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Travel Teams: Healthy Eating for the Youth Athlete Away from Home

Nutritional needs do not have to suffer

As a 2012 study1 recently highlighted, one of the biggest nutritional challenges faced by parents of youth athletes on travel teams is seeing that they eat properly away from home.  But whether you are traveling to an three-day soccer tournament in a nearby town, or a two-week tournament in a foreign country, your child's nutritional needs don't have to suffer.

There are plenty of ways you can ensure that your child will eat the kind of high carbohydrate, moderate protein, and low fat diet which studies show are necessary for optimal performance. Here are some strategies to use in making healthy choices at fast food, family-style and ethnic restaurants, and grocery and convenience stores. Grilled chicken frajita with side salad

Fast Food Strategies

When you are away from home with your child at a tournament or all-day event, time is usually at a premium. But convenience and a shortage of time don't mean your child can't continue to eat right, even at fast food restaurants. While fast food franchises provide quick service, inexpensive food of consistent quality, and are easily accessible, keep in mind the following when you stop:

  • The bad news: Most fast foods are high in fat, sodium, and relatively low in carbohydrate, micronutrients, and fiber.
  • The good news: Fast food franchises increasingly offer low fat, nutritious choices such as salad bars, prepared salads, healthy soups, grilled or baked meat, fish or chicken/turkey, baked potatoes, and low fat frozen yogurt or ice cream.
  • Model good eating. You will help your child to make nutritious choices if you select healthy items yourself.
  • When in doubt, ask. Many fast food restaurants now post information on the nutritional content of their food. If it isn't posted, the manager may be able to provide you a brochure, or at least tell you where to write to get more information.

Click here for some guidelines to help you and your child make healthy high-carbohydrate, low fat menu selections at fast food restaurants.

Family-Style and Ethnic Restaurants

In general, "family-style" restaurants offer a wider variety of nutritious food than fast-food restaurants. Meals with coaches, players and other teammates before or after an away game or competition are often highlights of a youth sports season.

Healthy high-carbohydrate, low fat meals are available at ethnic restaurants. You just have to know what to look for, what to avoid or watch out for, and what the good menu choices are. For tips when eating at ethnic restaurants, click here.

Planning Food For The Road

  • Pick restaurants in advance. Determine beforehand where the team will eat to assure that a high-carbohydrate meal will be available.
  • Call ahead. Restaurant managers will generally be accommodating, if they know ahead of time.
  • Arrange for meals. When staying in a hotel that offers food service, contact the catering manager to arrange for high carbohydrate, low fat meals within the team's budget.
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