Run to Eat or Eat to Run
Do you run to eat or eat to run? I admit to doing a lot of the first and not enough of the second. I mean who doesn't like to reward a good half marathon with a giant bacon cheeseburger or a huge platter of Mexican food?
The main bonus of being a runner is that carbs are fuel. All those pastas and breads that your diet books told you not to eat... well, you need them to have good performance running. (Now, I don't claim to be a nutritionist, although I wish I were... so get out your salt shakers when I start talking about this stuff...) Especially in distance running, carbs are your friend. Really, can the news get much better than that?
Other than the carbs, nothing about a runner's diet should be striking.
I like this article from the October 2009 issue of Runner's World, by Mark Bittman:
You can't have too many varieties. I think quinoa (keen-wa) is the grain of the future--great-tasting and easy to cook. Bulgur cooks in a flash and is delicious for breakfast; oats are a staple; a few kinds of rice add flexibility. Pasta is a grain, but it's highly processed, so reserve it for treats.
Buy an assortment of dried and canned. If you can find frozen beans, grab 'em. Use beans for snacks, sides, as a base for meals. High in carbs and protein, low in fat, cheap, and versatile, beans are a cornerstone of the modern kitchen.
Extra-virgin is preferable, easy to find, and much less expensive than it used to be. Use it for everything. Don't worry about country of origin; producers ship bulk oil everywhere, so labeling isn't worth much. If it tastes good, and costs around $10 a liter, use it. You may also want peanut, grapeseed, canola, or corn; look for cold-pressed--not chemically extracted. And it doesn't hurt to have some butter once in a while, either.
Long-Keeping Vegetables and Fruits
Carrots, celery, lemons, and limes keep at least a week. Potatoes (white and sweet), onions, garlic, and dried chiles keep even longer. Frozen vegetables like spinach, peas, and corn keep more or less forever.
You can't have them all, but buy one every week or so to add spirit to your cooking. Cilantro and mint are easy to find; in the summer basil, dill, and rosemary are abundant. Even parsley--so often taken for granted--can make a huge difference when chopped and added in real quantity to salads, grains dishes, and sauces.
Buy the ones you like; they keep at least a year. Fanatics buy whole spices, and toast and grind them as they need them, and this really is ideal, but in general preground spices are fine.
Sherry vinegar is the most versatile and best for the money; balsamic is popular and sweeter. Good cider, rice, and wine vinegars, are also fine standbys.
Look for brands (such as Kikkoman) that contain only soy, wheat, salt, water, and bacteria; that's how real soy sauce is made, and it's great stuff.
From Italy, please. It's the easiest way to add complex flavor to pasta and rice dishes, and much more.
Dried Fruit and Nuts
There's nothing better for snacking, and they're useful for cooking. Store nuts in the freezer (they keep longer). Don't forget about nut butters.
Fast, inexpensive, and protein-packed.
Store it in the freezer and use it for beans, grains, and vegetable dishes. An ounce or two goes a long way.
Indispensable. Wonderful for sauce, but you can add them to any soup or stew you like. Prechopped tomatoes make life a little easier.
Sugar is fine in moderation, but maple syrup and honey are far more flavorful.
Especially porcini and shiitakes. Soak them in hot water until soft, then add them to anything.
Mmmmmmm.... Carbs, carbs, protein, and carbs. I have to admit I will definitely be skipping the last item on this list... I cannot stand mushrooms (or olives or raisons). I've gotten over a lot of the things I didn't like as a kid, but I just can't seem to get over those. I need to get better about the beans and herbs. I love rice, and usually have plenty of fruits and veggies on hand (since I'm in a veggie co-op), and I think soy sauce is a great thing for seasoning... The thing I wish I could give up is the extreme amount of processed sugars I eat. OK, I just love anything with sugar. I am a sweet tooth. Remember this: