If you played for the Texas Rangers, with their $129 million payroll, you wouldn't have a hard time finding nutritious foods to eat. That sort of thing would be taken care of for you.
It's more likely, though, that you and your teammates are spending the summer on a bus, traveling from game to game, much like the Sugar Land Skeeters, a small-market baseball team outside of Houston that's unaffiliated with Major League Baseball, but has a roster full of players with big league experience. Those athletes, and their nutrition adviser Brett Singer, R.D., from Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute have to find smart ways to fuel up for games properly on a budget that's more like the one you and your crew are on. Here are five money-saving nutrition tips you can take from Singer and the Skeeters.
Mix It Up
According to Singer, the Skeeters encounter a lot of cold cuts and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when they're out on the road. He says, "Those can be OK, but they can get boring pretty quickly," adding that although lunch meat is a decent source of protein, it isn't his favorite choice.
Instead, he offers players less boring, more nutritious food without breaking the bank. "I'm trying to incorporate foods we can make at a cost similar to those deli sandwiches, but aren't them," Singer says. He has the team eat starchy carbs like pasta and sweet potatoes, mixed with a lean protein source and flavored as they see fit. Stir fry and southwestern corn mixes are clubhouse favorites. And rice is a staple. "You can do a lot of different things with rice, and it can be done in a very affordable way," he says.
Shop The Seasons
It's generally more affordable (and more nutritious) to purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season. "We always talk about purchasing fruits and vegetables that are in season," Singer says. "When we go to the grocery store, we know what's in season and watch the prices."
Cut Back On Meat
Singer is not suggesting we should all become vegetarians, but he says many athletes eat too much meat. "You don't need to eat the quantity that many people think they do," he says. "Three to five ounces are really about the max that most people will need [at a meal]." To put that in perspective, a three-ounce serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. Curbing your meat eating is lighter on your wallet too, since beef, chicken and fish are generally more expensive than fruits and vegetables.
Sometimes, the restaurant at the Skeeters' home stadium, Constellation Field, offers the players post-game meals. Singer encourages players to eat what they want, as long as they get the balance of carbs and protein they need for recovery. "Ideally, we're trying to provide some sort of lean meat to get them protein for recovery, some grains or a starchy food, a starchy vegetable, rice, bread, pasta, whatever. And I like for them to eat some fruits and veggies, if possible." You should do the same. If parents or coaches are providing healthy options after a game, go nuts.
Keep It Simple
The truth is that athlete-friendly nutrition doesn't' need to be complex. "When people come to see me, they're expecting these really elaborate, crazy concepts—you know, the latest and greatest diet," Singer says. "They almost seem disappointed when what I give them isn't overly complicated." Singer believes that simple, nutritious, cost-effective whole foods should make up the bulk of your diet.
The trick is to make the most of those few simple ingredients. Try baking, sautéing and grilling your chicken, beef, potatoes, corn, carrots and whatever else you load into your kitchen with as many spices and healthy sauces as you can. You'll get a truckload of different flavors without having to buy a ton of different ingredients.
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