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Interview: Victoria Pendelton

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If you're struggling to keep your New Year healthy eating plan on track, help is on hand in the form of British Olympic track cyclist Victoria Pendleton. We caught up with the Hovis Wholemeal ambassador - with whom she's developed a unique Stop Snacking Facebook app to help you stop reaching for the biscuit tin at 11am - for her Olympic-medal-winning advice on how keep your daily diet healthy.

You’ve teamed up with Hovis to help encourage the nation to stop snacking – tell us about it

Recent research from Hovis has revealed the average British woman will devour 1,092 unhealthy snacks this year, from crisps, sweets and biscuits to cakes and chocolate. So, Hovis have launched the Stop Snacking Facebook app, which encourages women to try a Hovis Wholemeal breakfast and then set a snack-related challenge in return for daily prizes, rewards for completion and a range of recipes - and motivational advice from me! I believe the key to sticking to a January health kick is all about motivation and a balanced diet which includes a proper start to the day.

What sort of breakfasts would you recommend that will help prevent snack attacks before lunch?

I tend to have two slices of wholemeal toast as its rich in fibre which can help you feel fuller for longer and so could help stop snacking. I have it for breakfast and it works for me! My personal favourite topping is peanut butter topped with slices of banana.

What’s your usual daily diet?

I’m a big fan of bread, so after my toast for breakfast I’ll have a sandwich for lunch (with cheese or chicken and salad) followed by a piece of fruit and a yoghurt. In the evening, my current favourite meal is marinated Moroccan chicken with cous cous using my George Forman grill. I love it and, even better, it’s ready in five minutes which is ideal after a day’s training!

Do you try and keep to a healthy diet? Or do you eat what you want because you exercise?

I actually enjoy eating healthily so it’s not as if I have to go out my way eating what I know is good for me. I realise I can probably eat what I want but I choose to stick to healthy foods. I also love cooking and making things from scratch.

So many people start a healthy eating plan after Christmas but can’t keep it up. What are your tips on keeping to a healthy eating plan?

Having a good healthy breakfast is really important to me as it sets me up for the day. I would recommend if you have a tendency to snack, think ahead and carry healthy snacks in your handbag to avoid buying junk, and drinking lots of water is essential as a lot of people tend to confuse hunger with de-hydration, so keep yourself hydrated.

Obviously you cycle a lot, but what other types of exercise do you do?

I’m not allowed to do many other sports because of risk of injury, but I do a lot of free weights and resistance in the gym six times a week. I also train on a static bike when I’m not on the track.

When it’s cold outside and you just want to veg in front of the TV, how do you keep motivated?

It’s my job. If I don’t train my competitors will be and I want to win gold! The guilt definitely takes over and means sitting on the sofa doesn’t last long.

Obesity is a growing problem in the UK; how do you think we can tackle it?

I think by giving people more opportunities to participate in a variety of different sports and activities. There’s definitely something out there for everyone, you’ve just got to find it.

Do you think kids are being encouraged enough to do sports at school?

I don’t think so, and with funding cuts on P.E. it’s even worse. I definitely wasn’t encouraged enough as it’s not seen as an important enough subject, which is stupid as it’s all about learning good habits and looking after your body.

When we won the Olympic bid we were promised loads of new sports facilities that have seemed to have been forgotten about. Do you think these would encourage us to be a more active nation?

I think so; if there is a facility easily available I think people would make more effort. It’s difficult to be more active especially if things aren’t accessible – it’s all about giving people the right opportunities.

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