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Houston Texans

Rookies get nutrition tips


The Texans' on-staff dietitian, Roberta Anding, gave the team's rookie class a crash course in healthy nutrition on Thursday after their fourth practice of organized team activities. Anding provided a brief instruction period in a team auditorium before taking the rookies grocery shopping at nearby Central Market to put her teachings into action.

"The main thing to get across to the rookies is you have to get healthy to maintain that Mercedes Benz of a body," Anding said. "So if you don't invest in your body by putting high-quality food in, you're not going to get the great results that you're looking for."

Anding has been with the Texans since 2001. She also works at Texas Children's Hospital in adolescent medicine and sports medicine and teaches a course in kinesiology at Rice University, where she is the dietitian for Rice University Wellness. Anding has more than 20 years of experience as a teacher, educator and media representative and is a media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Among her lessons to the rookies were monitoring different areas of the body through lab results to prevent chronic diseases and maintaining a reasonable body fat percentage.

"Nutrition has been very important to me because you can do all you want on your football field, but if you're not eating right, you can break down in a hurry," tight end James Casey said. "I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Anding at Rice as one of my professors, so I know a lot of the stuff that she's teaching right now. She's just full of nutritional information and she knows how important (nutrition) is to be successful as an athlete. It's definitely a major part of being an athlete."

{QUOTE}As she walked the aisles of Central Market with the rookies, Anding offered specific tips such as "think color of the rainbow" when choosing fruits and vegetables, as green and purple fruits tend to have a high concentration of antioxidants. She recommended gravitating toward dark fruits and dark meats and cited plant stanols as a healthy ingredient in food that can lower cholesterol.

"I just like to get every little opinion and input on what people have to say," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "I take a lot of attention and pride in the whole nutrition thing. I'm trying to play for a while."

Eating right is more than a casual hobby for Cushing. At USC, he and roommate Taylor Mays ordered specialized food that was delivered to their apartment doorstep every morning in an effort to trim down.

Many of Cushing's fellow rookies had never before received one-on-one attention from a dietitian.

"I think it's really important in order to maintain your body and progress as a football player," Cushing said. "You know, a lot of these guys have had really no idea, no grasp on how to eat or what to do, but I think coming here has given guys a whole new perspective on how important this whole nutritional aspect of football and maintaining your body is."

Anding said that while a stereotype exists of football players eating fried chicken and greasy food, most NFL players are highly attentive of taking care of their bodies in order to achieve maximum performance on the field. Many major college programs now also hire full-time registered dietitians, giving rookies from those schools a solid foundation of knowledge when they enter the league.

"I think the challenge is, this is a different game than the college game and they need more energy, they need rest, they need recovery," Anding said. "We're ratcheting it up a little bit for these guys, and they really need to do a lot to protect their bodies.

According to Anding, 16 of the 32 teams in the NFL have dietitians on staff, marking a growing trend in the league.

"I always describe nutrition, partnered with strength and conditioning, like peanut butter and jelly," she said. "They're OK apart, but much better together. So when our guys do high-intensity weight training and they come and they partner that with good nutrition, in the seven years I've been at the Texans, we see everybody gain lean mass. And they come from great college programs. But the combination of those two together, great strength and conditioning and good nutrition, is a winning formula for Sundays."

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