Food of Champions

Lunch beginnings at El Camaleon Golf Club, Fairmont Mayakoba Resort

It comes as no surprise that fast food isn’t optimal for good health.    On road trips, it often cannot be avoided.   On the golf course, it is almost a necessity because the time to grab a bite in between nines is short.   No one can deny that the famous ‘Caddie Special’ comprised of a hot dog, chips and pop is an institution, but remember that caddies are working out much harder than you are and might also be……uh…..younger too?  They can afford the indulgence, though healthier options for them would be nice – if only to get them started on a better food path while they’re young.

Ideally it would be so sweet to get the offering pictured here, but this would be reserved for apres-golf, when you have some time to enjoy it.  I had this at the Fairmont Mayakoba’s El Camaleon Golf Club restaurant in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.   Freshly made salsa and guacamole with hot corn tortilla chips were a perfect accompaniment to the tasty lime-mint ‘secret recipe’ all natural beverage presented as an energy pick-me-up.  Fresh limes added a little touch of class.  Lunch followed with a steaming fresh-catch grouper grilled with herbs and spices along with garlic dressed organic greens.  Certainly not the usual snack shack fare but when a meal like my-oh-Myakoba’s is not in the cards, here are substitutions which help cut bad fats, calories, and keep you on the fairway to good health.

The Caddie Special: Hot Dog, Chips, and a Pop.  If you can find a Kosher hot dog devoid of fillers and animal ‘parts’, great.  Some clubs have superior hot dogs.  If you can share it with another member of your foursome – because they are generally gargantuan –  even better.  Cut it in half, add onions, only a little relish (it is full of sugar), mustard, and forget the ketchup, which is full of sugar and sodium too.  You shouldn’t be eating too much in the middle of a round anyway – it makes you sluggish.   If you can eat the dog without the bun, do so.  The buns are usually made with white flour, have virtually no nutritional value, and contain too many carbohydrate (not the good kind either) calories.  If you must have chips, opt for baked instead of regular, or even pretzels.  As for pop, drink water, because pop dehydrates and you can also do without the 10 or more teaspoons of sugar per 12 ounces.  Forget lemonade, sweetened tea (sorry Arnold), or Energy drinks.  Those have even more sugar and caffeine.  And especially, don’t drink Diet-anything.  Believe nothing that you read about artificial sweeteners being safe or harmless.  They actually fool your metabolism into craving even more sweet stuff – and you add weight.  As for their safety, you be the judge.  Google this:  aspartame, 1982, and the FDA to read the story of what went on to approve these food additives.

Burgers:  Wendy’s quarter-pound burger has a lot of veggies on it as opposed to McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Big Mac.  Burger King’s Whopper has the veggies, but also slathers on about 150 fat calories worth of mayo.   Opt out of the mayo on any burger and stay with mustard and ketchup.  Better yet, forego the ketchup to save about 100 more calories of sugar and sodium.  Best, I think, is a Happy Meal, or a double regular burger from the Dollar menu.  Everything is smaller and you won’t tend to overeat.

Buffalo Wings or Tenders:  Actually, these aren’t too bad if you can get real chicken instead of the pressed meat kind.  As an appetizer, they can pack a protein wallop, which is a good start to your meal and will slow you down from eating more food.  Go easy on the sauce if possible though I know it makes the meal.  Even better: ditch the crispy coating.

Pasta:  You normally wouldn’t consider this as fast food, but considering Italian is the most popular ethnic food, chances are you may visit Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill or your favorite Italian spot more than you think.   Pasta can be a sneaky diet killer if you overload the meat sauce, bread and butter, and consume salads with tons of dressing loaded with sugars.  A plate of pasta can easily top 1100 calories.  Best bet?  Order Marinara sauce (no meat) and order meatballs on the side, which you can consume or take half of it home for later.   Whole grain noodles are preferable to the usual white-flour-based types.

BBQ Ribs:  Here’s an interesting one.  We know ribs are high in calories and fat, with a half-slab running about 1000 calories (yep!!) not to mention all the other goodies that come with it, like fries, slaw, and garlic toast.  Instead of a sweet, sugary BBQ sauce, check out a Memphis-style dry rub version, which practically cuts the calories in half or more.  Then, if you must, order a bit of sauce on the side, and put it on sparingly.  You’ll still get the flavor.

Chicken:  Poultry is always a good choice but you still must be careful.  A simple grilled or broiled chicken is great but start adding sauces or breading to it like Marsala, BBQ, Parmesan, or cream sauces, and the fat and calories will rack up.  Again, if you must, order the sauce on the side and dip.  Think about sprinkling lemon or lime juice with herbs and some sea salt, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good it tastes.  Chicken fajita dishes are usually winners….if you can go easy on the tortillas, which are usually made with white flour or corn.

French Fries:  Ideally, a baked potato is best.  But since you often don’t have that option, if potato wedges are offered in addition to fries, take those.  More potato, less exposure to the oil.  KFC wedges are about 260 calories compared to Wendy’s or Arby’s fries, which are between 400-500 for a small.

Salads: Try to go for simple vegetable salads and avoid the premium versions with all the fancy names and ingredients, like the Asian, Caesar, and Cobb.  Greek is usually good, packed with veggies, Feta cheese, and beets.  If an oil and vinegar combo is offered, take it.  All the other dressings have additives and extra sugars.  Newman’s Own is a good choice if you must take a packaged dressing.  Low-fat/Fat free dressings are not the panacea you think:  they have added sugar and chemicals.  And, you do need some fats for your digestive system to properly absorb your food.

Pizza: Yes, you can have healthy versions.  Ditch the pepperoni and sausage and choose ham (or not) and every vegetable you can stand.  Opt for the thin crust versus the thick and you’ll save over 100 calories per slice.  Stay away from the garlic butter crusts, or the cheese stuffed crust versions, which only add extra fat.  You’ll get all the fat you need from the cheese.  Some restaurants have Fit and Healthy versions but before you order those, ask specifically what is in them.  Often the ‘Healthy and Fit’ moniker is attached to food as a marketing ploy to get you to buy it, usually spending more money, and not getting any true benefits.

Ice Cream:  OK, OK, I know you eat it, so let’s take a look.  Breyers brand does a pretty good job of keeping the ingredient list short with lower fats and sugars.  However you may not find this on the road so now you’re faced with frozen yogurt or smoothies.  These are not my faves because we can’t control how much sugar goes into them.  And it’s a LOT.  Best advice, get the smallest size you can, even a junior, without the dippers or add-ons, which are simply sugar, sugar, sugar.

And remember:  calories DO count.  Downsize what you order and soon you’ll find that regular portions are way too much to eat.  You won’t want them anymore.

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