Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, CSSD
Athletes, like most people, have many excuses for why they don’t eat healthy foods. However, athletes, unlike most people, participate in hard training and competition so their need for calories and nutrients are high. Skipping meals and choosing nutrient-poor junk foods can contribute to feeling tired and not getting the most out of your training. Here are some of the most common excuses I hear from athletes, and some quick fixes to break the excuse cycle.
1. “I don’t have enough time to eat healthy.” Keep your back pack stuffed with good-for-you snacks so you always have something to eat before, during or after a hard workout. My favorite healthy snacks include trail mix with nuts and dried fruits, string cheese and whole grain crackers, cans of “hand” soups ready for the microwave, or fig bars.
2. “I’m not hungry.” Hard training can depress your appetite, but sometimes you’ve got to think of food as a prescription medicine. Liquid meals are a good choice for those days when you have a hard time eating solid food. Smoothies, meal replacement drinks, blended veggies and fruits, yogurt drinks, or milk shakes can give you the calories and nutrients you need with minimum effort. With so many choices in the grocery store, coffee shops or quick service restaurants, you are sure to find something you like.
3. “Healthy food is too expensive.” I hear this a lot as I see athletes eating $5 worth of “value” meals from the fast food menu. You could get a lot more nutrition for less money by buying mini-whole wheat bagels and a jar of peanut butter. A pint of milk costs less than a soft drink, and fresh fruit in-season is less expensive than bags of chips.
4. “Healthy food doesn’t taste good.” Athletes who say this are usually stuck in a fast food rut, but even your favorite quick service restaurants are offering healthier options. And, who doesn’t think that low-fat chocolate milk, cereal, fruit and milk, yogurt with granola and/or fruit, peanut butter toast, or a grilled chicken wrap doesn’t taste good?
5. “I’m a picky eater.” Just as you learn new strokes or swimming techniques, learn to expand the foods you eat. If you like a particular food, try something similar so as not to be too far from your comfort zone. Like peanut butter? Then try almond butter for a similar taste. Taste blackberries instead of always choosing strawberries. Eat rotisserie chicken instead of fried chicken tenders or a baked potato instead of fries. If you don’t like it, that’s OK, keep trying new foods.
This school year, consider a “no excuses” policy and choose to fuel your body for the sport you love.
Chris Rosenbloom is the sports dietitian for Georgia State University Athletics and is the editor of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Sports Nutrition Manual, 5th edition, 2012.