Chipotle, Panera or McDonald’s?

Chipotle, Panera or McDonald’s?

Chipotle, Panera or McDonald’s?

Chipotle and Panera are popular quick-service restaurants for many athletes. Their menus offer several items that fit well into a sports diet and are a step in the healthier direction than, let’s say, a burger & fries meal. But the “killer” with even Panera and Chipotle is the portion size.

If you are an athlete who eats three meals a day, you can appropriately fuel your body with 1,000 calories of a Chipotle burrito for lunch; it fits into your day’s 3,000 to 4.000- calorie food budget. But if you are a sedentary desk worker or petite fitness exerciser who might need only 2,000 to 2,400 calories a day, be cautious. You might want to split that burrito and enjoy half for lunch and the other half for dinner.

Hungry athletes who want to eat well commonly cannot afford to fill their tummies with the healthiest options because those items tend to be lower in fat, hence lower in calories. One solution is to plan ahead. If you know you will be eating on the road, pack into your gym bag or backpack some supplemental calories to fill out the meal: trail mix, fresh or dried fruit, Fig Newtons, pretzels, an energy bar or two.

The following chart identifies some popular fast food lunches, their calories, and some pointers on fitting them into your food plan. While a male athlete may require 1,000 calories for a lunch, an active female may need only 700. Your body is your best calorie counter, so be sure to stop eating when you feel content; no need to finish the whole meal. Just save the rest for later in the day. Don’t let it go “to waist”!

 

Restaurant Menu item Calories Comments
Chipotle

 

Good choice

Burrito made with tortilla, chicken, pinto beans, guacamole, cheese, salsa, lettuce 955

 

With 2,400 mg sodium, you’ll have no need for extra “electrolytes” from sport drinks!
 

Good choice

Burrito Bowl made with same ingredients as above, except brown rice instead of the tortilla 855

 

The tortilla is 300 calories; the rice is 200. Not a huge calorie savings.
 

Poor choice

 

Salad with chicken, black beans, vinaigrette dressing plus side of chips and guac

 

1,370

 

Yikes! The calories and fat equal 3 Bacon McDouble burgers. A burrito (with carbs for fuel), is preferable to filling up on high fat salad dressing and greasy chips.
       
Panera

 

Good choice

 

BBQ chicken flatbread

 

750

Both flatbread and regular sandwiches have similar calories from the bread. Cut calories by cutting fat (mayo).
 

Good choice

 

Black Bean Soup Bread Bowl

 

750

A healthful way to get 28 grams of protein to build muscles, along with adequate carbs to refuel muscles.
Fair choice 33% calories from fat Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich on Sesame Bread 700 Mayo easily jacks up calorie & fat content, but preferable to a burger and fries.
 

Poor choice for athletes

 

Chicken Caesar Salad (420 cals) plus dressing (170)

 

590

Protein and fat don’t fuel muscles for hard workouts. Add bread — or choose a sandwich with a side salad.
 

Poor choice for athletes

 

Macaroni & Cheese, large

 

980

Pasta sounds like a wise choice to fuel muscles, but only 30% of the calories are from energizing carbs.
       
McDonald’s

45% calories from fat

Big Mac (540 cals) + medium fries (340 cals) 880 Trade the fries for a grilled chicken sandwich? Wise Goal: only one fatty food per meal.
 

Even more fat! (50%)

Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (780 cals) + medium fries (340 cals) 1,110 Bigger burgers = more fat = a dubious investment in today’s performance and your future health.
Good choice but too few calories Grilled chicken sandwich (380 cals) + Fruit & yogurt parfait (150 cals) 530 Not enough calories for most athletes. Buy a second sandwich or supplement with trail mix brought from home.
       
Bring from Home

 

Best choice

1 or 2 PB&B sandwiches: Whole wheat bread (200 cals) + 3 T peanut butter (300 cals) + banana (100) 600 – 1,200 Nutrient-rich calories that are quick and easy to prepare, inexpensive, portable and a smart choice for athletes on the go!

Written by Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD is an internationally respected sports nutritionist, weight coach, nutrition author, and workshop leader. She is a registered dietitian (RD) who is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She is also a certified WellCoach. Nancy specializes in nutrition for performance, life-long health, and the nutritional management of eating disorders. She counsels both casual exercisers and competitive athletes in her private practice in the Boston area (Newton, MA). Some of her clients consider her to be their food coach, others their food therapist. Regardless, she enjoys the challenge of helping sports-active people transform their suboptimal eating habits into effective fueling plans. Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, a best-selling resource, has sold over 550,000 copies and is now in it's new fifth edition.
Website: http://www.nancyclarkrd.com


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives