From The Washington Post By Des Bieler: For National Football League fans such as myself, this is a barren time, with the draft well behind us and even preseason games (ugh) still almost two months away. On the other hand, it means that players have a little more time to spare, so I took the opportunity to speak with a trio of NFL athletes about how they maintain healthy regimens and what ideas they might have that average folks can apply to their own, football-starved lives.
Speaking of starving, or at least watching what we eat (nice transition, eh?), that subject came up frequently, so I also talked to an NFL nutritionist. Leslie Bonci, who advises the Kansas City Chiefs and spent more than two decades with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said that she’s trying to get players to think of a different type of “performance-enhancing diet.”
“ ‘Nutrition’ is a turnoff for people,” she told me by phone. “It means ‘things I don’t like.’ ” She said that because “football players want to perform better,” framing healthy food as “fuel” for “their internal equipment” produces a better response.
The players with whom I spoke — New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry and San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon — all talked about cutting way down on foods they had grown up enjoying and shifting to healthier diets.
“I’m half-Puerto Rican,” Cruz said, “so I was rice and beans, and meats and plantains — my mother cooked that every single day.” I met him last month at a hotel in downtown Washington where he was taking part in a conference organized by the Partnership for a Healthier America. Cruz is one of the ambassadors for that organization’s Fruit & Veggie (FNV) campaign, and it is apparent that he practices what he’s preaching.
The 29-year-old said that he particularly loves strawberries, grapes, watermelons, pineapples and mangoes. As for when it’s time to “load up” at the Giants’ training facility, he mentioned wholesome staples such as “grilled chicken, brown rice, vegetables — broccoli, green beans.”
Gordon, 23, was coming off his rookie season when I had a conversation with him in Georgetown, where he was staying while making appearances on behalf of Rally Health, a company that offers digital assistance with health and fitness choices. Not far removed from his days as a star at Wisconsin, Gordon said that one of his big changes was to curb his reliance on fast-food restaurants, including the Jack in the Box located temptingly close to the Chargers’ facility.
“I get it,” he said. “People are in a rush sometimes. ‘I don’t have enough time to go home and make something, so I’ll just go to McDonald’s right here.’ . . . If you know you have a tight schedule, pack meals. Pack meals for different times, different containers that you could put them in. Leave them in your car.”
Landry, also 23 and also a Rally ambassador, is going much further than that in his third season, telling me by phone he had picked up a vegan diet from fellow Dolphins receiver Griff Whalen. A native of Louisiana, where his mother would cook favorites such as gumbo and red beans and rice (with “pork, sausage or turkey neck”), Landry is now eating salads, plain rice, black beans and “a lot of vegetables,” along with quinoa, kale and squash with avocado, a healthy fat, on the side.