Be Smart with Fast Food — if You Are An Aspiring Athlete
Maintaining a healthy diet during a tournament weekend calls on parents and players to make tough decisions while on the go.
Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN — Author of FUELING YOUNG ATHLETES and CEO/Nutrition Consultant at Nutrition CheckUp — discusses alternatives to fast food and the dietary suggestions for the traveling athlete.
Related Article: Hydration & Nutrition Advice for Soccer Players
Soccer News: As youth soccer players travel during their busy schedule, the options for eating are at times limited during a long weekend of matches.
The convenience of stopping at one of the notorious fast food joints that are on every corner tends to be inviting for the parent that may be low on funds or time.
The importance of avoiding these temptations remains at an all-time high while players striving to reach the next step in their career. Maintaining a healthy diet that rids yourself of any food high in calories should be avoided at all costs.
GoalNation followed up with Mangieri as we discuss the harms of eating fast food and alternatives while traveling for soccer tournaments.
Diane Scavuzzo: How bad is fast food for a teenage soccer player? Why?
Heather Mangieri: Young athletes are busy people and that means eating on the go is a reality. There’s absolutely no need to feel bad or guilty over stopping for a quick bite at a fast food restaurant.
It’s not necessarily the fast food restaurant that is of concern, it’s what is ordered at that restaurant. Fast food establishments have come a long way from where they were years ago and just about all of them offer at least one menu item that will fit into a healthy eating plan.
Look for items that provide a combination of carbohydrates and protein, as well as some fats. For example, most offer a grilled chicken sandwich, some sort of mixed salad and milk. That meal makes up the combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that teenage athletes need, not only to fuel their body for growth and development but to fuel their sport as well.
Diane Scavuzzo: If you are stuck playing in a soccer tournament, what are your best choices for a quick recharging bite between games?
Heather Mangieri: Fueling for back-to-back bouts of exercise requires some thought in terms of what and how much to eat. The most important consideration is how much time you have between events. If the next game is not for 2-3 hours, you have plenty of time to eat a balanced meal, making sure to keep the fat and fiber intake low. Pack a sandwich such as turkey and cheese or nut butter and jelly sandwich with a piece of fruit, If the next game starts in an hour or less, focus on quick-digesting carbohydrates; raw or dried fruits, applesauce cups, fig bars, rice cakes, yogurt, white or flavored milk or sports drinks are all options.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the best foods to put in a cooler?
Heather Mangieri: A cooler and ice packs are part of your sporting equipment. Just as shoes and sport gear go in a gym bag, fuel and hydration go in your cooler. Load it up with nourishing choices for the day such as plain or Greek yogurt, sandwiches, sports drinks, milk or flavored milk, bottled water, fruits, vegetables and any other foods you want to eat during your time away from home.
Diane Scavuzzo: What’s your favorite recommendation for the night before meal? And breakfast before an early match?
Heather Mangieri: Make sure to eat a nourishing meal the evening before an event. You won’t be using the energy from this meal until the next day, so skip the simple sugars and eat more complex carbohydrates. Despite popular belief, it’s not necessary to stuff yourself full of carbohydrates. The goal is to load, not explode, your muscles with fuel. Choose ample complex carbohydrates, moderate protein and load up on fluids. Chicken or beef fajitas with a side of rice, vegetbles, fruit and milk is one example.
Make sure to eat foods that are familiar to you too. Around a competition is not the time to be trying or experimenting with new foods.
Fueling Young Athletes by Heather R. Mangieri is a GREAT READ. Available at Amazon.