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You’re in your car with miles to go before you rest … and before you find a suitable place to eat. What’s a growling stomach to do? You could do what most people do and drive through one of the ubiquitous fast-food outlets. Contrary to fit-minded thinking, there actually are options at those bastions of fried foods—mainly grilled chicken, soy burgers and salads—and the good thing is that you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. McDonald’s, Burger King and many other fast-food and pizza places make detailed nutrition data available, either on site or online. If you haven’t printed out the info beforehand, ask the restaurant’s employees for it—it might be posted in the store or available in a brochure.
The problem is that those grilled chicken sandwiches can get old fast. Which means the family restaurant along the highway might seem like your next best option; at least there you can find the old standby: a tuna sandwich. But wait! The nutrition activist group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) revealed that a typical deli tuna sandwich can have 720 calories, which is 260 more than the average roast-beef sandwich.
Noting that consumers can’t make informed decisions about what to eat when nutritional details aren’t readily available, CSPI is campaigning to get the information printed either on the menu or on a menu board in every restaurant. Yet that goal might be a long way from being met, and even if it is, the info might only include calories and saturated fat—hardly the complete data a bodybuilder needs to consider before ordering.
There’s no two ways about it: Eating healthy isn’t easy when you’re eating out. An Egg Beaters omelet with fresh vegetables (like mushrooms, onion and broccoli) is a good bet—high protein, low fat, with lots of fiber and phytonutrients—but you wouldn’t want it for every meal. Another possibility is a turkey dinner. Go light on the gravy and stuffing or potatoes, include vegetables or salad, and you’ve got a meal that’s relatively low-calorie but packed with at least 46 grams of protein.
But if you’re just not willing to make do with typical choices, turn to Nikki and David Goldbeck. In their state-by-state guidebook, Healthy Highways, the couple charts suggestions for hundreds of healthy eateries, all not far off the highway.
“Bodybuilders are conscious of what they eat. They’re not going to settle for the fries, fatty hamburgers and overprocessed foods found in the big fast-food and restaurant chains,” says Nikki, a certified dietitian-nutritionist (CDN). She says good picks for bodybuilders can be found in specific places: “Two major national health-food chains, Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats, have a great selection of foods. They also have cleaner foods—meaning they have fewer additives and generally are made on the premises.”
Finding specialized markets can even make you feel more at home. “Health-food markets and eateries provide great access to foods that don’t exist in the normal marketplace,” Nikki notes. Meaning you can find fish, chicken, turkey and buffalo meat (which is leaner protein than beef) when you’re miles from home. “It’s not your typical hamburger and meatloaf. Natural-foods establishments also have healthier carbohydrates—whole-grain bread, brown rice, barley, bulgur and kasha [or buckwheat]. You can get real oatmeal for breakfast, or whole-grain hot or cold cereal, not Count Chocula.”
In addition, natural-foods stores often offer a service deli and various forms of takeout. Some even have cafes and restaurants. As Nikki puts it, “You definitely don’t have to go 100 miles to get a healthy meal.”
Watch what you eat on the road. Too much of this stuff is bad for you and your physique. Here are some highlights from the CSPI report “Anyone’s Guess.” Values may vary depending on restaurant and methods of preparation. Go to www.cspinet.org for more information.
Cheese fries (27 oz.) 2,380 Cal, 79g bad fat*, 4,020mg sodium
Double cheeseburger value meal 2,180 Cal, 48g bad fat*, 2,600mg sodium
Fried seafood combo platter 2,170 Cal, 39g bad fat*, 4,390mg sodium
Big breakfast platter 1,010 Cal, 19g bad fat*, 1,770mg sodium
Deli chicken-breast sandwich (29 oz.) 1,010 Cal, 4g bad fat**, 4,520mg sodium
Large cinnamon roll 70 Cal, 14g bad fat*, 800mg sodium
* Bad fats include saturated fat and trans fats
** Includes saturated fat only, not the trans fats