Although it is cheaper and better to prepare your own food, you may often experience times when it is both impractical and inconvenient. As an OCR athlete who travels frequently, this is often the case. Why should you care about eating healthy? It is simple, the less unhealthy weight/fat you are carrying while racing, the faster you will be able to run. When caught away from my fridge stocked with chicken, egg whites, sweet potatoes and brown rice, I go to these fast food places to get good, clean, healthy food.
- Chipotle: Chipotle is my “go to” for relatively healthy fast food. To maximize the healthiness of your meal you should be ordering the following: a bowl with brown rice (low glycemic carb), black beans (not prepared in pig fat like the pinto beans, also makes a complete protein with brown rice), chicken (low saturated fat protein, double if you are looking to build muscle), lettuce (roughage), mild salsa (tomatoes for a healthy fruit/vegetable) and guacamole (healthy fat). Things to avoid are the beef, other cuts of meat, burrito wrap, sour cream and cheese, all due to their high saturated fat content. The white rice and corn are both high glycemic and will spike your blood sugar like sugar causing fat gain, unless you are eating Chipotle immediately after a workout.
- Smoothie King: If you have ever heard my opinion on smoothies before, you may notice this is the opposite of what I have said in the past. Most smoothies are loaded with sugar resulting in fat gain if you have not just finished exercising. To ensure you have a healthy smoothie, look for something with peanut butter, whole fruit (which contains fiber), almond milk and protein. This covers your protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat. The trick is to replace the fruit juice with water. Fruit juice is loaded with sugar and is what makes the smoothie poor for weight management. Feel free to skip any non-sense “add ins” that cost extra like fat burner mix, Acai or whatever the new hot weight management product of the month is. I personally like the Nutty Super Grain Vegan Smoothie (despite not being Vegan) but asking for water instead of apple juice mixed into the drink.
- Starbucks: Reduced fat turkey bacon sandwich and iced black coffee with cinnamon. Reduced fat Turkey bacon will provide minimal saturated fat (2g), with 13g of relatively clean protein (egg white and turkey bacon) along with 28g of lower glycemic carbs (whole grain bun). If you want a drink, try iced black coffee with cinnamon. The caffeine helps speed up metabolism and the cinnamon helps reduce the insulin spike that is associated with consuming carbohydrates. Almost all of the flavored drinks are loaded with sugar, 30g and up.
- McDonalds: Heaven forbid McDonalds is the only fast food source around you can still manage to come away with a decent meal. The Egg White Delight sandwich is not too bad. It packs 18g of clean protein, 3g of saturated fat and 30g of whole grain carbohydrates from the English muffin. If it is not breakfast time, the Southwest Chicken salad is not too bad. Just make sure to go with very little or no dressing and grilled chicken instead of crispy. Dressings are typically loaded with sugar, which derail people’s weight management. Your body does not care if you only ate salad for lunch but crushed 30g of sugar in your dressing. The 30g of sugar in the dressing is like drinking a soda, and will result in fat gain.
- Arby’s: The Roast Turkey Wrap with no Swiss cheese is a good option from Arby’s. The wrap instead of the bread will cut the amount of carbohydrates almost in half (77g down to 38g) and reduces the sugar by 2/3 (18g down to 6g). Not putting in Swiss cheese will also lower the saturated fat contained in your meal by a couple of grams.
- Whole Foods: While not exactly fast food, Whole Foods usually has a variety of healthy options available in their market section. Remember, just because it is in Whole Foods, does not automatically make it healthy. Whole Foods still serves crap like fried chicken, pizza and sugar loaded cookies (but they are organic!!!…yeah…your body still sees it as sugar). If you are in Whole Foods, they typically offer healthy proteins like grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp. For healthy carbohydrates try one of their salads (go minimal on the dressing), vegetables or sweet potatoes. For fats, the salmon covers that or the nuts contained in many of their salads. Another option is to go with their brown rice sushi, which will often contain a healthy fat, carbohydrate and protein. Just be sure to avoid the tempura or rolls with lots of sauce drizzled on top.
Even if these meals do not sound appetizing, try using some of the techniques described to help with weight management. Weight management is not a simple decision that you make one day but rather a series of 30-50 decisions you make each day built upon week after week and year after year. Make small adjustments and you will see results over time. Aim for less sugar, less saturated fats, adding cinnamon to your carbohydrates and avoid white carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, white potatoes). Best of luck and let us know if you have any favorite healthy fast food meals that you enjoy.