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Travel can be hard and Fast Food can be convenient. First, let’s challenge the thought that since you are eating fast food you can’t make sound nutritional decisions. It’s important that you enjoy what you eat and it is also important to fuel for performance or your work day. If eating certain foods will make you feel sluggish or take away from performance then let’s change that! Here are simple tips and meals that can make fast food convenient and nutritious!
What to look for?
Find options on the menu lower in added sugars.
Look for items lower in Saturated Fat and Avoid Trans-fat. Especially before the competition.
Athletes have higher sodium needs but sodium is still worth looking at when ordering fast food! If their is no way to reduce sodium, then prioritize more water.
Adding is Key!
Look to add fiber!
Add protein-rich snacks prior to eating fast food so you are not overly hungry.
Add color to the meal to form a complete plate!
Drink Plenty of Water, Fast food meals tend to be high in sodium heightening your need for water.
Ordering at Chipotle:
Pre-competition focus on Carbohydrates and Protein.
Save Fats such as queso, guac, sour cream, cheese for Post-competition
Double protein for Post-Workout to promote muscle recovery
Veggies & Brown rice both pre- or Post-workout for adequate energy and micronutrients
Tips Ordering Coffee drinks:
Aim to limit Added Sugar
Avoid syrups is preferred, Sugar-Free syrups are better alternative to support weight loss.
Choose low-fat milk to support weight loss goals.
Whole-fat milk may be preferred for weight gain goals.
I advocate for planning both meals and snacks when you will be traveling for work or games, but also on vacation. Please see previous travel nutrition resources that I have outlined on both Instagram and Twitter. You can absolutely be healthy and meet both your health and fueling needs by scoping out the menu, restaurants, and hotel options ahead of time. Many often struggle to make good choices at the moment so it’s wise to plan ahead. I always express we have time to map out our travel because like sporting events and work meetings we know the calendar in advance. In previous blogs and presentations, I have made the effort to always say, “opportunity favors the prepared.” Despite the limited choices, you can make healthy choices at fast food places, gas stations, restaurants, and even concession stands.
So here are some guidelines to equip you with tools to make successful choices on the road, at the table, in the drive-through, and at the sporting event.
-Travel (Pack a cooler).
-You always want to pair a protein with produce.
-Failure to plan will result in limited options and will put you in a situation to be less inclined to make a healthy choice that supports your fueling and health goals.
-Fruits like (apples, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, and banana)
-Veggies like (cucumber slices, carrot and celery sticks, sliced bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes)
-Always choose grilled, baked, roasted, or steamed in regards to veggies and protein
-Make sure your bread or bun is whole-grain
-Water in place of soda and fruit juices
-Reduce portion size (don’t supersize to save a buck) your waistline will thank you. Ask for a to-go box immediately upon ordering to have a plan to portion control.
-Replace fries with Greek yogurt, salad, or fruit cup option
-Ask for dressing on the side
-Replace mayo with avocado as a healthier option to increase creamy taste, texture, and flavor
-Use olive oil or avocado in place of dressing if able
Subway has protein bowls now!
You can replace the high-fat, high-kcal dressings, mayo, or spicy blue cheese dressing with avocado or olive oil.
You can also ask for the dressing on the side. Choose grilled chicken instead of fried. Ask for additional proteins (egg, grilled meats, cheese) to meet your needs!
Chick-fil-A (one of the most popular fast food places amongst teens and my athletes personally)
Young athletes and adults will still go to fast food places and will yes, eat chicken nuggets. So, practical tips are something I am a huge proponent of. Would I rather you eat a grilled turkey cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread, spinach, and avocado slices with fruit? Yes, absolutely! But the reality is …that won’t always be an option. So, read on for healthy options at Chick-Fil-A!
470 calories, 24 g fat, 22 g carbs, and 43 g protein
A grilled chicken sandwich is also a wonderful option
Roughly 380 kcal, 44g of carbs, and 28 g of protein!
You can ask for extra tomato and lettuce
If you’re concerned about consuming more protein and fewer carbs you can use half the bread. Bear in mind the bun is multigrain so it is still healthier than white as it contains B-vitamins and has not been stripped of its nutrients like most white bread.
Fruit cup instead of side salad or ask for dressing on the side and enjoy the salad.
When eating at a sit-down restaurant:
-Scope out the menu before going
Never go to the restaurant OVERLY HUNGRY! You will overheat and be unhappy with yourself.
Have a small snack before you go containing some protein. A few great choices would be:
1/2 apple with some peanut butter
1 string cheese with cucumber slices
Hummus and carrot sticks
1/2 protein bar (travel remember)
-Meet your needs (protein, produce, portion)
-Ask for a box before the food arrives to have a plan to consume the proper portion. (Many restaurants often serve 3x the appropriate portion). Consume half of each of the food on your plate and put the remainder in the box to take home or put in your hotel fridge!
Concession stand/gas station eats
**Keep in mind convenience stores should not be your reliance as you will spend more money out of sheer convenience. Versus if you purchase these items ahead of time before travel you will save money and also not put yourself in a situation to be limited in making a healthy choice.
But should you need to stop without packing a cooler here are some healthy options!
-Nuts and seed bags (pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds)
-Pick fruit (apple, pear, fruit cup, grapes, banana) and pair it with a protein bar (see above options)
-Almond butter or peanut butter packs (Justin’s Almond Butter or Jif)
-Hummus and carrots mixture
-Greek yogurt (Chobani is found at every gas station)
-Quest protein bars or RXbars (almost every gas station carriers these)
-Muscle milk, Fairlife Corepower protein shake, Shamrock Farms Rockin’ Refuel, and Organic Farms
In closing, failure to consume enough quality protein, carbs, and overall kcal will increase the risk of injury, decrease performance, hinder cognition, blunt focus, and limit the overall health athletic performance of the individual. Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good. It is also important to lead by example if you are a parent or coach leading a group of student-athletes.
This blog offers several tools to fill your toolbox as a coach, athlete, parent, and beyond. I am passionate about helping both young student-athletes and adults live a healthy lifestyle. I kindly ask you to share it on social media pages as well as with your student-athletes.
Say a prayer for our government officials in office while you’re at it. Our world needs some extra prayers and kindness. As you know, I am a Christian-focused dietitian and am employed by Jesus Christ. This entire platform is used to help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ nourish their temple. But for the goal of glorifying God. It’s all for Him.
In good health, safety, and athletic performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck is a registered dietitian nutritionist and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.
What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here. Testimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information