Eat like Ellie: Supercharge your diet
She’s the superhero swimmer who has made an army of fans thanks to her tenacity and skill in the water. Ellie Simmonds shares her foodie secrets…
Ellie Simmonds already has an impressive line-up of achievements, with four gold medals and 10 world records to her name.
The swimmer was just 13 years old when she first struck gold, winning the 100m and 400m freestyle events at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Already an OBE, she’s on formidable form for this year’s Paralympics in Rio.
Like all good athletes, she knows that lean, mean sports machines are made in the kitchen and as a Sainsbury’s Active Kids ambassador since 2009, she’s full of ideas about what to feed kids to keep them brimming with energy.
While the British swimming team has an in-house nutritionist to help them work out which food is great for fuel, Ellie likes to be organised and forward-plan her mealtimes, with a little experimentation thrown into the pot.
“I learned how to cook from my parents, and then being chucked in the deep end when moving away from home having to cook for myself, but I love cooking. It’s something I really enjoy doing,” says Ellie, now 21.
“If I have time, I try to cook a new recipe each week to add to my repertoire.”
“I like to have a normal balanced diet, so I do a menu for myself each week. I include two meals of fish and a meal of red meat. The rest is varied.”
She knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and goes to town with it.
“My typical breakfast dish is either porridge or Bircher muesli, which I normally do when I have training in the morning as it’s very quick and easy to do overnight,” she says.
“My favourite training dish is actually porridge for breakfast. I always really enjoy it and look forward to eating it in the morning. It’s also something you can have simple or jazz it up, adding anything you want.”
Make like Ellie and try out different combos in your porridge. Think tropical flavours like sliced banana, a spoonful of peanut butter and a sprinkle of desiccated coconut.
Tropical fruit porridge
Get the day off to a good start with this warming bowl of porridge that’s topped with lovely tropical fruit.
Ellie’s go-to snack is a smoothie, as it’s cheap, quick to whizz up and bursting with fresh flavours.
She says: “I don’t normally stick to a recipe. I just chuck anything that I have in the fridge into it and hope that it tastes nice. I like putting figs, spinach, mixed berries, a bit of yoghurt and a sprinkle of nuts on the top.”
We’re calling this one the ‘Super Simmonds Smoothie.
For a post-swim pick me up, this champ has got it crunched: “I have two favourite snacks – a Pink Lady apple with a dollop of peanut butter for dipping, or a banana with peanut butter spread on it. Both are delicious!”
This refreshing green smoothie made from spinach and banana looks gorgeous topped with pomegranate seeds.
Lunch and dinner
A midday meal for an elite athlete is, as you’d imagine, packed full of protein, fruit and veg. Ellie says: “A typical lunch for me is a bagel with some spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes with some eggs.
Have a look at our high protein meal ideas.
“My evening meals vary. I love sweet potato and roasted veg with some sort of meat.”
Treat time All that time spent powering through the water – not to mention winning medals left, right and centre – earns Ellie a little rest from any strict diet now and again. “I love anything sweet as I have a real sweet tooth,” she says.
Shake up the average burger with these light salmon versions, served with crispy wedges,
The day after a big race, her dream feast would be afternoon tea, dinner in a nice restaurant – “or just a slab of cake!” Well, no one can deny she deserves a treat.
We all know there’s no ‘I’ in team, and Ellie says she and her fellow ParalympicGB-ers love to support each other. Perhaps unsurprisingly given all that physical exertion, conversation is often dominated by the edible.
“When we train, we’re hungry, so the talk normally turns to food. We normally discuss what we’re having for dinner. When someone tries something new, we sometimes swap recipes as it gives me new ideas.”
To make it to the top, it’s all about practice, practice, practice. As Ellie prepares to jet off to Rio, she leaves us with some wise words: “I would say the most important thing is to have a varied and balanced diet, make sure you have your five fruit and veg a day – but don’t forget to treat yourself occasionally.”
Try something new from our healthy eating meal plan.