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Healthy Eating Tips – Paralympian & Springbok Athlete

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Meet Emily Gray, two-time South African Paralympian and Springbok Athlete. Emily would love to share some useful and practical tips for healthier eating with us.

Emily has a truly remarkable story as she battled cancer at the age of eleven and had to have her leg amputated. Emily has since attended two Paralympics (Beijing and London), and is set to represent South Africa in Brazil at the 2016 Paralympics. Emily, now 22 years old, is truly motivational and inspirational as she shows all the characteristics of a strong and successful South African woman.

If you would like to read about Emily’s inspirational story then click on this link:
http://www.livewired.co.za/2014/03/12/emily-gray-against-the-odds-a-story-of-remarkable-triumph/

From her experiences as an accomplished Springbok swimmer and two-time South African Paralympian already at the age of 23, Emily Gray is somewhat of an expert on healthy eating. Far from denying herself enjoyment of tasty foods, Emily has learned a number of practical tips and tricks over the years to make sure that what she eats is not only nutritious and good for her body, but also delicious. This knowledge has been reinforced through her studying of the body and how it works as a Sports Science student at the University of Pretoria (Tuks).

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“My general approach to food is to try and have it in its original form as much as possible,” explains Emily. “For example, when grocery shopping I avoid ready-prepared and microwave meals, and fast foods are a definite no-no. Instead, I like to buy fresh fruits and vegetables often, as well as other foods in their whole, original states such as grains and pulses, dairy products and meat – organically sourced wherever possible. It’s also important to me to support local farms and fresh produce.”
Especially conspicuous of what she is putting into her body, Emily also makes sure she reads product labels carefully before purchasing. “By reading the label you are able to understand exactly what a product contains, and you are able to compare different products in the isle,” Emily continues. “This helps you to make the best decision of which product to buy.”
Emily gores on to note that buyers should be wary of claims such as ‘fat-free’ on labels, as more often than not there are large amounts of sugars and additives used as a replacement for this fat. “When you analyse and compare the labels of these products, you’ll see that often ‘low-fat’ is actually the healthier option than ‘no-fat’.”

Preparation

Emily goes on to explain that reading the labels of products also assists in planning meals and proportions. “Being aware of how much fat, sugar, protein etc. is in a product, you can work out how much of that food you should limit yourself to when preparing meals.”
When cooking, Emily also ensures that she only lightly cooks foods like vegetables so they keep their freshness and crunch, rather than overcooking them to a mushy state where much of the nutrients are then lost.
One of the most used appliances in Emily’s kitchen is her smoothie maker. “Whatever fruit I have I just throw into the smoothie maker, something I like to do almost daily,” says Emily. “I often mix this fruit with yoghurt, rice milk, soy or a variety of other liquid options to create a drinking consistency. I also often cut up and freeze my fruit to create delicious iced smoothies.”

Substitute

Emily explains that she often substitutes ingredients to make meals healthier without sacrificing on taste. “For example, instead of butter in sandwiches and the like I used mashed avocado or cottage cheese.”
“When I have a sweet craving I also use my frozen fruit and smoothie maker with a smaller amount of liquid to create my own sorbet-style treats,” says Emily. “By adding less liquid you get a thicker consistency, which is a delicious substitute for ice-cream.”
Emily also chooses only 85% dark chocolate when she needs to satisfy a craving. “Because this chocolate is so sharp and stronger, one block is enough to satisfy a chocolate craving, whereas it can be all too easy to scoff an entire bar of lighter milk chocolate to get the same result,” says Emily. “Dark chocolate is also high in important antioxidants, and even helps with recovery as it raises the heart rate which increases blood flow around your body.”

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