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Smart Food Choices

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

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If you race motocross chances are you travel quit a bit and with that comes eating at restaurants. One of the quickest ways to destroy the work of a good training program is with a poor diet. I'll make the assumption that when you eat at home you do so with healthy choices. Low sodium, good fats, whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and very little if any processd foods. Although many restaurants offer healthy menu choices, most restaurant food is high in fat, sodium, and calories to make the food taste as good as possible. When you are heading to a race sometimes eating at a restaurant is the only option. But you don't want to sacrifice your training in the process by making poor food choices. With the help of Dietician, Kim Wathen we offer this simple guide to making better choices while dining out.

Mexican

Unfortunately, the average Mexican food joint in the U.S. cannot boast about the health benefits of its meals. Americans have super-sized and super-fattened nearly every dish that we consider Mexican today; in fact, many Mexican dishes were created in the U.S., so they don't even exist south of the border. American-style Mexican food is usually high in fat, sodium and calories, and it uses less of the fresh, nutrient-packed ingredients that traditional Mexican food includes.

What to Skip

  • Sour Cream: File this under the useless-addition-to-food column. It's pretty tasteless and has over three times the fat content of vanilla ice cream!
  • Chorizo (spicy pork sausage seasoned with paprika): 11 grams of fat per ounce, four of them saturated and 351 mg of Sodium.
  • Tortilla Chips: We all love tortilla chips and it's really hard not to eat two baskets full of these salty little demons before the waitress has taken your order. But try to resist the temptation to order more. Just say no when asked if you want more chips! 12 Chips (1 oz. contain 140 calories with 7 grams of total fat, 19 grams of Carbs, and 120 mg of sodium.
  • Taco Bell Nachos Bell Grande: 770 calories, 44 grams of fat (9 sat. and 3 trans.), 77 grams of Carbs., and a whopping 1280 mg of sodium.
  • Chipotle's Beef Burrito: 1,026 calories and 46 grams of fat.
  • Baja Fresh Steak quesadilla: 1,450 calories and 86 grams of fat.
  • Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill Carne Asada Taco with rice and beans: 710 calories and 22 grams of fat.

What to Look For

  • Grilled Fish: Grilled is almost always good and fish tacos are amazing!
  • Salsa: Not only is it fat-free, but one-half cup of it also counts as a full serving of veggies.
  • Grilled Chicken Fajitas: Just be careful with the sides. More chicken less filler.
  • Look for these ingredients: Avocado, Beans, Chilies, Corn, and Tomatoes
  • Traditional Mexican food
  • Ceviche: 140 calories and 5 grams of fat.
  • Raw fish: usually shrimp and scallops -- marinated in lime juice and flavored with spices, such as chili, salt, cilantro, garlic, and peppercorn.
  • Chile Rellenos: 237 calories and 8 grams of fat.
  • Large Anaheim chilies stuffed with spicy meat and/or cheese.
  • Poc Chuc: 160 to 230 calories and 8 grams of fat.
  • Grilled pork steak, cooked with tomatoes, onions and spices.
  • Pacific red snapper sautéed with mushrooms, jalapeños, chilies, onions, tomatoes, and garlic.

Traditional Mexican food is high in nutrients, packed with vitamins and is generally low in fat. Sadly, Americans weeded out the "good stuff" long ago and replaced it with oil, fat and calories. Sure, American-style Mexican food tastes good but if you want to experience the benefits of true Mexican cooking, avoid the fast food and Tex Mex joints, and try something authentic.

MY FINAL TIP TO EATING WHILE ON THE ROAD; avoid fast food at all cost.

Italian

Every one loves Italian food and although pasta and pizza may be the first foods that come to mind, the menus of Italian restaurants are full of a wide variety of healthy and not so healthy choices. Here are some suggestions to help you make good selections whether you eat at a sit-down Italian restaurant or call out for a delivery from a local pizza parlor.

What to Skip

  • Fried calamari: Say it ain't so but this appetizer is anything but healthy. 300 calories per serving with 13 grams of fat.
  • Alfredo Sauce: In general white sauces in Italian are bad choices. One serving can contain over 30 grams of fat!
  • Garlic Bread: Take the empty calories of white bread and add a little garlic and a lot of butter and what do you get? One of the worst choices on the menu. If you must, eat one pice and walk away!
  • Avoid dishes that have been breaded and fried, such as eggplant or veal parmigiana.
  • Steer clear of entrees prepared with a lot of cheese, which can be very high in fat. Ask that your entree be prepared without oil.

What to Look For

  • Pasta can be a good low-fat meal, depending on the sauce. Red clam or marinara sauces are good.
  • Marinara Sauce: Red sauce made with tomatoes. Packed with flavor and the antioxidant lycopene.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Add a lot of flavor at just over a gram of fat per tablespoon.
  • Prosciutto or Carpaccio: These super-thin sliced meats (ham and raw beef, respectively) are leaner than you think.
  • Pizza. Even when you have to make a choice as unhealthy as pizza, there are still a few things you can do to make it better for you.
    • What to Skip
      • Pepperoni - 15 slices (1 oz) contains 12 grams of fat (5 grams saturated). That's almost 1 gram of fat per slice!
      • Extra cheese - High in saturated fat and sodium. If you want to have something extra on your pizza, how about extra veggies or extra red pepper flakes?
      • Deep dish - never, never, NEVER!
    • What to Look For
      • Cheese-free pizza - Delicious on its own, or add your own parmesan at home for a lower-fat alternative to traditional pies.
      • Thin crust - Fewer calories, fewer empty carbs.
      • Fresh vegetable toppings.
      • Extra napkins: Use them to pat the pizza dry, absorbing excess oil (read: fat) from the cheese.

Sushi

Over the past decade, Sushi has become very popular in America. Thankfully sushi is not a particularly unhealthy food. While rice contains a fair amount of carbohydrates (good for those with a high training volume), sushi can be eaten without it (sashimi) and in moderation. The basic ingredients make sushi healthy and light but not when you take American eating habits into account. Fortunately, most sushi restaurants don't serve very large portions but like most foreign restaurants the trend in sushi is away from traditional, healthier rolls and dishes to more "American" style choices. This generally means adding more good-tasting, bad-for-you ingredients at the expense of healthful ones. Leave it to us Americans to take a relatively healthy cuisine and turn it into something bad!

What to Skip

  • Tempura: Japanese for deep-fried.
  • Steer clear of fried or battered foods, such as dumplings and spider rolls.
  • Eel: high in both calories and fat.
  • Yellowfin and Bluefin Tuna: Be careful with these fish as they are starting to contain higher and higher amounts of Mercury.
  • Spicy Tuna Roll: This roll is packed with mayo, which is packed with fat. 11 grams of fat and 450 calories per serving.

What to Look For

  • Broiled, grilled or steamed items. Typically, soup and sashimi are low in calories.
  • Cucumber Roll: At nearly 0 grams of fat and 130 calories, now you're talking.
  • Miso soup is rich with antioxidants and protective fatty acids and a healthy dose of Vitamin K. It also boasts protein and Vitamin B and a nice selection of minerals to help boost the strength of your immune system as well as being low in fat and calories.
  • Fats: Most seafood is naturally low in fat and what fat is found in them is generally unsaturated fat rich in Omega-3. Since sushi is often served raw, no fat is introduced in its preparation.
  • Proteins: Fish, tofu, seafood, egg, and many other sushi fillings contain high levels of protein.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: These are found in many of the vegetables used for sushi.

Chinese

Chinese dishes, such as steamed vegetables, fish and rice are very healthy, nutritionally balanced and low in fat and calories. But not all Chinese foods fall into this category. Here are some suggestions on how to order Chinese.

What to Skip

  • Sweet and Sour Pork: Keep your fork away from this pork. At PF Chang's, their dish contains 46 grams of fat (14 grams saturated) and 1100 calories.
  • Fried Rice: Steamed rice contains 2.5 grams of fat while fried rice contains 14 grams of fat per 8 oz serving. Why fry?
  • Avoid crispy chow mein noodles, which are high in fat.

What to Look For

  • Good low-fat Chinese entrees include: chicken, beef, pork or shrimp chow mein, chop suey, moo goo gai pan, and stir-fried meat with vegetables.
  • Steamed Brown Rice: Fat-free and a sodium-free fiber boost.
  • Chopsticks: They'll make you eat more slowly so you get the chance to feel full.
  • Fortune cookies: A sweet fat-free treat for only 30 calories.

Indian

Indian food is one of my favorite foods. Hot and spicy curries, a wide choice of vegetarian dishes, delicious chutneys and breads that range from thin and crispy to fat and filled; all these make Indian food both a good choice and bad. The biggest problem is portion control and the famous buffet. First bit of advice; never order the buffet. Always order a la carte.

What to Skip

  • Mango Chutney: This unassuming Indian mainstay packs 60 calories per tablespoon. Chutney is high in sugar (14 grams per table spoon).
  • Chicken Korma: You knew the creamy goodness could not be healthy. 500 calories per serving and 35 grams of fat.
  • Dishes cooked with rice (look for the word "biryani" on the menu), such as Lamb Biryani
  • Dishes with a creamy tomato sauce (look for the word "masala" on the menu), such as Chicken Tikka Masala.
  • Sides such as poppadums (crisp bread dried and fried in hot fat) and samosas (deep-fried vegetable/meat stuffed pastry)

What to Look For

  • Tandoori Chicken: The quintessential Indian dish is only 260 calories a serving. Filling and fantastic.
  • Dal (also spelled dhal, dahl, or daal): Lentil dishes are high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants and low in calories.
  • Dishes made with green vegetables, usually spinach (look for the word "saag" on the menu), such as Chicken Saag (sautéed spiced chicken and spinach).
  • Dishes marinated in spices and roasted in a tandoori oven (look for the word "tikka" on the menu), such as Fish Tikka.
  • Roti (unleavened bread baked in clay oven).
  • Raita (cucumber, yogurt, and herb accompaniment).
That should cover most of the major restaurants. If you follow these tips you will undoubtedly improve your diet while dining at restaurants without sacrificing the pleasure of a good meal. My final tip to eating while on the road; avoid fast food AT ALL COST. Enjoy your meal!

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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Discussion

  1. Gravatar
    Vince Wall August 21, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Please do more of this for American style food, thanks.

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