Dave Shaw
Performance nutritionist, clinical dietitian and health expert, Dave does his best to make sense of what we eat.

Dave Shaw: How to eat for an active weekend

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If you're stuck in the city Monday to Friday, getting outdoorsy on the weekends is a great way to let off steam. But if you want to have the beans to tackle a hike or battle on a bike then you need to power your body and mind with good food. I think like this: if we're out in nature, eat foods as they're found in nature.

Getting active outdoors is good the mind, body and soul.Photo / Thinkstock
Getting active outdoors is good the mind, body and soul.Photo / Thinkstock

Here are my picks of power foods to keep you going and recipe suggestions care of Food Hub editor, Jo Elwin:

Wholegrains and legumes

You need carbohydrates if you're exercising. Carbs fuel your cells with glucose and replenish muscle and liver glycogen levels after strenuous activity. The tricky part is getting quality carbs. Instead of loading up on processed white rice or pasta, try the brown or wholemeal varieties. The less processed a food is, the higher in protein, fibre and vitamins it will be. Add legumes and wholegrains to your diet like lentils, chickpeas, quinoa and old-fashioned oats. Remember, fibre is good for gut health because it's hard to digest. So wait to have large fibrous meals until after you've finished exercising for the day.

Recipe idea: Wholemeal lentil pie.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock


Bananas are natures power bar and deserve their place in every athlete's diet. They are packed with carbs, potassium, vitamin C and magnesium, which make them an ideal replacement for sugary sports drinks to boost performance and balance electrolytes - just remember to drink enough fluids. Nature has even packed them up so they make an ideal snack to pack on long hikes. Or, for a delicious post-activity snack, blend them with some milk, peanut butter and oats for the perfect recovery shake. If you're still craving extra carbs, try having a handful of raisins - those mini boxes made for school lunches should do the trick.

Recipe idea: Banana, avocado and raspberry smoothie.


When it comes to protein, eggs reign supreme. Nature couldn't have designed anything more perfect. One egg provides 6 grams of protein, including all the essential amino acids, vitamin A and B12. Boil and slice for a sandwich or have poached eggs on toast after you've been sweating.

Recipe idea: Scrambled eggs for one.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock


Aim to get a couple servings of oily fish in to your diet each week. Salmon is a rich source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids - an important nutrient for heart health. Buying fresh fish can be expensive, so try canned varieties, like tuna. Throw canned fish in to a salad, add to a sandwich or just eat straight from the tin. Oily fish also contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which are vital for health and functioning of the body.

Recipe idea: Lime chilli and ginger glazed salmon.

Nuts and seeds

Although peanuts are a legume, I'm going to include them in this group. Nuts and seeds are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats and packed with protein. Almonds contain high amounts of vitamin E for a strong immunity. Two Brazil nuts a day provide our daily intake of selenium, an antioxidant deficient in New Zealand's food supply. Even spreading natural peanut butter on your banana makes for a high protein, carbohydrate snack. But be careful: nuts and seeds are hard to digest, so don't eat too many before or during exercise. It's best to keep them until after you've finished exercising for the day.

Recipe idea: Tamari coated almonds and seeds.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Yoghurt and milk

Dairy products are a great source of vegetarian protein and calcium - an essential mineral for bone growth and development. Milk is a perfect recovery snack from exercise - 600ml of the stuff contains approximately 25g of quality protein and 60g of carbs. However, watch for the sugar content of pre-packaged flavoured varieties, I suggest adding your own taste to milk (banana or frozen berries are ace). Yoghurt: one of its biggest benefits comes from its live bacteria that keep your digestive tract functioning nicely. Aim to buy low fat varieties and add your own extras like fruit and nuts.


Potatoes are a brilliant source of carbs - and keep the skins on for extra fibre and vitamins. They're versatile - boil/roast/mash - or make a bowl of low-fat, homemade chips. If you have a sweet tooth try kumara. Add a source of high quality protein like egg, chicken, beef or fish and throw some greens on the side.

Recipe idea: Potato salad with snow peas, chilli, ginger and mint.

Sauteed kale with cranberries and pine nuts.Photo / Thinkstock
Sauteed kale with cranberries and pine nuts.Photo / Thinkstock

Leafy greens

Green leafy vegetables contains a bundle of fibre, calcium, vitamins A, C and K, folate and iron - all this for very few calories. Kale and spinach are undoubtedly two of the best. Use these as a base for any salad and then mix in your favourite coloured vegetables with a low fat dressing (fresh squeeze of lemon+olive oil+a pinch of salt=seasoned heaven).

Recipe idea: Baked kale with potatoes, olives and garlic.


While not exactly a food, we can't not mention fluid. Not getting enough on board can make you feel tired and sluggish. Stick to water, unless you're exercising at a high intensity or for long durations - in these cases you may benefit from a sports drink. Waiting until you're thirsty isn't always a reliable trigger to drink - so make a conscious effort to sip regularly. By measuring your body weight before and after exercise, you can estimate how much fluid you've lost. Aim to drink one and a half times this amount to help make up for any deficit.

Dave Shaw is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. Follow him on Twitter here.

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