In general, triathletes(and runners) have the best of intentions to eat like champions. This is pretty easy to do when you’re preparing your own meals. It’s harder to do when you have to eat out. One winter night, my six-year-old son, Jansen, decided he REALLY wanted to go to Chuck-A-Rama for dinner. My husband and I were way too tired and hungry to argue with the kids so we found ourselves dishing up dinner on the nice warm plates associated with the all-you-can-eat buffet. Ironically, it was easier to eat healthy than I thought it would be. Follow me through the buffet one plate at a time.
Plate #1 – GET YOUR GREENS
When you eat at any restaurant, your first thought should be, “How am I going to get my raw vegetable that is packed with the nutrients I need to repair my trained body?” The most obvious answer is the salad bar or a salad made with dark greens like spinach and spring mix. Iceberg lettuce has very little nutritional value. Try to get as many other raw veggies as you can stand, beans, and nuts. Don’t ruin your salad with the dressing – go for a vinagairette or a lite creamy dressing.
Plate #2 – THE MEAT OF THE ISSUE
Your next priority should be to get a lean animal protein such as chicken, fish or turkey (not breaded, of course). This should be an easy task at most restaurants. Remember, however, that overcooked protein is damaged protein that your body can’t absorb very well.
Plate #3 – CARB WITH CARE
The carbohydrate serving at restaurants should be kept to about the size of your fist. If you are working out more than 90 minutes a day, you can double the serving. Remember that you should be eating the majority of your carbs during and after your workout, not six hours later. The smartest carb choices are potatoes, brown or wild rice, fruit and steamed high starch vegetables.
Plate (or cup) #4 – HYDRATE
Hydrate all day, every day, but especially when you’re eating out. Filtered water is the best choice. If you absolutely have to have something else to drink, then add it to the dessert category.
Plate #5 – WHAT ABOUT DESSERT?
Dinner out with family or friends only gets better with dessert. If you ate a big salad, lots of protein and the right amount of high quality carbs, you should be pretty full. Luckily, this gives you a perfect excuse to share a dessert. You can have your dessert and keep your waistline as long as you avoid overindulgence. I believe the only dates you should make an exception on are race days and your birthday. On those days you deserve and should have as much as you want.
Plate #6 – QUALITY IS WORTH PAYING FOR
Do everything you can to pick eating establishments that offer the freshest food possible and that cook with real ingredients. The higher the quality of food, the better you will feel about eating out, even if it does mean spending a little more.