From the competition ring to the kitchen: healthy eating tips from a Team GB athlete

As part of our partnership with Team GB, we invited champion judoka Gemma Howell to take a look around a Persimmon show home. While she was there, she shared her tips for starting the year right with a balanced and nutritious diet.

At Persimmon we’re proud to have an ongoing partnership with Team GB, through which past, present and future Olympians are visiting Persimmon developments and the communities in which we build.

One of these athletes was judoka Gemma Howell, who competed in the 2012 and 2020 Olympic Games, before winning gold in the 2022 European Judo Championships.

We caught up with Gemma during her visit to The View, a new Persimmon development in Redditch. Now in its sixth phase, the development will deliver a total of 960 homes, creating a welcoming new community with contributions to local infrastructure.

Gemma was given a tour of the Himbleton show home, a 4-bedroom home with a fantastic open plan kitchen/breakfast/family room, plus a separate living room and utility.

Whilst touring the home, Gemma put the new kitchen to good use by demonstrating a healthy meal fit for champions. She also sat down to give us her top tips for taking healthy eating habits into 2024, with nutrition expertise she’s gained as a world-class athlete.

 

Hi Gemma, great to meet you! Could you introduce yourself?

Hi there, my name is Gemma Howell and I’m a Team GB athlete.

You grew up here in the Midlands, what was your upbringing like?

Yes I’m from this area - I was born in Stafford and grew up in Telford. I was a very active child, taking part in as many sports as possible.

So when did you first start practising judo, and what first got you into it?

I started judo at 8 years old when my dad took me along to Wolverhampton Judo Club. I loved it, and never looked back! 

You’ve had such a successful career – what would you say has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment was definitely winning the European Championships. I’ve had a lot of injuries, so winning this made them all worth it. I’ve also competed at 2 Olympics Games and won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. This was a very special moment, as it was in the Midlands where I have spent most of my life. 

Do you think there are any misconceptions around your sport, or around what it takes to compete at such a high level?

Absolutely, I don’t think people realise how hard judo is at the top level, and how hard people have to train to get there. 

You’re here in the brand-new kitchen of the Himbleton show home, it’s a fantastic space to cook up a nutritious meal. As an athlete, what would you eat on a typical day?

Nutrition is important for everyone, but I’m especially conscious of it because judo is a weight category sport. On a typical day I’ll have porridge for breakfast, a big healthy sandwich or two for lunch, then something like spaghetti bolognese for tea. 

I try to get lots of vegetables in my meals – I aim for 7 a day. I also eat lots of protein to help recovery and support lean muscle mass. I’ll try to consume protein every 3-4 hours, with about 30g per meal.

And would that look different on a day that you’re competing?

On a competition day it’s all about fuelling myself.  I still have my usual porridge for breakfast, then I have a cereal bar about an hour before I fight, a bite of a chocolate bar 20 minutes before I fight and a few Jelly Babies just before I fight. After a lot of sugar to get me through the day, I look forward to my healthy competition day sandwiches after my fights.  

What’s your favourite meal of the day?

Breakfast is definitely my favourite meal of the day, and the most important in my opinion. I start the day with some protein and energy – it’s quite a western habit to have sugary cereal for breakfast, but it’s such an important meal and we wouldn’t do it for lunch, so why do it for breakfast? 

It’s the start of the year, and lots of us are trying to get into good eating habits. Do you have any tips for establishing healthy eating habits?

I carry a bottle of water everywhere, because hydration is so important for the body to work at its best and water also helps fill you up. 

Your environment is really important for staying healthy, so I don’t have any unhealthy snacks in the house. Instead I have lots of fruit in my fruit bowl for when I want a snack. 

Finally, I cook lots of meals in advance so that I have healthy meals ready for when I’m busy. I find my air fryer and rice cooker are great for this – sometimes I cook on a Sunday, and can make 10 meals in an hour.

Amazing! So, what do you make of our show home kitchen here at The View? Are there any particular features you like?

I think the show home at the View is beautiful! I love the kitchen, particularly the lovely quartz worktop.

Have you had a chance to look around the rest of the development and the local area?

Yes, I think The View is a fantastic development, and this is a lovely area to have a home in. I love all the surrounding green areas which would be great for a dog walk.


 

Gemma’s balanced brunch recipe

Ingredients:

  • Packet of diced chorizo
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 2 avocados
  • ¾ pack of feta cheese
  • Nice fresh seeded bread
  • Eggs

 

Method:

  1. Fry the chorizo with the chilli until heated through
  2. Mash the avocado and feta together until smooth
  3. Crack the eggs into boiling water and poach for a few minutes, so the white is solid but the yolks are still runny
  4. Thickly slice the bread and grill or toast
  5. Spread the avocado and feta mix onto the toast
  6. Sprinkle the chorizo on top, and finish with the poached eggs

 


 

Find out more about our Team GB Partnership here.

For more information about The View development in Redditch, click here.

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