Dave: Tracy, I had heard that food at the Olympic Village used to be awful, like McDonalds and stuff like that, largely due to sponsorship. But I also heard that Beijing tried hard to have good food. What’s the Olympic Village food like now? Is it healthy? I imagine that some athletes bring their own special food.
And I could be wrong, but I think I heard that New Guinea was denied an Olympic berth due to their penchant for cannibalism; I can see where that might have a chilling effect on the Olympic Village cafeteria. And I was also wondering if the wild lynxes seen near the ski run were being caught and eaten by the more intrepid athletes, like the biathlon people, who fire guns?
Tracy Olgeaty Gensler, MS, RD: There is a huge variety of food available in the Olympic Village, from cafeteria fare whipped up by Sodexo, international cuisine to satisfy the palates of athletes coming from near and far, as well as McDonalds. The logistics of feeding athletes, coaches, staff and visitors is quite a challenge, (I heard lore of the Beijing cafeteria running out of coffee!) but Vancouver is managing quite well!
I always tell my clients to have a standby meal at the ready for times when you travel. Vancouver is no exception, I’ve checked out the menus and I could easily find my big salad with a little roasted chicken, some nuts, and a dollop of ranch dressing with a side of a whole wheat roll or bagel spread with trans-free margarine. But when you’re there for weeks on end, you need to seek out more options. Here are some suggestions that will keep the scale steady for anyone traveling, even the athletes (who don’t necessarily have to watch the portion size as much as you and me):
Breakfast – Look for low fat or fat-free yogurt, 1% or fat-free milk (cow’s, soy, rice, almond, hemp, it’s all good!), whole grain cereal – you’ll probably find some little boxes of cereal with the nutrition facts, look for at least 3 g fiber per serving, a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit. If it’s eggs you’re after, have a scoop of scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast with jam or trans-free margarine, milk or yogurt and fruit.
Lunch and Dinner – Look for roasted chicken (no skin), lean beef, broiled fish with a salad topped with a little dressin or steamed veggies, steamed rice (brown rice or wild rice are both whole grains) or some whole wheat pasta with a little olive oil or marinara sauce.
Snacks – I never leave the house without a bag of dried fruit and nuts or some whole fruit and nuts or look for hot pretzels (don’t get these if they’re dripping with butter) and granola bars (with some fiber and no partially hydrogenated oils).
Treat – If you’re walking around more than usual, go ahead and have a cookie, a croissant or a scoop of ice cream.
Drinks – Water, flavored carbonated water is one of my favorite drinks, coffee with a little milk and sugar (watch the creamer which can have too much saturated or trans fats, reach for a little milk if possible)
You would think that any athlete at the top of his game would seek out nothing but fruits, veggies, healthy fats, lean protein and whole grains. Not so! The captain of the Russian Ice Hockey team, Alexei Morozov, noted that the food in the cafeteria was not up to par. He stated “Everything is tasteless – non caloric. I tried spaghetti, it was impossible to eat. Me and other guys had to go to McDonalds and eat hamburgers.” But I have to disagree, I haven’t tasted the food in Vancouver, but the offerings seemed pretty substantial, and I think it just takes an open mind and a little experimentation to find food that satisfies and fuels you to watch (or participate in!) the next big competition.
Dave: Very cool! Ideas here could be used by anyone, not just athletes. But for my extra meal, I’m thinking of carrying around a rack of Dinosaur Barbecue ribs! Please don’t hit me!