I just got back from a basketball tournament with my oldest son. This wasn’t our first out of town tournament, and it won’t be our last. Because of the circle I run in, I know there are several parents of athletes that wonder, “How do I feed my kid to perform well while on the road?” Also, as parents, I know we want to maintain our health while traveling too. Now, I’m a big believer in enjoying indulgent food from time to time. If you don’t travel often, then you certainly can be more flexible and enjoy some of those “special occasion” foods that you don’t eat regularly. However, if you travel regularly, then you probably don’t want to consider traveling for sports an occasion to splurge.
Not only do I want to address out of town traveling, but the reality is high school and middle school kids go straight from school to their event and usually eat on the road. In addition, with all the after-school sports and activities, parents of younger kids may find themselves eating out frequently . So, I will address any kind of traveling that has you gone all day and forced to eat out; whether in town or out of town.
Naturally, this information will apply to those of us who are traveling with athletes or without. I will help guide you on making healthy choices while on the road!
Here’s my list of tips when considering what and where to eat:
1. Avoid greasy food. Look for foods that are baked, broiled, and grilled, as opposed to fried. Beware; the word “crispy” is a synonym for fried.
2. When you do have fat, choose healthy fats from vegetable sources, like avocado, oil, and nuts.
3. Add vegetables and fruit whenever you can, like on sandwiches, and substitute fruit for a healthy side instead of french fries.
4. Limit how much added sugar you have. Strategize when to indulge – not before a competitive event, but afterward is fine, as long as you make room for it by not eating too much other food.
5. Emphasize the importance of fluids. It can be easy to forget to drink while on the road. You may keep an ice cooler stocked with water bottles in the car, so you always have fluids available.
6. Balance healthy protein with healthy carbohydrates. Choose poultry and fish more often than beef and pork. Avoid processed high fat meats like sausage, hot dogs, and bologna. Opt for whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread) or starchy vegetables (corn, beans, peas, potatoes) when available.
7. Make sure you eat enough but not too much – enough to fuel performance but not so much that you feel full and sluggish.
8. Avoid experimenting with new or uncertain foods while traveling. The last thing you want is to feel sick from foods that are not tolerated.
Here’s my list of options to order at various restaurants you might frequent:
• Hotel Continental Breakfast – scrambled or hard boiled eggs; toast, bagel, oatmeal, or whole grain cereal; fresh fruit, 100% fruit juice, water, yogurt, and milk.
• Sandwich Shop – Subway sandwich, traditional sandwich, or wrap. Chicken, turkey, or ham; whole grain bread option; add veggies; soup or baked chips as side if hungry.
• Pizza – Thin or hand-tossed crust (whole grain if available), marinara sauce, cheese, chicken, Canadian bacon, veggies.
• Pasta – whole grain pasta, if available, with marinara sauce, grilled chicken, veggies.
• Fast food/Burger Place – Grilled chicken sandwich, kids’ burger, baked potato, chili, or fruit for a side. Salad with chicken, seeds, fruit, whole grain crackers or soup on the side.
• Mexican – Bowl (like at Chipotle), Salad, fajita, or burrito – If fajita or burrito, request whole grain or corn tortilla if available. Choose lean protein options: fish, beef, chicken. Add veggies, beans (beware of tolerance since they produce gas, avoid if you are sensitive), rice (whole grain if available), salsa, avocado, light portion of cheese.
• American – Look for sandwich (i.e. grilled chicken or smoked turkey). Request fruit or veggies as a side. Grilled chicken with whole grain starch and veggies. Soup and salad with vinaigrette-type dressing and bread or crackers on the side.
Here’s some pictures of good meal options:
Finally, here’s my list of foods to take with you to keep you out of the drive-thru (hint: look for minimal ingredients and always opt for one protein option plus one carb option or an option that has both!):
• Vacuum packed tuna or chicken pouches
• Beef jerky
• Nuts or seeds
• Individual packets of nut butter
• Dry roasted edamame
• Protein drinks
• Protein powder
• Fresh fruit
• Dried fruit
• Fruit leather
• 100% fruit juice
• Applesauce or other fruit puree pouch
• Rice cakes
Protein & Carb Options
• Fruit & nut bars
• Protein bars
• Peanut butter crackers (better to make your own)
• Peanut butter and honey sandwich
• Trail mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, whole grain cereal)
• String cheese
• Hard boiled eggs
• Lean lunch meat (turkey, chicken, ham)
Protein and Carb Options
• Yogurt (Greek has more protein)
• Hummus (with raw veggies)