Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Article: Vegan Diets for Dancers and Athletes, Part 3

Image: Cillian Storm via Flickr
I've been a vegan for many years now, and I've eaten plant-based foods in restaurants across the globe. I know it can sometimes be a struggle to find something vegan, much less something healthy. It's especially important to fuel your body with the right ingredients if you are participating in a lot of physical activity, whether you're touring a city in Europe or training for a marathon. Below are some tips for making healthy choices, both in restaurants and when on the go. I've also included workout-specific ideas.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a registered personal trainer, dietitian or medical professional. Please consult a doctor if you are experiencing any health issues or are considering an increase in physical activity.

If you only tend to eat out once a week or less, you may also want to consider using a restaurant meal as a "cheat" meal. Indulging occasionally can help satisfy cravings without forming bad habits. Just be careful not to order too much food, as it can make that one "cheat" meal extend into two or more if you eat leftovers at home in place of more sensible meals.

Restaurant Tips:
Most of us know to ask for salad dressing on the side and choose wheat over white, but some choices aren't as clear. Go into restaurants with a plan to make healthier choices.

  • Find the healthiest option as quickly as possible. Scan the menu for something healthy - hummus and veggies, a brown rice bowl, etc. Commit to eating the healthiest option and then close the menu to avoid temptation.
  • Feel free to say no. If you're at a restaurant that places a bowl of bread, chips and salsa, or other appetizers in front of you, simply say "no thank you" before it is placed on your table. If you're out with friends who wish to indulge, politely ask them to place the basket out of reach.
  • Search the menu for sides. If you're ordering a veggie sandwich and the side is either a non-vegan potato salad or fries, ask if you can sub something else. Chances are, if they offer another side with a different dish, you can usually sub with your entree. Or make a meal out of healthy sides, such as beans and rice, grilled veggies, and corn tortillas.
  • Create your own dish. If you don't see any healthy vegan options and modifications to veganize are complicated, you can always ask politely about making a special dish. I have a legitimate dairy allergy, so I usually bring this up instead of calling myself a vegan, as restaurants are much more likely to comply. Search for ingredients they have on-hand for other dishes and ask for something healthy, like a green salad with avocado, walnuts, fresh veggies, and beans. I once had a restaurant place a black bean burger on a salad, which turned into one of my new favorite dishes.
  • Consider a compromise. If you are really craving a veggie burger, get it with steamed veggies or a small side salad instead of fries. Or if you really love pasta, order a smaller size off the kids' menu. At brunch, choose between potatoes and pancakes instead of eating both. Making small compromises allow you to enjoy your favorites without going overboard.
  • Box up half your meal to avoid overeating.
    Image: Scott Waldron via Flickr
  • Box up half of your meal. Before you even take a bite, consider splitting your meal in two. While the idea of cutting into your next meal might be enough to keep you for overeating, I often find that it works best to box up the second portion as soon as possible. With less food on your plate, you are more likely to savor and enjoy.

Tips for busy people on the go:
If you're on the go, it is usually cheaper and healthier to bring your own snacks and drinks.

  • Bring naturally "portable" foods. Apples, oranges, and bananas are all easy to eat when away from home. If you're worried about having no place to put an apple core or a peel, just bring a bag with you.
  • Always bring more than you think you'll need. If I plan to be out for lunch, I always bring an extra granola bar, bag of trail mix, or some smoothie mix. When I come home famished, I know I'm more likely to make poor food choices.
  • Make your "brown bag" meals a treat. Use fresh, colorful ingredients and throw in something fun, such as a dark chocolate square. Pack hummus and veggies, hearty sandwiches, or leftovers like stir-fry. Giving yourself healthy, satisfying ingredients and including low-calorie beverages such as homemade iced tea will encourage you to eat healthfully and not give into cravings of the moment.

Tips for workouts away from home:
Bonus tip: To keep your complexion clear, be sure to wash your face after a workout. If you are away from home, consider a facial wipe such as this one.

Note: This is the second in a three-part series. The first part, on general athletic diet tips, can be found here and the second part, with meal ideas, is here.

Disclosure notice: I am not a registered doctor, dietician, or medical professional. Please consult with a doctor if you are experiencing any health issues or are considering an increase in physical activity. Affiliate links are present in this post. Please verify any claims with the manufacturer, especially if you have any allergies or concerns.

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