You’ve got a game plan, right? Serve and volley, baseline grinding to open up the court...something to make you a stronger more confident player. If you want to be great, you have to have an off-the-court game plan for training, injury prevention, and nutrition. Travel can throw a kink in things, especially nutrition. As a sports dietitian to NCAA Division I top-25 tennis teams, I have had the pleasure of navigating menus for many tennis players.
The trouble is, when you travel, fast food might be your only option. We all know fast food is not healthy. You might be surprised to hear me say, “not so fast”. It is possible to find something that won’t derail your healthy eating. Follow these simple guidelines to help you find the best option at roadside eateries.
Hamburger Fast Food Restaurant:
· Order a grilled chicken sandwich with no dressing and a packet of mustard or ketchup.
· If you don’t like chicken, choose a junior sized burger with a packet of ketchup or mustard.
· Instead of fries, ask about alternate options. Try a salad or a side of fruit.
· Stick to water or a small 100% juice for a beverage.
Sandwich Fast Food Restaurant:
· Opt for wheat bread and any of the lunch meat options (ham, turkey, roast beef).
· Avoid chicken and tuna salad since they can be quite high in fat.
· Have fruit, pretzels, or baked chips as a side.
· Load your sandwich up on veggies.
· Choose mustard for your dressing instead of oil/vinegar, mayonnaise, or the restaurant’s “signature sauce”.
Mexican Fast Food Restaurant:
· Skip the traditional meals and look for an ala carte menu.
· Choose a chicken, steak or ground beef taco with lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese.
· Opt for borracho beans instead of refried beans. Typically the refried beans will have a significant amount of fat.
· Add a side of rice if you need a little more than a taco to fill you up.
Gas Station or Truck Stop:
· Somewhere between Abilene and Dallas, this might be your only option.
· Head to the drink refrigerator and find low fat milk (chocolate, strawberry, regular – all are great choices).
· Look for a piece of fresh fruit. Many gas stations now offer apples or bananas!
· Find a granola bar that isn’t loaded with saturated fat or added sugar. Check the ingredient list and choose a bar with the shortest list.
· It might sound crazy, but find some beef jerky. The extra sodium will help if you have been sweating and it is a low fat protein option for the road.
Now that you are armed and ready, hit the road confidently when you go to your next tournament. Remember to pack some water bottles for the road and don’t be afraid to take a couple bathroom breaks. Hydration is still important when you are sitting in the car!
Caroline Sullivan is a Houston-based Registered Dietitian and specialist in sports dietetics. She has served as a dietitian for several NCAA Division I top-25 teams including work with basketball, football, tennis, and track & field. She is a member of the USTA Texas Sports Science Committee.