Former Lioness Anita Asante transforms into an ACTUAL lioness to encourage girls to eat like their sporting heroes
Former England footballer Anita Asante has been transformed into a lioness ahead of this summer’s tournament to encourage teenage girls to eat like a lioness to improve their performance.
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. 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.
Former performance nutritionist for England’s women’s team, Dr James Morehen comments: “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”.
Anita worked with specialist body artist Kate Monroe to transform her hands and back into a distinctive lioness’ face. The artwork took over five hours to complete and aims to highlight the need for a diverse, nutrient-rich diet, particularly for active teens.
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. Yet,
- 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
- A quarter (26%) either have been diagnosed with, or suspect they have, either a Vitamin B12 or iron deficiency.
Dr Morehen, adds: “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,” reassures Dr. Morehen.
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. These nutrients are particularly important for those at key life stages such as adolescence.[]
With more girls taking part in sport than ever before, our future sporting stars will require foods rich in these nutrients to ensure their bodies are fuelled to satisfy the physical demands of sport, with their current diets potentially putting them at risk of nutritional deficiencies, which can affect everything from their energy to their bones to their immune systems. Some of the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet containing red meat and dairy, listed below:
Beat tiredness. 44% of survey respondents said they have experienced tiredness and fatigue in the last year. Lean meat and milk contain essential B vitamins such as B12, B6, niacin (B3) and riboflavin (B2). These B vitamins help our body to convert the foods that we eat into energy. Red meat also provides iron, which helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue.
Stay strong. Lean red meat and dairy provide protein and phosphorous to our diet, which contribute to the maintenance of normal, healthy bones and the normal growth and development of children’s bones, which is really important when playing active sports.
Fuel your muscles If you’re more physically active. Meat and dairy are naturally rich in high quality protein, which supports the growth and maintenance of muscles. They also contain potassium, which helps muscles to work normally.
Keep your eye on the ball. Lean red meat and dairy contains zinc and B vitamins such as niacin (B3), B6 and B12, which will support normal mental function.
Stay match ready. Including lean red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork will provide vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12 and zinc that help the immune system to work normally.
Former Lioness Anita Asante adds: “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 encourages parents, coaches, and healthcare professionals to provide more guidance on nutrition, helping athletes make informed food choices. By educating young athletes about the science-based benefits of a balanced diet, that includes meat and dairy, this will support young girls in their athletic endeavours.
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.