What Super Bowl Champs Eat
In the third and final installment of our series with NutriBee on Nutrition in the News, HTE contributor Sean de Ganon had the chance to find out what Super Bowl champs eat … and how we can eat our way to the top too!
By Sean de Ganon
Imagine being in a stadium with 50,000 screaming fans, some for your team, some for your opponent. Imagine that your coach calls you over and asks to speak to you. You can barely hear him through the endless roar. He signals you toward the field. You jog out in the middle of the Super Bowl and the quarterback hands the ball off to you. You get a key first down, moving your team closer to the end zone. The crowd cheers for you. You are exhilarated. The world now knows your name. You jog back to the sideline, the crowd applauding you and your teammates who are jumping on your back.
I had the opportunity to interview a real life person just like the one I described. His name is Verron Haynes, and he is a Super Bowl champion who played for the Super Bowl XL Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
I had the chance to speak to him via FaceTime in April with Claudia Heitler, editor of HTE Kids News, about what role nutrition plays in being a champion.
Sean de Ganon: What is your personal favorite food?
Verron Haynes: My personal favorite food: Lasagna! I enjoy pasta.
Sean de Ganon: How do you balance your healthy and unhealthy food choices?
Verron Haynes: I try to eat, for the most part, a balanced meal. I’m not a big sweets eater. I never had a keen sense for sweets, even as a kid, or indulged in too much sweets … For the most part, I try to eat clean, whether it’s fish or chicken. During the season my diet was no red meat at all because I think it weighs you down. But that was just my personal preference. Now, to this day, I eat fish more than anything else. I’m a big, big fruit and fish eater.
Sean de Ganon: What do you mean by “clean” eating?
Verron Haynes: What clean eating means is not a lot of fried food … Take for instance burgers and greasy food and fries, I try to not do that … If I was to eat something, it would be grilled. That’s what clean eating is.
Sean de Ganon: What area of nutrition are you most passionate about?
Verron Haynes: Hydration. I really believe that your body is like a temple, and what you put in it is going to give you everything that you put in … so if you treat it as such and if you are keen on what you put in there, I think it pays you tenfold. I’m big on hydration, I drink a lot of water. I drink about two gallons a day.
Sean de Ganon: What drinks do you recommend for kids like me and my friends?
Verron Haynes: Water is always great. Milk. I really recommend milk, I see the importance of it. You can do your Gatorades, but I would like less sugar in my Gatorades that I drink, so the G2s with the less sugar, I think that’s good. Sports drinks, as long as you watch your sugar intake, I think for the most part they are healthy … Some of them put a lot of sugar in it, and you think your adrenaline is chasing but you are really on a sugar high but then you crash.
Sean de Ganon: When did you decide to get involved with kids and nutrition?
Verron Haynes: It’s always been important to me, just for the simple fact of giving back. The obesity rate is at a high, so I really wanted to do my part. They started taking PE out of elementary school, and I think that right there is evidence of why we really need to focus on the nutrition aspect, because that plays an important factor in obesity.
You guys are our future so if we can “each one teach one” … I might spread it to you, you could spread it to your friends. I think collectively we’ll do great things.
Sean de Ganon: So, what types of food do you recommend for kids to stay healthy?
Verron Haynes : I think you have to get all your essentials. You have to eat your fruits, you have to eat your vegetables, you have to have a protein, a starch in there, and you also need a sugar, you also need a sweet sweet. I think everything in moderation is important for kids. But especially milk for your bones, I can’t hit hard enough on that.
Sean de Ganon: I understand you have kids. How do you instill the value of good nutrition in them?
Verron Haynes: We don’t eat out that often. We try to cook as much as possible, especially at dinnertime. I pack the kids’ lunch so I see what we are putting in there. We try to get vegetables in there even though it’s not their most favorite (laughter), we try to get fruits in there and then we’ll get a couple of sweets in there for them as well.
Sean de Ganon: Now that you have retired from pro-football, how do you stay fit?
Verron Haynes: I work out just about every day. I do about six miles a day running wise. I don’t lift weights nearly as much as I used to anymore because my body is just hurting but I do do cardio, a lot of cardio, and I try to maintain a balance.
Sean de Ganon: Do coaches get involved in what players eat?
Verron Haynes: Usually the coach will meet with the strength and nutrition guy on the team that helps facilitate what’s offered in the cafeteria. Especially in training camp where it’s hot and you are practicing multiple times a day, you have to incorporate and see what calories and nutrition are going into your body.
Sean de Ganon: Who was your biggest role model and mentor and why?
Verron Haynes: My mom and my dad. My dad played professional soccer, so a lot of my work ethic came from just watching him. He still goes in to the gym and works out. My mom for all her hard work and dedication, working two jobs and still in school. The values that they instilled in me really is the reason why I amounted to anything.
Sean de Ganon: Last question. Do you wear your Super Bowl ring in public sometimes?
Verron Haynes: I do, I do. Here is a funny story about my Super Bowl ring. I’m at dinner [at a restaurant] and I hear a clink on the floor and I pay no attention to it. But I get home and I’m taking it off, and I see that the top was missing to it. Apparently, for the Super Bowl XL rings, the top has come unglued or something. I called the restaurant immediately and I asked to speak to the manager and he went to where I was sitting, and fortunately it was still there underneath the table. He gets on the phone and he says, “How much is this ring worth to you?” and I said, “A lot!”. He went and he put it in the safe, and he said it will be here when you get it back: no one else will be able to view it or touch it. It’s over getting fixed. Occasionally I’ll put it on, but mostly whenever I’m in a suit I usually wear it.
Sean de Ganon: It adds the bling (laughter)!
I learned many things from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the importance of eating a balanced diet, how sports and nutrition are linked, and how Mr. Haynes gives back to the fans and the kids with open arms. He said many memorable things during the interview, but this sentence sticks in my mind the most: “In anything that you do in life, success comes before work only in a dictionary. Whether you want to be a lawyer or a doctor or whether you want to lose weight, just go out there and work hard for it. You can accomplish anything.”
To learn more about football and nutrition you can watch this NBC News Learn/National Science Foundation video:
Sean de Ganon is in 8th grade in New York. He loves football and loves to write. He also likes politics, current events, and crime shows. He attributes his interest in nutrition to his dad, a “health freak” and his mom who inspires him to eat healthy.