Struggling With Basketball Nutrition While Eating Out?
7 Keys to Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Eating out can be a huge hurdle for any basketball player wanting to stick to a healthy eating program. With countless restaurant options and even more menu items, it can be confusing to know which meals are actually healthy or not. It’s easier once you learn what to look for and how to decide what your healthier options are for building a meal worthy of your healthy basketball nutrition diet.
Unfortunately, there won’t always be the perfect healthy meal option available when eating out, so try not to stress or overthink it in those situations – especially when you aren’t able to choose the place you eat. Simply, do you best to make the healthiest choices possible.
I’m going to share with you my top seven tips for choosing the healthiest meal options available to you when eating out as a basketball player no matter where you may end up!
1. Eat at local restaurants – there are more benefits to eating local cuisine than choosing larger chain restaurants. Not only are you supporting the local economy, but there are typically fresher, locally-sourced organic options when you eat at local places. While it’s impossible to completely skip out on the large chain joints, every time you do end up local you can smile knowing that you will have fresher, healthier foods to choose from for a healthy basketball diet.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for several modifications to your order – sometimes, it can seem like an inconvenience to the restaurant staff to ask for changes to a dish. While some restaurants don’t allow modifications to dishes, most do. Depending on where you are, you may need to request up to four or five changes to a menu item in order to tailor it to meet your basketball nutrition needs. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you want or need, so long as you are courteous and polite. There is no shame in making several changes to a dish if that’s what it’s going to take to help you stick to a healthy basketball nutrition plan while eating out – just smile and ask!
3. Jumpstart your meal with water – there are several tasty and tempting sugar filled drink options on menus these days, but the best way to jumpstart your meal is by having a glass of water with no ice and squeezed lemon. Room temperature water is close to body temperature, allowing water to flow through the digestive system easily to prepare the body for digestion. Keep in mind that dehydration is easily mistaken for excessive hunger, so a glass before your meals can help keep you from overeating. Drinking water during or immediately after meals disrupts the digestive enzyme activity interfering with proper digestion. Try to avoid having water at these times. Generally, it’s fine to have water again about 20 minutes after you are finished eating.
4. Overlook the low-calorie marketing scheme – while fewer calories certainly can mean a healthier meal, this is not always the case. It’s very common to see large chain restaurants promoting a “low-calorie menu” in order to appeal to the healthy living crowd. The problem with this ‘tunnel vision focus on calories’ approach is that they leave out all of the more important information like the fat, sugar and sodium content. For example, it’s safe to assume that a smaller portion of macaroni and cheese will have fewer calories than a larger portion, yet both are still the same processed, refined food with the same amount of fat and sodium regardless of how many calories are in the actual dish. When making your decision for staying on track with your healthy basketball nutrition, don’t place too much importance on the calories and consider whether the foods are fresh and unprocessed instead.
5. Consider the sugar, sodium and unhealthy fat content —Fried foods are the number one thing to steer clear of regardless of whether it’s a meat or vegetable due to unhealthy oils high in bad fat and sodium that are typically used in the frying process. The next big thing to avoid are substitute sugars that you’ll find on the table. These contain harmful ingredients for the body. Some soups can be very high in sodium, so try to limit your consumption of these as well. If you stick to fresh, whole foods like lean, grilled meats, whole grains, fruits and veggies then you won’t have to worry much about the sugar, sodium and unhealthy fat content in your meal. Healthy fats, natural sugars and unrefined salts are ok though since they actually provide nutritional benefit to the body. Healthy fat options include avocado, nuts, seeds and fresh olives. The healthiest sweetener typically available is going to be honey, and stick with sea salt if the restaurant has it.
6. Start with a lean protein source – Protein is a basic part of any balanced, nutritious diet. Basketball players have an extra need for protein to support strong muscles because of all the energy expended on a daily basis at workouts, practices and games. A high-quality, lean protein source should be the first thing you consider when putting together your healthy meal for basketball nutrition. Protein helps you to feel full more quickly and for a longer period of time. Choosing lean animal sources of protein like fish, turkey and chicken as well as plant-based sources like avocados, seeds, whole grains, beans and nuts are ideal. Remember, skip out on the fried meats as well as keeping your consumption of more fatty meats like beef and pork to a minimum.
7. Stick with whole grains, fruits and veggies as your sides – most entrées come with side dish choices, and your healthiest picks are always going to be whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. The healthiest ways to order your veggies are raw, steamed or grilled and contrary to popular American belief – french fries don’t count as a veggie! Apart from choosing veggies as your side dishes, salads are always a very healthy option so long as you choose a bad fat-free dressing like lemon juice and olive or a healthy vinaigrette. Bring your own dressing with you if you can’t count on the restaurant having what you need. Sticking to a healthy basketball diet while eating out shouldn’t have to seem impossible or be confusing.
There will be times that it seems more difficult than others, but by following these tips you will be able to wisely pick out the healthiest food options available to meet your basketball nutrition needs while eating out.