Eating healthy is a goal for many people, but being nutritious doesn’t mean you have to cut out the foods you enjoy. There are a few seasonal events upcoming in the calendar that involve sweet treats, from pancake day to Easter, but instead of shying away from a cheat day, you can enjoy alternatives that still fit into your healthy lifestyle.
Nutritionist and sports performance chef Wesley Cannonier, who counts Premier League footballers and heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua as his clients, has collaborated with Wren Kitchens to share his advice on healthy food hacks, how to enjoy a cheat day, and the secret to the perfect protein bar.
Diet of a footballer
Wes explains, “Usually, for footballers, breakfast will have carbs from sweet potatoes and quinoa. In-between training, they can usually have some snacks, such as dairy products or a protein shake with yoghurt and honey.
“For lunch, it’ll be something like wholegrain pasta with pesto and nuts to add more fuel to the body, paired with lean protein such as salmon to balance their macros until they go home. For dinner, they’ll have light to aid the recovery and give them the carbs they need before they go to bed.”
A popular cheat meal for footballers
“Some of the players enjoy chicken wings but only tend to make them once a month, but avoid adding chips in. Mac and cheese is popular, but this is heavy and full of fat, so it depends on what they want,” says Wes.
“For a sweet treat, maybe a brownie for dessert, but not the traditional brownie. A no-bake brownie is one that has cocoa powder, coconut oil, and nuts. You blend it down, but you can still warm it up for the gooeyness and taste of a brownie.”
The leanest steak to buy
“The leanest beef is usually fillet, which is what I usually cook for players. Sometimes it might be a ribeye, but it depends on what my clients want. In this case, if they want a certain cut, I’ll change another element on the dish to make sure it still hits their macros.”
The secret to a healthy brownie
Wes says, “I think it’s about getting good chocolate that has organic cocoa powder, which is good for you.”
“You can make a great snack relatively cheaply, make a batch, and save it in the fridge. Of course, it’s not always easy for the average person to sustain an organic lifestyle, but if you can afford it, then opt for organic; it’s about choosing wisely.”
Shop-bought vs homemade protein bars
“I think shop-bought protein bars are good for you; they must be good to an extent because I’m hoping they are backed by good nutritionists; however, I just think if I’ve made it myself, I know exactly what’s been put into it.”
“To make the perfect protein bar, use dates or prunes,” says Wes. He shares his method:
- Blend the dates in a food processor and add a selection of nuts and goji berries.
- Warm up some coconut oil and add a tablespoon per 500 grams of fruit and nuts.
- Continue to blend until it all comes together, before adding a heaped spoon of organic cocoa powder. Give the mixture a final blend.
- When you take the lid off your food processor, you’ll want to compress the mixture a little so you can shape it into a bar or balls.
If you want to be fancy, you could even blend desiccated coconut and roll your protein bar or balls in the fine powder so they resemble mini bounty bars and avoid snacking on full-fat chocolate.”
For the ultimate protein pancakes, mix in half a scoop or one scoop of whey protein, depending on the batch size, yoghurt with 0% fat, two eggs, 250 grams of flour, milk, a teaspoon of bicarbonate, a teaspoon of baking powder, and a spoon of vanilla. For an extra treat, use protein that has a strawberry or chocolate flavour.”
How to stop the pancake sticking to the pan
“To stop pancakes sticking to the pan, I like to make small ones,” says Wes. “If you’re making a pancake, you need to make sure the pan is hot and lightly oiled. To make sure, once that mixture is in the pan, it’s cooking straight away. Once it’s showing little bubbles, you can turn it down to medium heat.
“You want to check gently that it’s cooked from the bottom before turning; once ready, you should be able to just move the pancake around before flipping!”