Former England footballer launches ‘Eat like a Lioness’ campaign

Former England footballer launches ‘Eat like a Lioness’ campaign

Former England footballer Anita Asante has been transformed into a lioness amid the Women’s Football World Cup to encourage teenage girls to ‘eat like a lioness’ to improve their performance.

Asante encouraged budding footballers to eat red meat and dairy as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has partnered with Anita Asante – who has 71 England caps and has won the Women’s FA Cup four times – and former nutritionist to the England Women’s football team, Dr James Morehen, to raise awareness of the benefits of a balanced diet that includes red meat and dairy, which are some of the most nutrient dense foods available.

AHDB said that together, they want to help more young athletes realise their full potential by understanding the science of what they eat, rather than feeling pressurised into restricting their diet, unnecessarily. 

Dr Morehen, commented: “Young athletes, especially girls, require proper nourishment to meet the demands of a physically active lifestyle.

“Often overlooked, lean red meat and dairy are the main source of a range of vitamins and minerals that contribute to good health, including nutrients that can be more difficult to get from a plant-based diet, such as calcium, iron, high-quality protein and vitamin B12.”

The campaign comes as research shows a third of girls (35%) play football, with many inspired to start by the current women’s England football team.

Ensuring a healthy diet for young girls

AHDB found that:

  • 53% of teenage girls told AHDB they restrict what they eat
  • 44% have experienced tiredness and a lack of energy in the last year
  • 29% say they have cut back on dairy or red meat in the last year
  • 26% either have been diagnosed with, or suspect they have, either a Vitamin B12 or iron deficiency.

Dr Morehen, added: “It’s not just about eating enough food, it’s about eating the right balance of food. We know the healthier and more varied a diet you have the more likely you are to achieve recommended nutrient intake levels.

“Three in 10 girls (29%) say they have cut back on dairy or red meat in the last year – with many wrongly believing it’s not good for their health (37%) or will make them put on weight (18%).

“For anyone looking to achieve a healthier more active lifestyle this year, my recommendation is to maintain a varied and balanced diet – and to not ditch certain foods unnecessarily, then you are giving yourself the best possible chance of achieving adequate nutrient intakes, and not missing out on health benefits,” said Dr. Morehen. 

“Eating a balanced diet is critical in sport.”

Anita Asante

Anita worked with artist Kate Monroe to turn her hands and back into a lioness’ face.

This is supported by latest research from the Food and Agriculture Organisations of the United Nations, which has found that meat, eggs, and milk offer important sources of much-needed nutrients, including vitamin B12, iron and calcium, which are not so easily obtained when animal sourced foods are severely restricted. AHDB said that these nutrients are particularly important for those at key life stages such as adolescence.

Former Lioness Asante added: “Without ample fuel before a big game, I wouldn’t stand a chance at performing optimally on pitch – both physically and mentally. The night before a big match I’d usually eat something with proteins and carbs for energy – such as spaghetti bolognese with lean beef mince, in fact it became a bit of a ritual for me. 

“The morning of the game, I’d also have porridge with milk to ensure that when I’m on the pitch I’m fuelled with all the key nutrients that are needed to ensure my body is prepared for the physical demands of the game. Eating a balanced diet is critical in sport.”

AHDB emphasises that while incorporating meat and dairy products into a young athlete’s diet is important, it is equally vital to maintain a well-rounded and balanced eating plan. Encouraging the consumption of lean cuts of meat and dairy products while also incorporating ample amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes ensures a comprehensive nutritional approach.

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