Every day I am asked questions about specifics in sport nutrition, and we end up discussing the basics such as carbohydrates, electrolytes, and supplements. The science and research is all there, and my job is to guide athletes to use the information for their individual needs for training and/or racing. Luckily, most athletes are disciplined and want to improve, so adhere to their nutrition needs. But it is important to recognize that life, schedules, family, and work can all create challenges on eating perfectly. I receive a lot of inquiries about how to stay healthy and make the right food choices when traveling, going out to eat, and riding or racing out of state. So the focus of this article is to step back from all the science of sport nutrition and offer tips and tricks that will help make the best choices when you have to deviate from your normal food patterns.
Let’s face it, with our hectic schedules we are eating out more often. It’s fine to indulge once in a while when dining out, but if you are eating out more than once a week the “empty” calories can add up quickly. It’s easy to eat a whole day’s worth of calories in just one meal out. The good news is there are plenty of healthy ways to order that allow you to indulge responsibly.
- Know your portions. Weigh and measure your food once in a while at home so you get a good idea of appropriate portions. This also helps you control portions when eating out.
- Take half to go, ask the server to wrap up half your entrée before it reaches your table.
- Avoid any dishes that have the words fried, batter dipped, creamy, cream sauce, scalloped, au gratin, butter sauce, cheesy, or alfredo. These words generally indicate the meal is higher in fat and calories.
- Order a side salad and/or veggies as a side when available. Always request salad dressing on the side and to have your veggies steamed, sans butter or sauce. You can usually replace a heavy side with vegetables or greens – don’t be shy to ask for what you want!
Mexican Restaurant Tips
- Go easy on the cheese, sour cream, and fried tortilla chips.
- Make your burrito into a salad by dumping the inside over a bed of greens and use salsa as dressing!
- Add plenty of salsa – it’s low in calories, high in flavor, and counts as a vegetable serving. Plus, the capsaicin in peppers stimulates fat burning, so there’s extra incentive.
- Guacamole is a great healthy fat, containing a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, which are nature’s anti-inflammatory. But, use a small portion, as avocado is really high in calories.
Sub or Deli Sandwich Restaurant Tips
- Choose whole grain or whole wheat breads or buns when offered. Whole grains are packed with nutrients and are a good source of fiber.
- Choose lower calorie meats such as turkey, grilled chicken, or a vegetarian option.
- Add extra vegetables for toppings.
- Go light on the cheese, ask for just one slice.
- Hold the mayo! Use vinegar, mustard, or a little olive oil to add flavor. Hummus and avocado can be great flavor enhancers too!
Pizza Restaurant Tips
- Choose lower calorie pizza toppings such as: vegetables, pineapple, chicken.
- Choose a red, tomato-based pizza sauce instead of a cream or ranch sauce.
- Ask for your pizza to be “easy on the cheese”; this can cut your calories by up to 100 per slice.
- Order thin crust. Less crust equals fewer calories.
- Choose the smallest slices. You won’t notice the size difference, yet save 50-100 calories per slice.
- Have a salad with plenty of veggies and a light dressing, so you get color and quality in the meal too!
Fast Food Restaurant Tips
- Choose a side salad or fruit as a side when available. These are lower in calories and rich in antioxidants, vitamins and fiber.
- If eating with a friend, split a small order of fries as a side to help satisfy your craving without adding too many calories.
- Hold the mayo. 1 Tbsp. of mayonnaise adds 100 calories, and 11 grams of fat. Many sandwiches will use over 2 Tbsp. of mayonnaise.
- Opt for grilled chicken or fish (instead of fried) on sandwiches, wraps and salads.
- Steer yourself towards a low calorie, healthy side such as baked potato, fruit (apple slices), or side salad with low fat dressing.
- Order water, as calories from soda add up quickly. A 32 oz. soda contains about 375 empty calories.
- Don’t be shy to try the vegetarian option, like a veggie or bean burger. They can be very yummy and much healthier, low in fat, and count as another veggie serving in your day!
- Dessert Tip! Split one dessert between the table. Just make sure to take a bite or two and pass it on. Then you can enjoy a little treat, feel satisfied, and be proud that you made a healthy choice.
Whether you are en route to a race, overcoming the end of season nutrition changes, or simply trying to improve your every day eating habits, the above tips and tricks will hopefully help you make the best choices for you. Another tip to always keep in mind is to pay attention to your hydration status. Sometimes when we munch or mindlessly over-eat, we could simply need a drink of water. Keeping fluids with you at all times can help with satiety and often calm hunger cravings. Unsweetened tea, flavored sparkling water, and kombucha are all great hydrators without any calorie guilt. Remember, these tips and trick are to help with ideas for healthy eating separate from training and racing! Refer to past articles on nutrition on cyclingutah.com on proper fueling of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and hydration on the bike and other fitness needs. Always put the gas in your body tank that is appropriate for your individual needs.
Breanne Nalder, MS, RDN has a Master’s degree in nutrition with an emphasis in sports dietetics at the University of Utah. She is a Registered Dietitian, the nutrition coach at PLAN7 Endurance Coaching, and races for the DNA Cycling p/b K4 Racing team.