Fast food restaurants provide a quick, cheap and filling meal. However, many fast food menu items are high in fat, calories and sugar. They’re also low in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Here are some tips to help you eat a healthy fast food meal.Fast foods are often FAT foods! Too many fat calories get in the way of eating enough carbohydrates. If you eat too few carbohydrates, you lose energy for sports performance. Carbohydrate foods include bread, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables and beans. Fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrate, which means you should cut down on high-fat pre-game snacks or meals. You don’t want to be sluggish, throw up or have stomach cramps during sports.
Thick crust pizza tastes great and provides lots of carbohydrate. The cheese also gives you calcium. Pepperoni or other greasy meats add fat, so try veggie varieties, meatballs or plain cheese.Order burgers with extra tomatoes and lettuce. Hold the sauce. If you’re in the mood for fries, choose the small size.Roasted or grilled chicken dinners are definitely better than fried chicken. But there’s still a lot of fat in the skin. So remove the skin before you start munching.Pasta (spaghetti or noodles with meat/poultry/veggies), chili, hearty soups are mmm good!
Salad bars can offer healthy high carbohydrate meals. Ask for extra broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, beans or other colorful veggies on top of your salad. Go easy on the salad dressing; you may add nearly 400 calories of fat! Or try diet dressing. Enjoy whole grain rolls or pasta salads. Be careful of cream sauce.When ordering deli sandwiches, emphasize the bread and veggies. Go light on the spread. Choose whole grain breads to add fiber.Wraps and pita sandwiches are a new trend in fast foods and they can be low or high in fat calories depending on the ingredients. Choose wraps that are filled with lots of fresh vegetables, as well as meat or cheese. Watch out for high fat toppings which soak the wrap with calories.
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Focus on carbs for energy. Choose whole-grain bread, crackers, cereal, pasta and potatoes for lasting energy. Save sports drinks for an energy boost during endurance sports or training sessions lasting more than an hour.
Spread out protein foods. Active bodies need protein to support growth and build and repair hardworking muscles. Young athletes should spread protein foods throughout the day, having some at each meal and with most snacks, such as eggs and whole-grain toast with fruit for breakfast or a sandwich with low-sodium deli meat on whole-grain bread with yogurt and raw veggies for lunch. Plant-based protein foods like tofu and beans also are great choices.
Use caution with fatty foods. Fatty foods slow digestion, which is not ideal for an athlete facing a competition. Greasy, fried foods and fatty desserts are filling and may leave your athlete feeling tired and sluggish. Skip the fries or pizza before practice, and keep fat content on the light side.
Eat with food safety in mind. Nothing will slow down your athlete more than food poisoning – having stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea after eating. Make sure you store snacks at proper temperatures to prevent spoilage. Keep cheese, yogurt, meat, eggs and salads made with mayonnaise in a refrigerator or cooler. Shelf-stable items such as nuts, granola bars and whole fruit can be tossed into a sports bag without a problem.
Flow with fluids. Good hydration should begin early in the day before kids even set foot on the playing field. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day leading up to a game, especially in the two to three hours before game time. Continue to drink during the game (about 1/2 cup every 15 minutes) and afterward to rehydrate after sweat loss. Water should still be kids' go-to drink for exercise that's under 60 minutes. Training sessions over an hour may require a sports drink to replace electrolytes lost through heavy sweating.
Timing is everything. When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Your body needs two to three hours to digest a regular meal such as breakfast or lunch before an athletic event, while a small snack such as a granola bar can be eaten 30 minutes to an hour in advance. Load up at meals but don't overeat, and keep snacks light as you get closer to game time
Topping it off with milk. In addition to water, fat-free and low-fat milk also are smart ways to help young athletes meet their fluid needs. But that's not all. Just one cup of milk packs 15 to 24 percent of the protein most school-aged kids need in a day. It also delivers important nutrients of which most young athletes don't get enough, such as calcium, which is critical for building strong bones, transmitting nerve impulses, and helping muscles contract, as well as potassium for fluid balance.