What you eat

Tim Franks, 35, is the BBC's Europe correspondent. He lives in Brussels with his wife and two sons and spends two or three days a week travelling for work. His hours are long, erratic and pressurised. He is also training to run the London marathon in aid of the homeless charity Shelter.


6.30am One glass of grapefruit juice, one cup of strong black coffee, a bowl of Bran Flakes and Jordan's Crunchy cereal with semi-skimmed milk, one piece of granary toast with margarine and marmalade.

10.45am (at home) A sandwich made of granary bread, margarine, spinach leaves, smoked salmon, capers and apple. Water.

1.30pm (on board plane) Two mini white rolls, one slice of processed turkey breast, small pot of fruit salad, slice of disgusting sponge cake filled with pseudo cream and jam. Water.

9pm (in Rome) A few small slices of white bread, large plate of fettucine with mushrooms, two lamb chops, tomatoes. A bowl of mixed berries with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, two glasses of wine, water.

Friday (Rome)

7.30am Three slices of melon, one variety-pack size All-Bran; one variety-pack Coco Pops; full-fat milk, a croissant and jam, one glass of UHT orange juice, small pot of coffee.

11.45am Glass of fresh orange juice, one slice vegetarian pizza, two espressos, a rice-pudding/custard pie thing.

9pm A few small slices of white bread, large plate of fettucine with mushrooms, grilled turbot, two artichokes alla giudia (deep fried). Two glasses of wine, water.

Saturday (Rome)

7am Two slices melon, one variety-pack size each of All-Bran and Coco Pops, full-fat milk, one croissant and jam, one glass of UHT orange juice, small pot of coffee.

12.30pm Muesli bar, water.

2.45pm Buffet lunch consisting of two small pieces of mozzarella, a few spoonfuls of lasagne, salad and two slices of white bread, followed by a piece of sacher torte. Water.

9.45pm A few pieces of bread ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, grilled sole, one artichoke alla guidia, a glass of wine, water.

The verdict

If you are exercising a lot, as Tim is, it is important to increase your carbohydrate intake. Dr Toni Steer of MRC human nutrition research in Cambridge explains: "When you exercise, your body uses the glucose in your blood first, then the glycogen in the muscles and liver (glycogen is stored carbohydrate). The bigger and better-trained the muscles, the greater the capacity to store glycogen. When training hard, therefore, you need to maximise your glycogen stores by increasing the amount of carbohydrates you eat."

The government recommends that we get 50% or more of our daily energy intake from carbohydrates. Tim's diet is probably slightly below this. "Training for an event like a marathon, you need to eat about 60-70% of your total energy intake as carbs and preferably unrefined ones, such as wholemeal bread and pasta or cereals," explains Steer.

Since this can get bulky, she suggests adding more simple carbs to your diet - "for example, fruit juice, milkshakes or low-fat biscuits." Indeed, the England football team got theirs at one point from Jaffa Cakes.

Tim's job means that he often eats on planes and in hotels and restaurants. "When travelling it's easy to let any thought of healthy eating come last," says Steer.

"At home, Tim has a great breakfast - Bran Flakes with semi-skimmed milk and granary toast - but away, he is having Coco Pops with full-fat milk and croissants. It is easy to treat yourself when away, but if you are a frequent traveller, you need to be more conscious about food choices. Remember, you're not on holiday," she warns. "One plain croissant contains about eight grams of fat - more than a Cadbury's Creme Egg."

Eating out is another potential source of danger. Even if Tim does not need to watch his weight, says Steer, "increased intakes of saturated fats and trans-fatty acids, found in food such as cakes, deserts and pastries, can raise cholesterol levels - a risk factor for cardiovascular disease."

The average man needs about 2,500 calories a day. No more than 10% of these should be in the form of saturated fats (about 28g).

"Tim should be aware that there are saturated fats in whole milk and croissants as well as the desserts and cakes he eats. What is more, fish, pasta and even vegetables and salads in restaurants often come smothered in buttery or creamy sauce - likely to contain saturated fats.

"It can also be hard to get the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day on the road," says Steer. "Tim has about five portions on the day he is at home, but only about three on his travels. There is great evidence that people who eat the most fruit and vegetables have the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers."

Travellers' Tips

· Ask for healthy options to avoid eating too many calories or too much saturated fat - ask for semi-skimmed milk, fish without buttery sauce, wholemeal rolls instead of white, salad without dressing.

· Avoid the "treat mentality" - don't have the croissant or Coco Pops just because they're there. Make conscious healthy choices (take the wholemeal toast instead).

· Beware the dessert trolley - it is tempting, but better to choose fruit salad than high-calorie, high-fat puddings.

· Plan your snacks - fruit from the hotel bowl, or dried fruit or nuts.

· Watch your booze intake - even though you are socialising or tired.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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