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Travel Nutrition for Athletes

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I am in yet another humbling new world as both a parent and dietitian. My son is on a basketball team that travels a lot. He came home the other night telling me he ate the “worst meal he has ever had.” It was chicken nuggets and French fries from a fast-food restaurant that shall unnamed. I was relieved this was his reaction.

There are some “fast-food places” that we will eat in a pinch. They offer fresh ingredients, vegetables, and sometimes organic and sustainable ingredients. Then there are the fast-food places we don’t ever eat it because they are not actually serving real food. That was where he ended up eating.

He then began to complain of his stomach not feeling good and then a few hours later he threw up. “It must have been that food,” he said.

Despite the fact that both his brother and I had JUST gotten over the stomach flu, I agreed with him. “Must have been that food or, eat least it contributed a little”, I nodded.

We have since talked about how to make the best possible choices in places where food options are limited and, we pack a large cooler-style lunch box full of options.

I have also been working closely with Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy to help them navigate food challenges while traveling. Here are some of the things to consider as a traveling athlete. If you have any suggestions please add them in the comment section below!

Eating with Purpose “on the Road “

Eating with purpose is about remembering to pause before you eat, decide what the intention of this eating occasion is, and make a choice. Having a nutrition routine at home that supports your healthy, active lifestyle with a solid foundation you can lean on when your routine becomes variable and more unpredictable with travel.

Aiming to eat healthily and in line with your purpose eighty percent of the is a good rule of thumb. The other twenty percent is for being human about food. Being intentional with your food choices means leaving room to eat food just for the taste or celebration of it and, leaves room for exploration when traveling!

Nutrition Tips for General Travel

  • Don’t skip meals: Eat something about every three hours.
  • Bring Back-up Food:  Be prepared with portable healthy snacks for each day of travel in case a meal becomes further out than expected.
  • Strive to Include Fruits & Vegetables: These can be the most difficult healthy foods to come by when traveling. Bring fruit and veggies with you that travel well (apples, oranges, grapes)
  • Pack Portable Protein: Cooked chick breast doesn’t travel well. Think jerky, nuts, seeds, protein bar, Tetrapak milk/soy protein shakes
  • Stay Hydrated: Bring your refillable water bottle with you everywhere (pro tip: make sure it is empty before airline security!!

Road Trip Specific Nutrition Tips: Travel with fixings for rest stop meals

  • Bring a Cooler: Load it with yogurts, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, tempeh, lunch meats, berries, carrots, cucumbers, leafy greens, hummus
  • Pack a Pantry: Whole grain bread, rice cakes, peanut/almond/sunflower seed butters/, oatmeal packets, dehydrated soup mixes, canned tuna or salmon, sardines, bananas, whole grain crackers, sweet potatoes
  • Bring a JetBoil: This is a cooking system design for camping but can be useful for boil water, making soups, cooking noodles, or steaming vegetables on the road

*Motion sickness? Try sea bands, peppermint, ginger !

Airline Travel

  • Look for a sandwich, sushi, burrito, veggie salad or bowl options for purchase to bring on the plane
  • Check coffee shops for bento boxes (of veggies, protein, fruit, grain options), Greek yogurt, fruit parfaits, or oatmeal
  • Refill water bottle at water fountain/filling station once past security
  • Keep snacks and water accessible under the seat in front of you
  • Eat high protein snacks such as almonds
  • Eat small and often over the course of the flight 

When You Arrive at Your Destination

  • Scout out a grocery store or market to stock up on healthy snacks and simple things to have in your hotel room or rental house
  • Explore local favorites
  • Try something new after your race day
  • Eat according to the time of day where you are not according to your body clock
  • Hydrate, limit caffeine and sugary drinks

Please contribute things that have worked for you! Personally I never travel with anything less than three organic apples, a bag of almonds, an energy bar, and my refillable water bottle!

This entry was posted in: Nutrition


Nutrition Strategist and Registered Dietitian with twenty years of experience creating nutrition strategies that influence and inspire people to accomplish big things.

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