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What to eat?

Posted Oct 01 2008 9:26pm

I live with a hungry male endurance athlete. With us both putting in many weekly hours of training we go through a lot of the same foods. These are a few of our staple foods: eggs, egg beaters, skim milk, soy milk, frozen waffles, veggie and lean meat, cottage cheese, string cheese, veggies, fruit, PB, whey protein, oatmeal, lots of different types of bread, whole grain cereal and trail mix (nuts and raisins). Oh and chocolate for Karel. If I could, I would prepare every meal for Karel so that he never has to eat out. I never rely on fast food for a meal and since a very young age, my parents always had me bring my lunch to school. Everyday for high school I had a PB and jelly sandwich, pretzels, string cheese and carrots. Every single day I had the same thing. Unfortunately, the rest of my vegeterian diet didn't reflect a healthy diet. I was big on cheese, bread and very little veggies and fruit. However, after 14 years of being a vegetarian, I am finally figuring it all out.
I make Karel dinner almost every night and I try to be creative and healthy. last night we had lots of fresh veggies but I also made lettuce wraps w/ cuscous, meat (veggie for me), tomatoes and cheese. It was a yummy dinner. We both love breakfast and since we both train early in the morning on an empty stomach, we have no problem getting in a smoothie and a healthy breakfast. This morning I had a great 9 mile run and an hour spin on my bike and Karel did a sprint workout (crit style) for 75 min. on his bike. After a workout like that, a healthy breakfast is mandatory.
So I've mentioned breakfast and dinner but what about lunch. Well, this is a hard topic for Karel and I because Karel hardly has time for lunch, just like many people out there. Especially athletes who are trying to squeeze in a workout during lunch or have a busy work schedule, I understand that lunchtime is hard to stay on track with a healthy diet. With Karel trying to save gas, he bikes to the beach when he has to work at the other shop (not the trek store 1 mile down the road). Therefore, he relies on a pre-made sandwich which usually lasts until 10:30am. I wish Karel and many others would bring a lunch to work but I understand it doesn't always work out that way. Early morning workouts, straight to work, late nights..I totally understand.
When it comes to healthy eating I try to be practical. Although my focus is on sports nutrition, my consultations are designed to teach people how to eat for a lifetime. Regardless of the situation, circumstance or time in life, I want to be sure people are eating conciously and recognizing what the body needs, dependent on exercise intensity and volume. Because it is important that all people exercise, you don't have to be an athlete to learn how to eat right.
So, back to Karel. What a trouper that he lets me educate him with healthy eating. Just like me, Karel wants to eat well in order to perform well. I find that those who want to lose weight are worried about feeling restricted and missing out one certain foods. Well, if it wasn't for those certain foods people would have less cravings and a more manageable diet without weight gain. If you truely want to get in control of your eating, you don't only need to learn how to eat well but you must follow through with consuming different foods.
I went to work so I could find Karel and everyone else, some healthy foods to eat when you can't bring your lunch. I am still amazed with the "healthy" items on the menus because they are filled with sodium and fat. Both of which can be avoided by making your own meals but...I understand that not everything works out like you'd like and you can't always get what you want. I am also amazed on how cheap foods are when you eat fast food. But, I guess you get what you pay for so expect high fructose corn syrup, saturated/trans fat, sodium and other additives and perservatives in your fast-food meals/snacks. Also, you never know how the food is prepared so please avoid eating fast food and eating unfamiliar food the week before a race.
Eating out shouldn't become a regular thing. If you took the time to leave work, order and wait for you food, pay for your food, pay for gas and then eat you will have saved a lot of time and money by preparing your meals at home.
Here are some of my suggestions:
Taco Bell
Not for the vegetarian but any of the Fresco (no cheese) items will give you 150-180 calories for the tacos and 330 for the burritos. The spicy chicken soft taco comes in with 180 calories, 640 mg sodium and 6 grams of fat. Although one taco may not fill you up, stop by the grocery store and pick up a bag of chopped fresh veggies or fruit and a individual serving of cottage cheese. Now you have a healthy and quick meal.
Arby's
Be sure to avoid dressings and toppings when ordering out. You can save a lot of calories, sodium and fat without losing the taste. I suggest the Roast Turkey Reuben Sandwich w/o thousand island. You can keep the cheese but ask the person preparing the sandwich if you can only have 1 slice of cheese. This sandwich comes in at 451 calories and 17grams of fat, with 823 mg of sodium. Another option is the Southwest chicken wrap without one of the cheeses (it comes with pepper jack and cheddar) and order it without the ranch sauce (as for salsa or a fat-free dressing on the side if possible). The wrap will give you 376 calories and 13 grams of fat. I am not happy about the sodium at 1213, which is coming from the chicken. Ask for roasted turkey to only give you 723 mg. Although both meals are high in sodium, you are going to have a hard time reducing sodium when eating out. Therefore, have half of the sandwich or wrap and order a side salad w/ fat-free dressing on the side and bring a piece of high fiber fruit (apple or pear) to work to eat with the 1/2 sandwich or wrap. Save the rest for after your evening workout.
McDonald's
Although there are a few items on the menu which are low in calories, I am going to stick with a fun meal that will appeal to the vegetarians or those looking for a light meal. My favorite snack on the road is the parfait from McD's w/ granola which is 160 calories and 2 grams of fat. With that, I suggest the Premium Asian salad w/o chicken (to avoid over 800 mg of sodium). The salad w/o dressing is 150 calories and 7 grams of fat and I think you will find the salad and parfait quite filling on a hectic day. Unfortunantly, even the 1.5fl oz. low fat balsamic is low fat and only 40 calories, it has 730 mg of sodium! this won't go well with your 2000mg of sodium daily allowance. I suggest going to taco bell, grabbing a bunch of hot sauce packets (when you buy a meal of course :)) and topping your salads with hot sauce (if you like hot sauce like me). If not, pick up your low fat/fat free cottage cheese if you need more for lunch.
Panara
If I am traveling for a race or flying (Atlanta airport has an atlanta bread), I like to go to Atlanta bread or Panera for a PBandJ. However, the kids PBandJ is overloaded with PB and jelly. Although it sounds strange, I ask for 2 slices of whole grain bread (toasted) and a cup of Pb and a cup of jelly (with the lid). This way, I can put on how ever much I want and since i usually travel with nuts, I like to sprinkle some trail mix on my PBandJ. Another of my favorites is the vegetarian black bean or vegetable soup but both have around 1000mg of sodium. Great for pre-race in florida! Another favorite is the seasonal salad line, which right now is the strawberry poppysead salad. This is a yummy 190 calories and 2.5g of fat. Order the whole grain bread with the salad and ask for the fat-free poppysead dressing on the side. As for the meat items, you are best with the half sandwich, half salad deal and again, avoid dressings and lots of cheese when trying to cut calories.
Subway
The under 6g of fat deal is great for saving calories but you are still getting sodium and lots of it. While most subs are around 300 calories, the oven roasted chicken breast has the lowest amount of sodium at 830mg.
Starbucks
We all need a caffeine fix but you must avoid a drink that is loaded with sugar. I like to ask for an Americano or regular coffee with a shot of sugar-free hazelnut and Karel likes his Non-fat latte. For the chocolate and vanilla lovers, the skinny mocha or vanilla grande is a nice treat at 130 calories and 17 grams of sugar (that is still 4 packets of sugar) and for a hot day, the iced tazo passion shaken ice tea is 60 calories and 15 grams of sugar.

So, when it comes to eating out you may think you are saving calories by picking the healthy items but you add in a lot of extras like sodium, fat and how a food is prepared (the unknown). Make eating out an occasion and find ways to cook at home. Just like sleeping, training (exercising), cleaning, paying bills and working, having a healthy home-cooked meal should be another priority on your list.
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