Food Safety While Traveling
Traveling for races can be a great experience when prepared for in advance. Give yourself the week before leaving to pack all the necessary supplies, and remember any initially forgotten items. Unfortunately, most of us forget to include nutrition and food-preparation items during this process. Leaving it to the last minute and arriving unprepared only escalates stress levels, reduces the immune system, and increases the chance of sickness and food borne illness. When food hygiene standards, sanitation, and water quality are questionable- take all precautions necessary to protect yourself!
~ Know your training and race schedule to plan meals and snacks accordingly. Know your lodging and meal situation- are they supplied for you? If so, what hours/times are the meals available? Or do you need to make meals on your own?
~ Pre-plan your meals and snacks for the travel to site, during site, and the return home
~ Contact the airlines to select healthy airline meals for the plane trip, but bring your own food too.
~ When flying- check with the airlines or security about what foods passengers are unable to bring onto the flight (ex. Liquids, yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables with seeds).
~ Research restaurants and grocery stores/markets in the area you are staying where you can buy bottled water and fresh foods if needed.
~ Consider making your own Nutrition Travel Bag with:
Non-perishable foods*, instant coffee/tea, international plug adaptor, measuring cups/spoons, measuring bowl, microwave safe Tupperware, small cutting board, Ziploc bags, eating utensils, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wet wipes (or baby wipes), dozen paper towels.
- Instant or pre-cooked rice, noodles, couscous, grits, quinoa, mashed potatoes
- Bread, English muffins, crackers, rice cakes
- Instant oatmeal, cream of rice, cream of wheat, muslei, granola, bran cereal (if needed to help keep regularity)
- Instant soups
- Dry milk or soymilk powder
- Canned or pouches of tuna, salmon, chicken, sardines
- Nuts/seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter
- Jerky- turkey, pork, beef, salmon, buffalo
- Coffee and tea
- Bouillon cubes- chicken, beef, vegetarian
- Dried miso soup packets
- Approved sport bars and protein powders
- Unsugared dried fruit (can help with staying regular while traveling)
- Herbs and spices (like cinnamon and salt)
Take All Precautions Necessary!
~ Use bottled water for drinking, cleaning foods, brushing and rinsing teeth, and washing food- preparing utensils. You can also boil un-sanitized water for at least 10 minutes at a rolling boil to create safe cleaning and drinking/cooking water.
~ Avoid ice and ice drinks.
~ Make sure foods are well-cooked (no seared or rare meats) and served HOT! Foods should either be very hot or refrigerated cold. Do not eat luke warm/room temperature foods (especially cut fruits like melon).
~ Look for pasteurized dairy products only. Avoid cream fillings.
~ Don’t eat from street vendors or food carts.
~ Hygiene and Food Handling: Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water for about 20seconds (the length of singing Happy Birthday or the ABC’s); prepare and store raw foods separate from cooked foods; minimize cross-contamination by cooking in a clean shirt and using separate cutting boards for raw meats and other foods.
~ Throw out perishable foods left at room temperature for >2 hours.
~ If eating at a buffet- choose the foods closest to the heat or cold source.
Sometimes sickness strikes even when taking all the above precautions. What then? See your team doctor, coach, and/or manager. Make sure to drink lots of fluids, including bouillon/miso, bottled sports drinks, and bottled water. Don’t neglect your recovery carbohydrates- grains and fruits/vegetables (avoid dairy temporarily), and include a high quality protein source to assist with recovery.
Sarah Weber, RD, LD.
Tweet us your comments @wca_tweet or post on our Facebook page at Women’s Cycling Association.