The Grocery Cart of an Olympic Athlete

11:31 AM, Jul 25, 2012   |    comments
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Product Comparisons: The Average American versus the Olympic Athlete

Sheryl Lozicki is a Registered Dietitian at Saint Mary's Health Care, a member of the new Mercy Health and the Director of Nutrition and Wellness.

The Olympics always motivates me to eat healthier and practice good exercise habits. While the sponsors would have you think athletes train and compete at their athletic best drinking Coca Cola products and eating at McDonalds, it just isn't true. An Olympic athlete cares for his or her body as if it were a finely tuned machine. Rigorous training, calculated nutrition and adequate rest add up to what they hope will be a gold medal.
The top 10 items sold in a local Grand Rapids store, according to the store owner are: wine, milk (includes creamers and non dairy milk alternatives), soft drinks (includes energy drinks and isotonics, such as Fuse), liquor, cheese, salty snacks, beer, cereal, breads (does not include in-store bakery), ice cream and yogurt.

Let's compare that to what we will find at the London Olympic Canteen where the 16,500 athletes will eat. It's billed as the largest canteen in the world, seating 5,000 people and offering 1,300 different recipes that will rotate each week to provide for the varied diets of participants. Each menu item has the calories, carbohydrate, protein, fat, saturated fat and sodium displayed in several languages so that the athletes can zero on their nutritional targets based on their height, weight, age, gender and the type of sport they compete in.

Instead of the soda and definitely not the alcohol, athletes drink lots and lots of water because our bodies are two-thirds water, muscle is 75 percent water and blood is 90 percent water. They want to make sure their fluids are totally topped off so that oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood is pumping freely to muscles that can then perform at their peak. Athletes are also drinking 100% fruit juice - focusing on those that are potassium-rich, such as orange, tomato and vegetable blends - since this mineral is critical in muscle performance. Smoothies, low-fat white and chocolate milk are also rich in potassium and calcium and great thirst quenchers and energy replacements after exercise.

Breads of all varieties, potatoes, rice and noodles are also big sellers at the Olympic Canteen. These carbohydrates are converted into glycogen, how the body stores energy as fuel. Potatoes are both rich in carbohydrates and potassium. Athletes top their breads with nut butters, stuff potatoes with veggies and use rice and noodles as an accompaniment to lean protein or in a healthy stir fry.
Olympic soccer player Carli Lloyd's favorite breakfast includes scrambled eggs or an omelet, fruit smoothie and oatmeal. Her favorite snack is edamame.

Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson states that she sticks to plenty of salad, chicken and fish. Sushi is her favorite.

Olympic beach volleyball player Phil Dalhausser's favorite lunch is a whole wheat turkey sandwich with spinach, carrots and hummus.

Olympic swimmer Dana Torres states that she refuels with organic chocolate milk. She keeps nuts on hand for snacking, and her guilty pleasure is Rice Krispie treats.
Here are examples of high-energy foods that many athletes consume:

• Peanut butter and nuts
• Eggs
• Bananas
• Milk, Greek yogurt and yogurt smoothies
• Oatmeal or a mix of cold cereals including granola
• Oranges
• Vegetables
• Chicken, salmon, lean meat

Of all of the food courts, the longest line is always the Asian Station where athletes frequently choose the Thai Chicken Noodle Soup. The noodles are a great source of carbohydrates that fuel activity, the soup base is lightly salty to replace the electrolytes they lose in sweat, the herbs are natural antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, and the lean chicken meat is a great source of protein to help muscle recovery. Check out the WZZM website for the recipe.

So, as you enjoy the Olympics with your family, remind them that these winning athletes reach their personal best by covering ½ their plates with fruits and vegetables and by snacking on nuts, edamame and yogurt partfaits. Big Macs, chicken nuggets, French fries, Mcflurries and Coca Cola are far and few between.

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, makes 6, 12-ounce servings.

1. Add 1 1/2 quarts water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/8 pounds diced chicken breast and 1 1/2 ounces each hoisin, soy, and fish sauces, plus 3/4 ounce minced garlic and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour.
2. While cooking, soak 9 ounces Thai rice noodles in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
3. In a small bowl, mix 2 1/4 teaspoons diced jalapeño pepper with 1 1/2 ounces white vinegar; in another small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons each of chopped green onion and cilantro.
4. Blanch the noodles in a pot of boiling water and drain.
5. In separate bowls, top 1/2 cup of noodles with 1/2 cup of bean sprouts, 1/2 tablespoon each of the jalapeño and green onion mixtures, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Spoon 3 ounces of chicken and 6 ounces of stock over the noodles and serve.

Courtesy: Sheryl Lozicki, Registered Dietitian at Saint Mary's Health Care

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