You are at high school and have to fight with school lunch to let your muscles grow? Here are the food choices that’ll help you.
When I went to school in Louisiana, high school lunch usually was a choice between a slice of pizza and macaroni with cheese, both accompanied by mystery vegetables for that touch of green.
Unavoidable in the South, there also always was a piece of corn bread. Which for me was, well, an acquired taste.
Today things look a lot better, especially if you are into bodybuilding and try to get enough protein. If you are among those whose parents aren’t heavy on food rich in protein, school lunch can actually help you out.
What you should do is pick the foods highest in protein – fish, meat, poultry, legumes and milk. To give you some concrete ideas about identifying them, I looked over the lunch plans of a dozen or so schools and summarized the best choices:
While poultry is an excellent protein source, the usual problem at school cafeterias is how it’s served.
If it comes as “Chicken Alfredo” or some other concoction with pasta and fatty sauce, concentrate on the pieces of chicken and take some whole wheat bread sticks as side dish. If the chicken is fried, scraping off the batter will reduce the calories by more than half.
Good school lunch choices are:
- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Turkey burgers
- Grilled or glazed chicken
- Oven Fried Chicken
- Turkey sandwiches
- Chicken sandwiches
The one fish you’ll usually find on school menus is tuna, although in rare cases you may get treated to fried fish. With the latter once more leave the batter on the plate. If you want to watch your calories and get to put the dressing onto tuna salad yourself, leave it off if it’s high fat (e.g. French, Thousand Islands etc.).
- Tuna sandwiches
- Tuna salads
- Fried fish
Meat, outside of poultry, will either come as pork or beef and is up there with poultry when it comes to protein content. As before, leave heavy sauces and gobs of cheese on the plate. When choosing hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, go easy on the condiments.
Our examples here are:
- Bean and beef burritos
- Beef and bean chili
- Beef and bean Tamale pie
- Beef stir fry
- Baloney sandwiches
- Ham sandwiches
- Hot dogs
Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are another good choice. Their calorie content is higher, but the protein in them is nothing to frown upon.
School often serve legumes accompanied by beef:
- Bean burgers
- seasoned peas, lentils or beans
- Baked beans
- Beef and bean chili
- Boston Baked Beans
- Mexican style pinto beans
Your number one choice is low-fat milk if you want low calories and protein. If it isn’t around, go for regular milk and, in a pickle, chocolate milk.
What To Say No To
Ok, time to clearly say what should be avoided. This is not because these foods are bad per se, but because they have little to no protein content.
The usual suspects:
- Rice pilaf
- Mac & cheese
- Pasta salads
If really nothing else is available, these are better than going hungry, but they should take the backseat if it’s possible to get any of those above.
Now Your Ideas!
Fire off some of your ideas: how do you get bodybuilding and eating at school together? Do you take food along or get a say in the foods the cafeteria serves? It’s a long time since I was at school and you guys are right in the trenches!
Picture courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.