10 Chain-Restaurant Foods Recommended by Sports Nutritionists

Juggling training, traveling, racing and life means most active individuals are time-pressed. Eating right on the go is critical because good nutrition is essential for providing the energy to train and compete, but also the nutrients essential to help your muscles and immune system recover from exercise.

The good news is that most restaurant chains—from coffee shops to burger joints and pizzerias—have better-for-you options on their menus and many of them have nutrition information for their items readily available.

When I'm eating out, I look for lean protein and veggie-rich options for recovery from my CrossFit WODs or trail runs. For me, that means salad bowls at restaurants like Qdoba or Chipotle. If I'm in the mood for a burger, I'll opt for In-N-Out Burger's protein-style burger that comes without cheese and wrapped in lettuce. For most weight-conscious athletes, keeping calories in check is the biggest hurdle when you're eating out.

More: Outsmart the Chef: Healthy Tips for Eating Out

The following are 10 healthy chain-restaurant menu options recommended by sports nutritionists.

McDonald's Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Because most fast food restaurants don't use lean beef, grilled chicken sandwiches are a better bet. For example, McDonald's grilled chicken sandwich has 350 calories, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 28 grams of protein and 2 grams of saturated fat. The grilled chicken offers more protein and carbohydrates and less fat than most burger choices.

-Lindsey Remmers, MS, RD, CSSD, sports dietitian, University of Nebraska

Starbucks Protein Bistro Box

This is a great lunch or mini meal containing a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. I like the protein bistro box from Starbucks because it has 13 grams of protein, 37 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber and 380 calories. The box contains an egg, cheddar cheese, a peanut butter spread with multigrain muesli bread and fresh fruit.

-Jessica Crandall, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

California Pizza Kitchen Margherita Pizza with a Crispy Thin Crust

Half of this CPK pizza contains 500 calories, and provides 50 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein. Other options at CPK are the half-salads, like the Chinese chicken salad at 330 calories, 17 grams of protein and 41 grams of carbohydrates.

-Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD, sports dietitian and author of The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health's 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions

More: How to Avoid Hidden Calories When Dining Out

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About the Author

Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD

Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD is a San Francisco-based sports dietitian. She is the coauthor of Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food Guide to Fuel Your Active Life (Wiley, 2009) and The Real Skinny: 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions (Penguin, 2013).

Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD is a San Francisco-based sports dietitian. She is the coauthor of Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food Guide to Fuel Your Active Life (Wiley, 2009) and The Real Skinny: 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions (Penguin, 2013).

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