Improve Your Horse Show Diet, Part 2

Packing nutritious foods to eat at horse shows is easier than you think. Here’s how to stay healthy.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Horse showing involves non-stop days of bathing horses, braiding or banding, warming up in the arena and rushing to change between classes. This doesn’t leave much time to sit down and eat a healthy meal. Part 1 of Improve Your Horse Show Diet outlined the importance of breakfast and interval eating to maintain your energy level. In Part 2, we’ll discuss how to pack healthy foods and ways to eat smart at horse shows.

Pack Healthy Snacks

At the very least, you should pack healthy snacks to keep at your tack stall. Registered dietitian and all-around amateur competitor Christine Sceets recommends cheese sticks, peanuts, cheese and crackers, protein bars, oranges, bananas and peanut butter to help you avoid the temptation to raid the concession stand.

“Pack a ‘horse show snack bag,’ ” Christine says. “We usually bring a small stash of food and water for the first day to eat while we unload. Mini-fridges and microwaves are easy to bring and set up in a tack stall for multiple-day shows.”

When Christine goes to shows, she and her trainer stock the fridge at the tack stall with fresh fruit or fruit cups, sandwich fixings and yogurt. They keep granola bars, trail mix, dry cereals and meal bars on hand for snacks on the go.

“We try to get proportioned snacks, or put items such as trail mix into individually portioned servings to eliminate excessive grazing and caloric consumption,” Christine says.

Fitness model and certified nutritionist Monica Brant takes the ingredients for her meals with her everywhere - even to faraway lands.

Horsemanship, pleasure, equitation - oh my! Horse shows involve different types of classes, divisions, extensive preparation and so much more. AQHA’s Ultimate Guide to Showing report will teach you everything you need to know about horse shows!

“I took chicken and turkey burgers with me to Iceland,” Monica says. “I cook up my protein, and I have it premeasured in Ziploc bags, and I freeze it. I put it in my checked bags in a soft cooler with icepacks.

The most important part of meals for Monica is protein. She recommends 1 gram of protein per lean body pound.

“Most of the time, people are getting maybe 20 or 50 grams of protein in a day,” Monica says. “You may get a turkey sandwich and think you’re good, but it’s only got about 10 grams of protein. So you definitely want to bring protein with you.”

She suggests cooking chicken, turkey burgers or whatever protein you prefer prior to the show, then measuring it out into servings and freezing it. When you’re at the show, bring your protein for the day to defrost. You can either microwave it or eat it chilled.

“I bring protein and serving sizes of cooked sweet potatoes with me,” Monica says. “I say bring whatever veggies you can get in, but don’t forget protein. You’ll want to combine veggies with protein and carbs to keep your blood sugars stable.”

Be Smart

Most horse show attendees eat at a restaurant at some point during the event. Avoid derailing your diet - and ending up uncomfortably full - by making wise choices.

Christine refers to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for her advice.

“Have a plan,” she says. “Eat a light dinner if you ate a big lunch that day. Or if you know ahead of time that you’re going to a restaurant, cut back on calories during other meals that day.”

Look for foods that are steamed, broiled, baked or grilled when choosing meal options. Limit fried and sautéed items. You should also balance your meal by including food from all of the different food groups. Freshly made entrée salads with chicken, cheese or almonds provide protein along with fiber and vitamins.

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“If you are counting calories, use a low-fat dressing or skip some of the extras, like croutons,” Christine says.

Choose low-fat sandwich toppings such as lettuce, tomato and onion as well as condiments such as ketchup, mustard or relish. Christine recommends ordering healthy side dishes such as a side salad, a baked potato or fruit. You can top a potato with veggies, salsa or chili.

Restaurants typically serve portions big enough for two or three people. Either order smaller items or take leftovers home for another meal.

“Portion control is key,” Christine says. “I always say there are no bad foods, just bad amounts.”

Get Educated

The world of nutrition can be overwhelming, but don’t give up. You didn’t learn to ride a horse overnight: With some help and making small changes in your diet, you can gradually improve
the fuel you feed your body. And at shows, when you need to be at the top of your game, there’s no better time to eat nutritious food.

“I am a big proponent of telling people that it’s OK if you don’t know about food,” Monica says. “I suggest hiring a nutritionist for a little while - maybe just a couple of months - to learn about food. People think they’re just supposed to know about food, but you don’t always get the results you’re looking for if you don’t learn, and there’s a lot to learn. So don’t be afraid to hire a professional to teach you.”