survival Guide for tips.
More: 7 Tips to Avoid Processed Foods
Plan ahead. Spend a half-hour on a weekend mapping out your meals for the week—both what you're going to make and what nights you're going to cook. "You don't make good decisions when you're tired and hungry," Dimmick says.
Become a prep cook. On the weekend, tackle prep work: Cook meats, prep salad dressings, cut vegetables and fruits. "If I'm browning meat, I do two packages," says Dimmick, "and use one and freeze one."
Rethink your idea of a home-cooked meal. "Certainly a hot, freshly cooked meal is great, but a PB&J, some baby carrots, and a glass of milk is so much better than going out," Dimmick says.
More: 4 Quick Meals for Busy Athletes
Dinner and More
These three recipes, which produce enough for dinner for two and leftover lunch for the following day or two, are favorites of Devon Yanko, an elite runner on The North Face team and a personal chef in San Anselmo, California. "Asian-style foods are either inherently healthy or easy to modify to make both tasty and healthy," she says.
Looking for more tasty ideas? Click through our runner-friendly recipe section for thousands of delicious ideas.