AW looks into how something as simple as changing your jacket potato topping can help you achieve your nutritional goals

Athletes are conscious of what they eat. Their nutritional goals will vary depending on their training programmes and personal circumstances.

Jacket potatoes have been a favourite item on the British menu for years – they’re cheap, quick and easy to cook and packed full of nutrients and fibre (especially with the skins).

Here we highlight how simple changes to your toppings can alter the nutritional content of your meal and help you to achieve your nutritional goals.

Topping options

Let’s start with the traditional beans and cheese. Eaten with a medium potato (skin on), this provides around 480kcal and 77g of carbohydrate and 24g of protein. For most athletes the addition of a side salad would make this a complete meal.

It provides a high proportion of energy (from carbohydrate) and protein for muscle growth and repair, making it suitable for a recovery meal or evening dinner.

A word of caution: this is based on a 25g portion of cheddar (about a matchbox size). If you’re prone to going overboard on the cheese, go for a stronger cheese to maximise flavour but cut down on the amount.

Those who are weight-conscious can reduce the calorie content by removing the cheese.

This is also a great meal for pre-exercise. It provides easily digestible energy without too much protein or fat that can cause discomfort during training. Total: around 360kcal, 77g carbohydrate, 17g protein.

For athletes with high protein needs but lower carbohydrate requirements – jumpers and throws for example – cottage cheese or canned tuna are cheap toppings to try. Both are low in fat but cram in 18-22g of high-quality animal protein per potion without blowing the carbohydrate budget.

You can spice things up by adding chives to the cottage cheese and sweet corn to the tuna. Beware the mayonnaise though! Total: around 260kcal, 50-55g carbohydrate, 18-22g protein. 

Goal: Pre-exercise meal      
Suggestion: Potato and low-fat, low protein filling.
eg. baked beans, vegetarian chilli.

Goal: Recovery meal
Suggestion: Potato and protein source; vegetarian alternative.
eg. baked beans and cheese.
Chicken and avocado.

Goal: Weight loss and/or low carbohydrate needs
Suggestion: Protein and lean meat filling / vegetarian alternative.
Consider sweet potato instead of normal variety.
eg. cottage cheese, homemade salsa or coleslaw.

» This article was first published in AW magazine in January 2013