August 11th, 2020

Training Matters: Planning smart meals for athletes during COVID competition

By Kimberlee Brooks on July 24, 2020.

As youth athletes start to return to some preliminary games and tournaments they will be travelling to other cities and communities.

Eating well on the road is important to support their performance. With our new COVID-19 environment, planning ahead will be key.

Venues hosting events will have new protocols in place. Tournaments and games may have restrictions on who is coming in and out of the facility. Recreation centres may not have food venues open. Water dispensing stations may be closed and common areas to eat may be blocked off to prevent large groups from gathering.

Athletes and their families will want to ensure they are aware of what the facility or venue rules are so they can plan accordingly.

A good plan when travelling is to pack healthy foods and drinks. Athletes are not always aware how much time they will have between games and facilities may not have food venues running to purchase foods at the event.

Pack a cooler or insulated lunch kit and ice pack to provide athletes with instant access to food and fluids. Fill the cooler with on the go meals and snacks such as:

• Sub sandwiches, wraps or pitas with lean cooked meats

• Breads, buns or bagels with peanut butter or hard boiled eggs or canned tuna or salmon

• Yogurt parfaits or home-made smoothies

• Cut up fresh vegetables and fruit, unsweetened applesauce or fruit cups

• Trail mix, whole grain crackers and sliced lower fat cheese

• Granola bars, dry cereal or instant oatmeal (pack in thermos)

• Chocolate milk or milk, soy beverage, and extra refillable water bottles

Be sure to also include hand sanitizer, napkins, cutlery and disposable or plastic plates so that athletes are able to sanitize and eat safely.

Fast food restaurants may be most convenient when travelling. Athletes, coaches and parents can use smart strategies to choose healthy fast food meals.

Smart menu selections include avoiding battered, deep fried, breaded, creamy menu items which are often high in calories, unhealthy fats and sodium.

Instead look for menu descriptions such as baked, broiled, steamed, stir-fried. Find options that include fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean sources of protein. Order water, milk or soy beverage options instead of pop. Some options could be:

• Grilled chicken sandwich, side salad and milk

• Plain hamburger, garden salad, half a package of Italian dressing and water

• Turkey sub sandwich, lettuce, tomato, apple slices, chocolate milk

• Minestrone soup, crusty whole wheat roll, fruit and yogurt parfait

• Beef and broccoli stir fry on rice or noodles, water and fresh fruit

• Pizza with cheese and vegetables with whole wheat crust and water

• English muffin breakfast sandwich with egg and ham, orange juice and tea or coffee

Pack additional supplies to prepare simple meals and snacks in hotel room. Items such as a small cutting board and knife, travel plates and bowls, cutlery and can opener make it easy to make a variety of food options.

Athletes and families can prepare sandwiches, buns or wraps, cut up vegetables and fruit, or heat soup, leftovers or oatmeal in their hotel room. Include small sandwich bags or plastic containers to make and take food on the go. Pack a dish towel, cloth and soap so containers and water bottles can be washed regularly.

As athletes look forward to competing again, they can ensure they are fuelling their activity by eating well and safely when travelling.

Kimberlee Brooks, RD, MSc, is a sport dietitian with Alberta Sport Development Center SE and can be reached at

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