Fast Food vs. Real Food


Long days of work and training may cause serious damage to your well-intentioned dinner plans. A trip to the nearest fast food restaurant becomes your most logical decision. Unfortunately, many of the options at these establishments are less than ideal for athletes. Time constraints and hunger may lead you to choose foods that inhibit recovery and provide less than optimum nutrition. With a few tricks and a little kitchen know-how, you can have a healthy meal in no time.

The biggest key to success is to plan ahead. Make a binder of quick and healthy recipes you have seen in magazines or cookbooks and use those for inspiration. Next, evaluate the upcoming week and determine the number of meals you will need. Make a grocery list and shop on your free day or weekend. Once you are home, wash, chop and portion out ingredients. This way you will have them ready for when it comes time to cook.

Next time you think of stopping for those fast-food chicken nuggets, consider this, each 6-piece (about 3 oz) order, made of mostly breading, contains 270 calories, 16 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 13 grams of protein and 520 milligrams of sodium. Those numbers are for the nuggets alone. Dip in BBQ sauce or honey mustard sauce and add on more calories and sodium as well as loads of high fructose corn syrup, and additives like sodium benzoate and calcium disodium.

Make the recipe below instead and enjoy a 6-piece (4 oz) portion, made of mostly meat, for the same number of calories (mostly from healthy fat from olive oil), 8 grams of fat (mostly unsaturated), 1 gram of saturated fat, 30 grams of protein and only 388 mg sodium. You can also double or triple the recipe for the chicken strips and freeze. Place the breaded chicken strips in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze completely, then wrap tightly and place back in the freezer. You can pull out what you need and cook them right from the freezer, just add another 10 minutes to your cooking time. The Apple Currant Chutney will last for several days in the refrigerator.

Dijon Chicken Strips with Apple Currant Chutney
Makes 4 servings


* 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
* 1 cup panko bread crumbs
* 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
* 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
* 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
* 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil, divided
* 1 lb chicken tenders

Apple Currant Chutney

* 1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white parts only (about 2 medium)
* 1/4 cup rum
* 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
* 1/3 cup currants
* 1/4 cup cider vinegar
* 1/3 cup brown sugar
* 1/8 tsp allspice
* ½ cup applesauce
* ½ cup water
* Salt, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place the Dijon mustard in a shallow dish or bowl. In a separate shallow dish, add the panko, pepper, salt, and cayenne; drizzle 1 Tbs olive oil over the mixture and stir to combine.
3. Add the chicken tenders to the Dijon mustard and toss to coat. Remove the tenders from the mustard and place them in the panko mixture. Roll tenders in the panko mixture until well-coated.
4. Place the chicken on a cookie sheet lined with foil and coated with pan spray. Spread them out evenly on the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes (they should register 165 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer), turning halfway through.
5. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the dipping sauce. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, season with salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rum, apples, currants, cider vinegar, brown sugar, allspice, applesauce and water; bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple is soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste.
6. Remove the tenders from the oven and serve with the apple chutney dipping sauce.

Article by Ryan Hutmacher and Sara Haas

Chef Ryan Hutmacher is owner of Centered Chef Food Studios in Chicago, Ill. Centered Chef is a wellness focused culinary consulting and educational firm that fuses nutrition with culinary arts. With a focus on natural ingredients, Ryan celebrates the idea reinventing “health food”, proving that nutritious and delicious are equally attainable. His expertise is notable within the marathon and triathlon community in Chicago, as well as within the corporate sector. Partnerships in culinary wellness programming include athlete runner programs like Team determiNation/ACS, Team CF, TEAM to End Aids, Fleet Feet Sports, Chicago Area Runners Association, Chicago Endurance Sports, Chicago TriMonster, and Fitness Formula Clubs. Other notable partners include American Nutrition Association, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Northwestern Hospital, Rush Hospital, Energy BBDO, Leo Burnett, IBM and Sara Lee Corp.

Along with his staff dietitian and co-writer, Chef Sara Haas (RD/LDN), Ryan appears both locally and nationally on television stations like WGN Superstation, where they give practical solutions to preparing food both easily and healthfully.

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