At 7:00 in the morning, it's hard enough to wake up and remember everything you need for the day, let alone pack a nutritious lunch. But if you want the energy you need to perform well at practice or your game, a healthy midday meal is essential. Below, Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, recommends a well-balanced lunch that's also easy to make.
Whole Wheat Bread
Carbs fuel your muscles for action, so you have to eat them. Clark recommends breads that have "whole," "rye" or "oats" on the nutrition label. These breads are rich in fiber, which helps regulate your bowel movements.
Think twice before piling on the pork. Clark says to limit your intake of bologna, salami, pepperoni and other highly processed cold cuts; they're all loaded with fat and sodium. Instead, try 3 oz. of sliced turkey. It's a lean source of 15g of protein. Not a fan of the bird? Use lean roast beef. Three ounces offer 27g of protein and enough zinc to help oxygen get to your muscles and improve your strength and performance.
Don't be afraid to load up on vegetables. "Every little bit of nutrition helps," Clark says. Try tomato slices and romaine lettuce. Or, go Popeye-style with some baby spinach leaves; they're rich in iron and vitamin A.
Wanna amp the calcium value of your sandwich? Throw on a slice of Swiss cheese; it has 22% of your recommended daily value, with less fat and more protein than American cheese.
Spread your sandwich with mustard, a fat-free alternative to mayo.
Prep for a hard workout with a banana. This potassium-loaded fruit prevents muscle cramping. Or, try a cup of grapes; they contain flavonoids, which prevent muscles from swelling post-workout.
Forgo the potato chips, which have harmful trans fats, and opt for baked corn chips, which are lower in fat. Also, corn is a whole grain (like the bread you made your sandwich with).
An additional source of calcium and protein, fat-free yogurt protects your immune system, so you stay healthy and won't miss a big game.
100% Whole Grain Fig Newtons®
Full of simple and complex carbs, they provide short- and long-term energy to help you maintain stamina on the field or on the court.
Clark suggests any 100% fruit juice. It keeps you hydrated, provides another source of carbs and pumps up your intake of vitamin C.
True or False: Fresh fruit is more nutritious than dried fruit.
False. According to the American Dietetic Association, a piece of dried fruit has nearly the same nutritional value as its fresh counterpart. The only nutritional difference might be the amount of fiber, which depends on the fruit. Chowing down a half cup of dried fruit fills you up with 1/3 of your recommended daily fruit intake.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock