A shopping basket guide for active individuals

Wholegrain cereals

This includes quinoa, rice, wholegrain bread, wholegrain pasta, bulgur, barley and other wholegrain cereals. These foods provide long-lasting sources of carbohydrate for fuel and recovery and are also a valuable source of fibre, protein, thiamin, magnesium, iron, folate, niacin and zinc in the Australian diet. There is some fear fuelled by misconceptions that carbohydrate foods should be minimised or avoided. While there is a ‘grain of truth’ to decreasing our portion sizes and frequency of highly processed carbohydrates, whole-grain foods should be consumed daily to meet exercise requirements, provide other essential nutrients and promote bowel health.


Beans and legumes

Legumes (also known as pulses) include all forms of beans and peas and come in dried, canned, cooked and frozen varieties. They include butter beans, haricot (navy) beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, adzuki beans, black-eyed beans, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, lupin, mung bean and peanuts. Legumes provide a range of essential nutrients including protein, low glycemic (GI) carbohydrates, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins. They are also an economical dietary source of good quality protein and are higher in protein than most other plant foods. Legumes have about twice the protein content of cereal grains and are essential for those who choose to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. They are also gluten free and are suitable for people with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.

Legumes contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid methionine (which is found in higher amounts in grains). Grains, on the other hand, contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid lysine, which legumes contain. This is why some vegetarian cultures combine legumes with cereal grains in order to get a good balance of amino acids needed for growth and repair. Common examples of such combinations are dhal with rice in India, beans with corn tortillas in Mexico, tofu with rice in Asia and peanut butter with bread in the US and Australia.



Salmon is considered to be one of nature’s super-foods as it is a rich source of the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA & DHA. Just two serves per week provides the recommended intake of Omega 3 which research has shown is beneficial for heart health and a range of conditions. It has powerful anti-inflammatory benefits which are particularly important for those who love high impact sports on susceptible joints.


Lean meat

Small portions of good-quality lean meat (e.g. lean red meat, chicken, turkey and lean pork) are essential to include over the week. Recreational endurance athletes require slightly more protein than their sedentary counterparts, but it is important to include small quantities of protein-containing foods spread out evenly over the day. This is important for satiety (fullness in between meals) recovery and the maintenance of iron stores, particularly in women who are susceptible to low iron levels.



Most nuts (apart from chestnuts) contain essential fatty acids and are particularly high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The fat profile of nuts varies from one type to another. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, pecans and pistachios are higher in monounsaturated fats while Brazil nuts, pine nuts and walnuts have more polyunsaturated fats. Walnuts are one of the few plant foods that contain the essential omega-3 fat, ALA, with a handful (30g) of walnuts providing the recommended amounts of ALA. Smaller amounts are found in pecans, hazelnuts and macadamias. This is particularly important for vegetarians or anyone who doesn’t eat fish or seafood as a small proportion of ALA can be converted into EPA in the body. Just avoid the salted or candied nuts in general and enjoy a small handful as a snack every day!



Eggs are a nutrient dense food, being a natural source of at least 11 different vitamins and minerals. A serve of 2 eggs provides the same amount of kilojoules as two small apples while providing nutrients including selenium, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, iodine and riboflavin, vitamin E, iron and thiamine. Eggs are also rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Great served poached or boiled on sourdough toast for a tasty recovery meal or cold-boiled as a mid-afternoon snack.



Milk proteins, along with other animal proteins, are considered high biological value (HBV). That is, they contain large amounts of essential amino acids in a form that is readily digested. Financial support of the dairy industry has facilitated significant research into the value of dairy proteins. Dairy protein is comprised mainly of casein (80%), with smaller amounts of whey (20%). It is the whey protein which is particularly high in leucine, an essential amino acid thought to “switch on” the body’s muscle-building machinery. One to two serves of dairy post-exercise (e.g. a tub of yoghurt and a glass of milk) and as snacks throughout the day is a delicious way to recover after exercise!


Frozen berries

The compounds that give berries their deep colours are called anthocyanins – a powerful group of antioxidants that may assist with recovery and muscle repair. Not bad for a mere 60 calories (240kJ) per cup! Frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh ones, but they keep for much longer (up to nine months in the freezer) making it easy to have them ready to eat, no matter what time of the year!


Frozen veggie mixes

For convenience and an array of different colours on your plate in an instant! They will save you time in preparation (allowing you more time to get out for a workout in the first place!) and pack in the nutrients that their fresh counterparts provide. Make sure that you keep them handy in your freezer for those quick meals.


Dark chocolate

Chocolate contains potent antioxidants called flavonols that has been shown to boost heart health. Other research suggests that the chocolate flavonols may ease inflammation and may also help to signal the end of a meal. Dark chocolate (the darker the better) generally contains more flavonols than milk chocolate, but this is no excuse for gluttony! Enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate most days and opt for individually wrapped portions if portion control is an issue.