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Eating Out

Packing foods for the trip / Using the local grocery / Buzz words for ordering

Eating Out

Eating Away from Home As a part of athletics, you will find yourself eating out on the road. If you settle for the restaurant, which is most convenient, you can still make healthy choices. Some of my menu selections are given. First, here is an excellent set of general guidelines to follow. It is useful to recognize that you need not eat at a restaurant or hotel cafe. If you plan ahead by having a refrigerator in your room or cooler in the car, you can be prepared. Rate yourself - Take the quick quiz - See how well you are doing!

EATING "ON THE ROAD" General Guidelines

Traveling brings rise to an array of problems when it comes to athletic performance. The athlete is put in challenging situations, to perform at their best while dealing with unfamiliar surroundings, lengthy travel times, different environmental factors, abnormal practices, jet lag, and unfamiliar foods and eating patterns. Arrangements are often made to minimize or eliminate the problems of jet lag, unfamiliar surroundings and environmental factors by traveling earlier and practicing in the competition arenas. However, other factors, such as nutrition are sometimes left by the wayside. Repeated studies have shown that an athlete's diet has a large impact on their performance. The current recommendation of a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet allows the athlete to maintain optimal energy levels which makes sense for all athletes. This does not have to be compromised while traveling. Although it may take a little more effort to maintain a proper diet while traveling, it is well worth the effort. Use the suggestions below to have a top-notch diet "on the road.

To prevent dehydration you should keep well hydrated at all times, even on the road, by drinking frequently before, during, and after exercise.

  • Do not drown your thirst in calories! Drink plenty of water.
  • In restaurants, including fast food ones, ask for water in addition to other beverages. Request a pitcher of water be left at your table.
  • You can buy bottled water or mineral water at grocery stores and convenience stores.
  • Carry squeeze bottles of water  with you, especially on long airplane flights.
  • Limit caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and cause fluid loss making you MORE dehydrated.

Packing nutrient-dense foods for the trip.

Many foods can be packed easily in a gym bag or suitcase. By bringing your own food, you can eat familiar foods. This is especially important when traveling to an unfamiliar area, where favorite foods may be harder to find. The following is a list of nutrient dense foods that can travel easily.

  sports bars
dried fruits and fruit bars
granola bars
Fat Free pretzels
graham crackers
fig bars
Tortilla wraps  peanut butter
vegetable sticks from celery, carrots, jicama, etc.
Small whole grain bagels, breads, and rolls
Bag-packaged tuna, chicken and turkey.

Make a trip to the local store to pick-up some essentials.

Picking up some basic foods can allow for some meals to be eaten in the hotel, especially if there is a microwave and refrigerator available. Some of these items may include:

  low-fat or skim milk
canned beans
fresh fruits and vegetables
low-fat luncheon meats
cottage cheese
low-fat dressing
apple sauce

By buying a few of these essentials any meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner can be made in the hotel room. For instance, the following is a quick easy meal plan for a day in a hotel room.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
A bowl of cereal with milk
a glass of juice
A piece of fruit and a bagel
Tuna or peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Carrot sticks
Fresh fruit and a granola bar
Low-fat or skim milk
Sandwich with low-fat luncheon meats
Salad or soup
A glass of juice or milk

There are plenty more combinations of quick and healthy alternatives to eating out when traveling. Just be sure to make conscious decisions when meal planning by reading food labels and eating plenty of carbohydrates and calories to fuel performance.

 Eat for performance at fast-food restaurants.

Most restaurants have lower-fat items to choose from. In some cases finding these lower-fat items may take some detective work, but in other instances the restaurant may have some healthier items already indicated on the menu. In either case it is important to know what to look for. The following are some general guidelines.


  • Order pancakes, French toast, muffins, toast, cereal, fruit, juices. These are all higher in carbohydrate and lower in fat than traditional egg and bacon breakfasts.
  • Request that toast, pancakes, etc. be served without butter or margarine. Use syrup or jam to keep carbohydrate high and fat to a minimum.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products (skim or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, etc.)
  • Fresh fruit may be expensive or difficult to find. Carry fresh and/or dried fruits.
  • Cold cereal can be a good breakfast or snack...carry boxes in the car or on the bus. Keep low-fat milk in cooler or purchase at convenience stores.


  • On sandwiches look for lower fat meats, such as turkey and chicken. Remember that most of the fat in sandwiches is found in the spread. Prepare or order without the "mayo," "special sauce," or butter. Use ketchup or mustard instead.
  • Choose foods that are broiled, baked, microwaved, steamed, or boiled rather than fried, and try to avoid breaded items. Salad bars can be lifesavers, but watch the dressing, olives, fried croutons, nuts, and could end up with more fat than any super-burger could hope to hold!
  • Choose low-fat salad dressings. If low-fat dressings aren't available, pack your own.
  • Baked potatoes should be ordered with butter and sauces "on the side." Add just enough to moisten the carbohydrate-rich potato.
  • Soups and crackers can be good low-fat meals; stay away from cream soups.
  • Juices, low-fat milk, and low-fat milk shakes are a more nutritious choice than soda pop.


  • Go to restaurants that offer high-carbohydrate foods such as pasta, baked potatoes, rice, breads, vegetables, salad bars, and fruits. If you find these places are few and far between, make a deal with the owner or cook to prepare those foods for your team on certain could be their way to contribute to the success of local athletes.
  • Eat thick crust pizzas with low-fat toppings such as green peppers, mushrooms, Canadian bacon, and onions. Avoid fatty meats such as pepperoni or sausage, extra cheese, and olives.
  • Eat breads without butter or margarine...use jelly instead. Ask for salads with dressing "on the side" so that you can add minimal amounts yourself. Ask for low-fat salad dressings.


  • Whole grain breads, muffins, bagels, tortillas, fruit, fruit breads, low-fat crackers, pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, oatmeal raisin cookies, fig bars, animal crackers, fruit juice, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, breakfast cereal, canned liquid meals, dried and fresh fruits.


Will the restaurant:
  • Serve the meal without butter?
    •  (Even Steamed veggies have butter unless you specifically ask)
  • Serve fat free (skim) milk rather than whole milk or cream?
  • Trim visible fat from poultry or meat?
  • Leave all butter, gravy or sauces off a dish?
  • Serve salad dressing on the side?
  • Reduced Fat Dressings?
  • Accommodate special requests?
  • Use less cooking oil when cooking?

Don't be afraid to adjust your meal to your benefit

After all YOU are paying for it!

   Often, it is assumed that butter will be put in a dish. You must ask, specifically not to have it used.


 Words to live by when ordering

its own juices
tomato sauce
marinated in juice or wine
charbroiled or broiled
stuffed with veggies
  fried or pan-fried
buttery or butter sauce
creamed or creamy
au gratin
cheese sauce, or stuffed with      cheese
scampi sauce
breaded or lightly breaded
meat sauce
Alfredo sauce


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