Proper Fast Food Choices

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By Chad Zimmerman

You're short on time and low on cash, but you need some grub. Fast food is your only option. What can you order that will fuel you right for tonight's practice or game? Plenty of options are available, according to Susan Kleiner, the Seattle Seahawks' former nutritionist, author of Power Eating (Human Kinetics 2001) and owner of High Performance Nutrition. Here, Kleiner offers some tips for dining on the go.

Rules

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By Chad Zimmerman

You're short on time and low on cash, but you need some grub. Fast food is your only option. What can you order that will fuel you right for tonight's practice or game? Plenty of options are available, according to Susan Kleiner, the Seattle Seahawks' former nutritionist, author of Power Eating (Human Kinetics 2001) and owner of High Performance Nutrition. Here, Kleiner offers some tips for dining on the go.

Rules

Don't supersize it.
Avoid fried foods.
Load up on fresh vegetables and fruits.
Drink milk.
Choose freshly made foods, not processed ones.

Subway
Subway has some great choices. They have lean protein sources, such as turkey, chicken and tuna, and fresh vegetables. You can choose a healthy dressing and pile on as many vegetables as you want. A serving of cheese is fine, but mayo and extra dressing just add extra calories and unhealthy fat to the meal. Subway: If you're trying to minimize calories, order a six inch rather than 12-inch sub. Order double turkey or chicken. You'll fill up with extra protein instead of extra bread.

Mexican
Many athletes don't get enough beans in their diet; dining on Mexican cuisine is a great way to up your intake. Order a bean or chicken burrito or taco. Bean burritos are a great source of fiber, and chicken burritos provide a lot of good protein. Both are even healthier when loaded with veggies. Tacos are also a great protein source. If you can, order tacos with beans. Avoid overloading your tacos or burrito with sour cream or cheese, though. Both make food heavy, so you won't be able to train or play for a few hours.

Pizza
Vegetable pizzas are great choices. When you start adding sausage and pepperoni, though, the extra calories don't do you any good. Pizza varies in greasiness from place to place; you can actually see the oils floating on top of some pizzas. If you're a weight-class athlete who has to control calories, soak up the grease with a napkin.

Salads
Order salads with the darkest, leafiest greens. Olives and avocados are great because they have healthy fats that promote performance and health. Beans, eggs, peas, carrots and beets are all great toppings, too. Don't top your salad with fried foods, such as croutons or Chinese noodles, or fatty meats like bacon; you don't want your salad to become a fat feast.

Dressings
If you turn your salad into soup with dressing, you're negating its health benefits. One small ladle of dressing is enough, and don't use creamy dressings.

Beverages
Order milk. It has major performance benefits, and boosts the nutritional content of your meal.

Milkshakes
Sugar provides the most benefits after a game, practice or workout, so that's when you can go for a milkshake. The sugar goes right into your muscles to refuel them and the protein in the milk helps muscles recover for the next day's activity.

Burger joints
Grilled chicken is always a good choice at Burger King, Wendy's and McDonald's. Always avoid fried foods, especially breaded chicken, and go for flame-broiled or toasted. To get some veggies, add a slice of tomato and lettuce to your sandwich. Try the salads, too. They're packed with vitamins and minerals, which increase your energy metabolism. Order milk to drink. What better protein to feed your muscles than the whey protein in milk?

Tip:
Breakfast: Fast food places aren't bad for breakfast. Get a bowl of cereal with milk or order eggs and pancakes. Stay away from the fatty stuff like sausage and bacon.

Fries
If you're going to have fries, order a small—that's okay for most athletes. A large fry will make you sluggish and full, and will not promote a lot of activity. The big problem with fries is the fat in them, making them stay in your stomach for a long time. If you have a big fry and then try to work out or play, the fries keep the blood around your stomach instead of your muscles, which leads to cramping and weaker performances.

Burgers
Don't order the largest burger available; you don't need a double or triple. If you want a cheeseburger, order a cheeseburger. Few people need a day's worth of calories in one meal. That amount of food will hinder your performance, because it sits in your stomach for so long.

Tip:
Remove the slice: When your sandwich has three slices of bread on it, get rid of the center slice. It's really just white flour with no redeeming value.

A great meal
A Wendy's baked potato with chili and a salad is a fabulous choice. Put the chili and a little cheese on top of the baked potato, have a salad and drink some milk. You've got a great meal.

Meal deal
Just because the meal—a sandwich, cookie, chips and drink—is less expensive than buying everything separately, it's still more expensive than the sandwich and milk. It's not a bargain to buy extra stuff that actually hinders performance instead of promoting it.

Hold the sauce
Always ask for sauce on the side, then use it sparingly. An even better choice than the sauce is mustard or ketchup. Relish and pickles are great options, too.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: PROTEIN | CARBS | ATHLETE MEAL PLAN | FOODS | HEALTH | SANDWICH | CHEESE | CHICKEN | SALAD | VEGETABLES | STOMACH | BEANS | BREAD | SUBWAY