Jan 12, 2018
Deciphering Fast Food
Lindsey Remmers

When athletes hear the words “fast food” they probably think of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell. But Subway, Quiznos, Panera Bread, other sandwich shops, and the local pizzeria can also be considered fast food. Overall, this second set of restaurants have healthier options, but are still convenient for athletes on the go.

At sandwich shops, athletes can choose whole wheat bread, leaner meats like turkey, ham, roast beef, and grilled chicken, and healthy side options instead of French fries. For example, at Panera Bread, sandwiches come with a choice of apple, side salad, or plain chips. Quiznos has racks of baked chips to choose from. And side salads are usually available at any sandwich shop.

A large slice of cheese pizza usually runs less than 250 calories, and a meat lover’s slice is still usually less than 400 (compare that to an Angus Deluxe Burger from McDonald’s, which is 750 calories). When athletes are choosing toppings at a pizzeria, they can pile on the veggies to add some crunch, fiber, and inflammation-fighting antioxidants, and choose leaner meats like chicken, ham, or Canadian bacon instead of bacon, pepperoni, or sausage. They can also look for hand-tossed crust over original and steer clear of any pizza that is made with alfredo or a cream sauce.

However, athletes shouldn’t just assume that anything they order at a sandwich shop or pizzeria is a healthy choice because it’s not from a hamburger joint. They should still check the ingredients and nutritional information if possible.

Finally, regardless of the type of meal–fast food or not–we tell our athletes to slow down while eating. This ensures they pay attention to how they feel so that they stop eating when they are satisfied and don’t overeat. We also advise them to pay attention to how they feel after the meal and take note of whether a certain food item or amount made them feel sick or lethargic–the idea is to not make the same mistake next time.

The inconvenience of traveling doesn’t have to ruin an athlete’s diet. It’s just a matter of preparing and knowing what the best options are. When athletes choose foods that make their body feel good, they are more likely to compete at the top of their game

Lindsey Remmers, MS, RD, CSSD, LMNT, is the Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Nebraska.

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