The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 25, 2012

Cheryle Finley: Eat like a champion this Olympic season

By Cheryle Finley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Gymnastics, swimming, track and field. What’s not to like about the 2012 Summer Olympics? With just two more days to wait until opening ceremonies, I think of all the training the athletes have done preparing for their events. Besides the physical and mental training, diet is an important part of preparation.

According to, the one constant for all the athletes’ meals is protein, and the most popular source of protein is peanut butter. Highlighting one participant from each sport, here are some of their favorite go-to foods:

For the soccer player, breakfast is scrambled eggs and fruit shakes, while dinner is chicken, fish or sometimes red meat. The meat choices are pretty consistent for all the athletes. A soccer player’s favorite snack? Edamame, which are green soybeans picked in the pod before they ripen. Not my top pick, but I would go with his favorite dessert of cupcakes.

For track and field, the competitor feels that the less machines the food has touched, the better. A salad, asparagus or green beans are sure to complement each dinner. Favorite snack? A medium apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, which amounts to about 161 calories.

For one of the most popular events -- gymnastics -- the participant favors egg whites, baked yams and lean red meat. For an indulgence? Order up a supreme pizza.

If table tennis is your game, this teammate picks frosted wheat squares or Special K cereal with fruit for breakfast. The shredded wheat clocks in at 89 calories for 1/3 cup when paired with 1/3 cup fat-free milk. This is also a favorite of swimming champion Michael Phelps. It would take a bunch of boxes of shredded wheat to equal the 12,000 calories he consumes during an intense training day. But add three slices of French toast with powdered sugar, three fried egg sandwiches with cheese, plus chocolate chip pancakes, and the calories add up. Just one 6-inch pancake accounts for 149 calories before you add the chocolate chips.

The track and field contestant picks three eggs with cheese and toast for breakfast. While it doesn’t fill him up, it’s enough to get him through his morning workout.

A participant in the vigorous sport of beach volleyball chooses protein shakes and a turkey sandwich with spinach. Snacking would be dried fruit or nuts.

One of my favorite summer sports is synchronized swimming. My friend, Cindy Harding, and I performed quite a routine one year for our fellow bowlers during one of our annual road trips, and while we were no competition for Esther Williams, we were pretty good -- all things considered. But with only two of us to keep in sync, it was nothing compared to 10 people trying to stay together during a routine. One of the members of the Olympic team eats every three hours, and loads up on carbs, but avoids all pasta. I would miss my pasta, but using common sense to listen to your body makes sense -- training or not. I can’t wait to see how many medals all the intense training and proper eating brings these dedicated U.S. Olympians.

I enjoyed the wedding of my nephew, Preston Roets, to Christy Hartner last Saturday. It was a lovely service, followed by a great time at the reception. There were three tables of food catered by Club 1201, and all were fabulous. The cakes were made by one of Christy’s friends, and my daughter, Sarah, and I served up delicious white, chocolate and red velvet slices. Speaking of delicious, the week before the wedding, the mother of the bride, Cindy Hartner, cooked dinner for about 25 relatives so everyone could meet and greet. What a wonder woman to plan this on top of planning a wedding. There was fresh shrimp compliments of Cindy’s brother, Scott, and his wife, Terry, as well as fried fish, ribs, potatoes, okra, corn on the cob and a counter full of other tasty dishes. Top that off with home-baked apple and cherry pie with ice cream, and you get the picture. It was a wonderful evening for family and food.

Something I recently remembered -- going to Ernie’s Market on the corner of Case and Poplar streets in Carthage, or the town’s Safeway, and being able to choose a candy bar. While I spent considerable time choosing, my choice was usually Milky Way. I always told my grandfather I needed a Milky Way instead of wanting one, and it’s still my candy bar of choice. I also remember my sister, Sue, being allergic to chocolate, so about her only choice back then was Payday. Good thing she liked peanuts.

From “Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue” comes an Olympian-worthy omelet. The recipe calls for asparagus, but you could substitute 1/2 cup cooked, drained baby spinach for the asparagus. For a cool salad on a hot day, try the ranch rice salad, using an already-cooked rotisserie chicken. It’s as pretty as it is tasty with the roasted red peppers. From “Taste of Home: The Comfort Food Diet” comes a banana blueberry smoothie. It’s super refreshing as well as filling for a good start to your day. Enjoy the Olympics and happy eating!

Asparagus omelet


2 large eggs

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon dried dill, crumbled

Pinch of salt and pepper

1 tablespoon butter


1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1/3 cup chopped rotisserie chicken

1/2 cup 2-inch pieces frozen asparagus spears, thawed

Lightly beat the eggs, water, dill, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When butter begins to sizzle and foam, pour the eggs into the skillet, and tilt the pan to coat the bottom. Sprinkle with the shallot.

Use a spatula to gently push the eggs toward the center, letting the uncooked egg flow underneath. When the top of the egg has set and you do not see any pools of uncooked egg, sprinkle the cheese on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge.

Spoon the chicken and asparagus over half the eggs, then use the spatula to fold the other half over the top. Press down lightly with the back of the spatula, and use it to carefully slide the omelet onto the serving plate. Yields 1 serving.


Ranch rice salad


2/3 cup bottled ranch dressing

1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers

3 tablespoons light sour cream

11/2 teaspoons dried dill weed, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon salt


3 cups firmly cooked and cooled long-grain rice, not instant

2 cups bite-size chunks rotisserie chicken, skin removed

1 cup mild Cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 medium green onions, thinly sliced

Pepper to taste

6 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves or baby spinach

Mix the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add all the salad ingredients except the pepper and the lettuce to the dressing. Stir gently but thoroughly. Add pepper and stir. Serve on lettuce leaves. Yields 3 to 4 servings.


Banana blueberry smoothie

1 cup fat-free milk

1 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 medium bananas, halved

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup frozen, unsweetened blueberries

In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process for 30 seconds or until blended. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately. Yields 6 servings.

Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.