Home » Nutrition for Athletes Part 4: Eating on the Road

Nutrition for Athletes Part 4: Eating on the Road


Submitted by Amy Sercel MS RD CD

Edited by Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD

Whether you’re traveling for a competition or simply having a night out with friends or family, there will undoubtedly be times that you find yourself eating away from home.  In times like these, it may be challenging to find foods that fit with your nutritional goals.  Even when you’re away from home, you still need to think about getting a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in each meal and snack.  Carbohydrates, found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, will provide the fuel you need before exercise and replenish your muscle glycogen stores after a workout.  Lean protein, found in foods like chicken, beef, fish, eggs, and dairy products, provide the building blocks your muscles need to grow and repair themselves.  Healthy fats found in olive and canola oils, avocadoes, and nuts, help you meet your calorie needs and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.1

The best way to make sure you’ll eat well-rounded meals and snacks is to plan ahead.  If you’re traveling, pack a few snacks so you won’t get too hungry between meals.  Some easily transportable foods include:

  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • Whole-wheat bagels spread with nut butter
  • Fresh vegetables with hummus
  • Low-fat yogurt with granola
  • String cheese and a piece of fruit

If you’ll need to stop at a restaurant for a meal, look for restaurants along the route you’ll be driving before you leave your home.  Check to see if the restaurant’s menu is online so you can get a good idea of the different options you could order, and consider whether the restaurant will let you make a substitution if the original meal won’t meet your nutrition goals.  Some healthy ideas could be:1

  • A burrito with grilled vegetables and lean protein, such as chicken, steak, or fish
  • A sandwich, hamburger, or veggie burger with lettuce and tomato
  •  A grilled chicken salad with low-fat dressing
  • Vegetable soup with a turkey sandwich

You should also feel free to ask the chef to prepare your food differently than written on the menu.  Most restaurants will make an effort to prepare foods exactly how you want them and are used to customers asking for their meals to be individualized in some way.  For example, ask for a side of vegetables instead of French fries when getting lunch, or order whole grain toast instead of a biscuit at a breakfast restaurant.  If something comes fried, ask if you can get it grilled, broiled, or baked instead.  If a salad comes with dressing on it, ask that the dressing be left on the side so you can choose the amount you’ll use.

Eating away from home doesn’t mean you’ll have to sacrifice your nutrition goals!  Planning ahead and making substituting healthier options will allow you to make sure you get the nutrients you need to prepare you for your workout or competition.


  1.  Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition. Eating on the Road. 2012.

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