Tournament Planning


Tournament food planning is not for the faint at heart but when it done well, not only is everyone happy, performance will not be affected by the lack of quality food available. I was lucky enough to have a great mom who would team up with other parents to plan the food for weekend tournaments. I have put together a great list of options to help you plan for those busy weekends away with a few favorites from when I was an athlete. Keep in mind that this planning and packing can also be used for road trips, vacations, and business trips. 

What are the benefits to bringing food along for away tournaments? 

Tournament food planning is a great way to help you save money and provide quality food to support a better performance! 

* Be less stressed about where to go buy food 

* Guarantee quality, healthy food to support performance and not have to buy the same, poor quality concession food. 

* Ensure you never go longer than 2-3 hours without a snack on hand 

Where to start? 

Some things you want to consider when you begin planning: 

* How long are you away for? 

* How much time do you have to prepare meals? 

* How many games will be played on each day? 

* Does the hotel room have a microwave and fridge that can be used? 

* Do you or someone in your family have special dietary needs? 

* Is there a day when you can prepare meals in advance? 

* What kinds of foods do you and your family like to eat? 

Packable food options: 

* Vegetables- Pre-wash, cut and store in Ziploc bags or container. Pick the families favorite vegetables, the options are endless; cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots and mushrooms. Now to make it a more balanced snack, do not forget to pack the hummus or Greek yogurt dip. It is great if you can find the time to make your own, but if you run out of time, feel free to run to the grocery store and pick the dips that are in the refrigerated sections. 

* Fruit- One of the best fueling foods, fruit is also one of the easiest foods to pack. Pick a variety of in season fresh fruits to bring along; bananas, apples, oranges, pears and grapes. It is also easy to cut up some melons and pack them in a container. Also do not be afraid to also pack along some dried fruit, apple sauce and 100% fruit juice, just watch the portions when consuming. A favorite snack of mine was dried mango with dark chocolate J. 

* Milk & Alternatives- Bring along some Greek yogurt containers, cottage cheese, Babybels cheese or cheese string. Have these ready for a quick grab and go breakfast, refuel and recover snack and to pair up with crackers and vegetables. 

* Smoothies- Bring along a small, individual smoothie blender; these are a great investment if you do not already have one. You have already brought along the 

fruit and yogurt to add to the smoothie, all you have left to pack is the milk or juice for blending. My favorite hotel smoothie recipe includes bananas, nut butter and chocolate milk for a great recovery or quick breakfast. 

* Nuts and Seeds- These are great options to have packed in individual bags to store in the gym bags, purses and for evening snacks. They do not need to be refrigerated, which is an added bonus. I recommend making your own mix by combining you favorites- almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pecans, walnuts and so on. Do not forget to pack nut butter along as well for your smoothies or for breakfast. I love peanut butter but other nut butters are just as great. 

* Grains- Bring along some grainy crackers, whole wheat pitas, wraps and bread. These are meal essentials. Crackers are great for light lunches or snacks when combined with hummus, cheese and vegetables. The pitas, wraps and bread are essential for making your own lunches. If you are going to make wraps, pitas and sandwiches do not forget the condiments; mustard, mayonnaise and a vignette. 

* Protein- Easy to bring protein options to combine with the grain options are canned tuna, pre-cooked chicken (make your own by cooking chicken breasts and cubing), turkey bites, hard boiled eggs (boil and shell these to pack) and quality lunch meat like ham, turkey or chicken. I find the tuna to be the easiest packing option but often the other meats go over better with the majority of kids and teens. 

* Cereals/Bars- Ideally we would all have time to make our own homemade granolas and granola bars. I have some great recipes already posted if you find you have the time but if you do not, pick out a granola cereal and bar that has less that 10g sugar and at least 3g or more of fiber. Energy bars can also be handy, but there is no need to go out and buy the most expensive bar being sold. Stick to the same criteria and find one that the whole family will like (a few of my favorites are Clif Bars, Solo Bars, and Simply Protein). Instant oatmeal is also easy to pack, especially when room is limited. I recommend the high protein option. 

* Pre-made-I recommend also pre-making a grainy salad, like rice or quinoa salad to bring along for lunches. Sandwiches and wraps are great but I find athletes can get bored with these options quickly, especially on 4 day tournaments. These salads store great and offer an alternative to the wrap or sandwich. 

* Lastly, we cannot forget the water bottles and Gatorade powder. Bring along your own bottles to fill up and save on waste. I also recommend buying the Gatorade powder over the pre-made Gatorade bottles because it is cheaper, saves on space and you can control the amount you want in your bottle. Gatorade is not an essential snack to bring, but is an easy and convenient option, especially for sports that are high intensity and last longer than 60 minutes (hockey, lacrosse, soccer, etc.) 

Non-Food Essentials

In order to pack, store and prepare all this food, we will need to bring along some tools 

* Cooler-to store refrigerated items in the car so that it is easily accessible during the day. If your hotel room does not have a refrigerator, be sure to bring enough ice to keep items cold. 

* Cutlery- I prefer to bring along plastic, although it is not a green option, this way I am not having to do dishes on top of packing food. 

* Paper plates and bowls 

* Small blender 

* Zip-lock bags- for packing snacks in the AM to keep in the athletes bags 

* Storage bin- to store the dry-goods 

To go one extra step, I have some teams bringing along slow cookers and pre-made ready- to-heat freezer meals that can be cooking in the room all day and ready for supper at night. If you are new to this, do not start by bringing the slow cooker along. You may even think I am extra crazy for even giving it as an option! 

Your hotel room will never look the same but trust me when I say that you will have much happier athletes with food ready and available to eat. Happy Traveling!

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