Happy, Healthy Meals for the Modern Endurance Athlete

Now I'm no nutritionist, nor do I play one on television, so I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of healthy eating habits is pretty much taxed by this advice.

I'm told we're all supposed to shop at Whole Foods or Wild Oats, and cook a healthy and nutritious meal made from organic vegetables, low-fat meats like fish and perhaps some Japanese side dishes like edamame (green soybeans).

Grasshopper, this is the way of the athlete!

However, this is not the way of the modern Everyman athlete who has a job, family, dog, a tank full of fish and a mortgage. You know, I really love to hate those cooking shows where the chef prepares easy, light and healthy meals that "we can all make in just a few short minutes."

I'd love to make those meals, but first I'll need a producer who will gather all the ingredients and put them in those beautiful glass bowls in the perfect amounts. Next, a clean, professional kitchen with studio lighting—and how about a team of interns to clean up my mess, feed the dog, change the fish filter, put away the dishes, clip the coupons and pick up the kids at school?

Oh, by the way, the interns might as well fill up the car, get it washed and pick up my dry cleaning. Now I'm ready, in a Zen-like state, to cook that perfect healthy meal.

Jeez Louise, someone forgot to inform the producers that my kid will not eat fish or any sort of bean, or for that matter anything that is green.

So gang, for the rest of us Everyman athletes who are occasionally forced to partake of fast food, I've put together a short list of workable alternatives to the hamburger and fries.

Please keep in mind that I really only have four simple rules when it comes to happy, healthy fast food meals:

1) It must be healthy. By healthy I mean a common sense "healthy," which in my book means that the meal uses mostly fresh ingredients, it is not fried or nuked, or in any way cooked in grease or saturated fats.

2) It must be truly fast food in so much that I can order it, get it, and eat it after a four-mile run over my lunch break.

3) It must be cheap. This means that I can purchase it with a drink and still receive change from a 10-dollar bill.

4) It must taste good. What's the use of a tofu spinach salad that is perfectly balanced with all essential nutrients and vitamins if it tastes like paper and glue? I'm not a big believer in healthy meals just for the sake of healthy meals.

Sure you may feel like you are "doing the right thing" when you have one of these healthy meals, but sooner or later you'll crack and snarf down five dozen Chips Ahoy cookies like a contestant on day 30 of Survivor. The meal has to taste good, and you must want it to the extent that you crave it.

So here's my short list of Everyman Healthy Happy Fast Food Meals:

Restaurant Chain: Qdoba
Meal: Naked Burrito

You can order either a steak or chicken naked burrito at Qdoba and get it made your way. This means either grilled steak or chicken on a bed of rice and black beans with tomatoes, salsa, lettuce and your favorite hot sauce. To keep this meal truly healthy, you have to walk away from the cheese, sour cream and tortilla.

I'm not a big fan of any sodas, so I tend to stick to unsweetened ice tea with a fresh wedge of lemon. The down side is that it colors your teeth, but the upside is no high fructose corn syrup or funky sugar-like chemicals.

I also like to squeeze a couple of limes onto my naked burrito. I'm not sure that this makes it any better, but it sure feels healthy. All the limes you can squeeze are available by the soda machine.

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