It’s impossible for athletes to avoid dining out while traveling during season. Having an occasional meal that’s high in fat is unlikely to interfere with your performance however a consistent intake of high fat fast food can take a toll on your performance, energy levels, and body composition. That is why it’s so important for athletes who are constantly traveling on the road to know how to choose the best options when dining out. I have created an athlete’s guide to eating healthy on the road from breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to snacks and hydration.
These healthier breakfast items are found on most restaurant breakfast menus and may be available at hotels offering continental breakfast: whole wheat bread, bagels, bran muffins, eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, milk, fresh fruit, English muffins, cereal, granola
Avoid items such as breakfast sandwiches that are high in fat containing sausage/bacon and cheese, and breakfast treats that are high in sugar and fat such as Danishes, donuts, or cinnamon rolls.
Here are some additional fast food breakfast options that can be found at nationwide chains such as McDonalds, Burger King, Panera and Starbucks:
- Whole grain, plain or Blueberry bagels
- Fruit and yogurt parfait
- Steel cut Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
- Egg McMuffin – no sausage/bacon
- Strawberry Banana Fruit Smoothies
- Breakfast Power Sandwich
- Power breakfast egg white bowl with turkey
Lunch & Dinner
When choosing items on a restaurant menu, avoid these high-fat “cues”:
- Fried/Pan fried - breaded
- Buttery/butter sauce - crispy
- Gravy - creamed/creamy/alfredo sauce
- Cheese sauce - au gratin
Look for these low-fat “cues” as being healthier options:
- Steamed, broiled, poached - stir-fried
- Roasted - grilled
- Charbroiled or broiled - tomato sauce/marinara
- Marinated in juice/wine/in own juices
If you are at a sandwich shop such as Subway, Jimmy Johns, or Mr. Goodcents, choose chicken, turkey, or roast beef and add as many vegetables as you want. Leave off mayonnaise and cheese. Order on a whole-wheat roll, bagel, or tortilla. If you are getting a hamburger, order a single patty and leave off the mayonnaise and cheese.
Healthiest options would be burrito bowls or soft flour tortillas with brown rice, chicken, beans, beef, or veggies. Add lower fat condiments such as salsa, pico de gallo, lettuce and tomatoes. Limit the amount of shredded cheese, guacamole, and sour cream added.
Snacks and Hydration:
It’s important to pack healthy snacks so you’re always prepared and don’t go too long without eating. Items that are easy to pack without needing to be refrigerated include:
· Whole grain bagels or bread with peanut butter (note: if flying, jars of peanut butter cannot be taken on the plan. Either spread peanut butter on these beforehand, or bring a small to-go packet such as Justin’s brand to get through security.)
· Triscuit crackers or carrot sticks and small to-go packs of hummus
· Fig bars
· Energy bars (brands such as KIND, Lara, Clif, Powerbar)
· Dried or fresh fruits and nuts (trail mixes)
· Tuna packets
· Ziploc bags of whole grain cereals (ex: kashi, quakers oatmeal squares)
· Ziploc bags of air-popped microwave popcorn
Athletes who are traveling by plane should also be aware of the effect flying has on dehydration levels due to low humidity in the cabin. When flying, make sure to drink plenty of caffeine-free fluids such as water, juice, or gatorade and avoid coffee, energy drinks, soda, and alcohol. Empty water bottles can be taken through security at airports to refill while traveling.
If you know where you will be eating ahead of time, check out the menu and nutrition information beforehand by looking at their website, or by using apps such as Yelp and HealthyOut. If you wish for further education on making healthy choices on the road, email me to make an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo: the whole life nutrition kitchen