In the second nutrition article of our year-long Build A Better Athlete series, world-renowned chef Emeril Lagasse offers his tips on how to eat healthy and efficiently for those athletes who are on the go.
ESPNHS: For high school athletes that have limited time, what's something they can do in the kitchen to get themselves something tasty, quick and simple but will benefit them on the field?
Emeril: I think you've got to keep it simple, keep it fresh. Stay away from all that processed stuff, read the labels. For breakfast, maybe you get whole wheat toast with good scrambled eggs. For lunch, there's nothing wrong with quality sandwiches as long as you have quality in the sandwich, not processed. And dinner, depending on if you want carbs or not, pasta is very simple. You can keep it simple, you can get creative with it, and today you can buy some really high-quality jar sauces that are not full of sodium and junk that you can just heat and serve.
ESPNHS: What are some dessert options that aren't going to hurt an athlete?
Emeril: I think cookies are the one that comes to mind most. You can make cookie dough pretty simple, usually with about five to seven ingredients. Keep the cookie dough in plastic wrap so you can cut off what you want, bake when you want, when you get that little craving. Stay away from that dense stuff. That's what is really going to put the tire around you -- those heavy brownies, those big pieces of cake. Try to stay away from that stuff if you can.
ESPNHS: What are some ingredients that are more common in those desserts that will end up paying dividends?
Emeril: Like my mom says, there's always things that sound better when it says zucchini bread or banana bread. You get the craving but you get what's good for you still.
ESPNHS: What should athletes be avoiding when they eat at restaurants?
Emeril: You have to be cautious of eating continuously the same thing. Beef comes to mind right away, and there's nothing wrong with beef, but you've got to do whatever you're doing in moderation. So try to break it up a little bit. Eat some fish or some shellfish at least a couple of times a week, maybe have a steak once or twice a week. Break it up with some chicken and even some pork and lots of vegetables. Vegetables are key, especially when you're young and trying to develop those muscles and strength.
ESPNHS: A lot of healthy foods can be bland. What are some things athletes can do that can add some flavor that won't make the meal unhealthy?
Emeril: You can easily put together your own favorite spice blend, whether that's a salt and pepper mixture or you're adding herbs to it or Creole spice. Just watch out for the sodium content. That why I encourage you to make your own. I can't tell you enough about cinnamon. Cinnamon is an awesome spice to use and it goes great with something like apples in the morning or in a mixture of fruit or in your oatmeal or even in your cereal.