It’s Show Season – What Are My Food Choices?

3d26178a03da800ffd7e90800dffe1f1No one wants to fall asleep in the saddle half way through an event, or get hurt because they could not focus. Brain fog or hitting the wall is common with poorly nourished athletes.

It seams to be counter intuitive having junk food that is high in sodium, sugar and fat at an athletic event. Unfortunately, equestrian show facilities offer little to no choice when it comes to eating healthy. I have been to many shows and have yet to see a vendor that actually understands what an equestrian requires to eat.

The best choice is to make ready-to-eat meals at home and know that what you are eating is healthy and won’t affect your performance in a negative way. However, if you find yourself looking for something to eat at the equestrian park, then the following suggestions may help:

  • Stay away from fries. Nothing good can come from potatoes cooked in oil.
  • Hot dogs offer no nutritional value and are often made from scrap meats and nitrates.
  • Stay away from unnecessary condiments such as ketchup, salt and yellow cheese on burgers.
  • Sandwiches, unfortunately, are a bad choice since they can be overloaded with butter, mayo or both.
  • Although a plain bag of potato chips may not sound like the best choice it does offer the athlete much needed sodium.
  • Stay away from foods that are fried. Salads are fine as long as the dressing is on the side so you can exercise portion control.
  • Stay away from nachos, Chinese food or any other ethnic type foods. These foods are usually very high in sodium, fat and may contain spices that may upset your stomach.
  • Hamburgers may offer a better choice as long as they are flamed broiled to allow the fat to fall from the burger as apposed to being cooked on a griddle or frypan where they are cooked in their own fat.
  • Vegetarian pizza would be a good choice since it contains all the necessary food groups including sodium. Stay away from pepperoni or any other meat pizza. Vegetarian pizza is also ideal pre and post event as well.

Remember that animal proteins (milk, cheese, eggs, meat, foul, fish etc…) takes hours to digest and process making them less than ideal to eat during an event. It is best to eat foods that are light and quickly digested that provide much needed energy like fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Turn an Unhealthy Bowl of Plain Old Cereal Into an amazing Healthy Food Choice!

Take a large plastic container big enough to eat from, fill it with a serving of a cereal like Cheerios. Health food stores offer healthier cereal choices that contain less processed sugar.

Fill a smaller plastic container with two to three dozen blueberries and four to six strawberries diced.

Fill a small container with six all natural, unsalted almonds chopped and one tablespoon of raisins.

Fill another small container with a serving of instant Skim Milk Powder (purchased at Wal-Mart)

When ready to eat, add the fruit, almonds and raisins, the instant milk powder and a cup of water to the container of cereal and voila, an instant bowl of healthy cereal.


Stay away from sodas, colas, caffeinated drinks, high energy drinks and do not drink sports drinks like Gatorade which can actually imbalance your electrolytes.

Drink plenty of water. For more flavour add slices of frozen fruit and or berries or a squirt of lemon or lime.

FYI – Eat Your Fluids! Fruits like melons and vegetables like carrots, celery and cucumber are considered a liquid food and can form part of you daily quota of fluids.

I will be posting a homemade sports drink recipe on my Facebook page for all to enjoy.

The Following Are Example of Pre and Post-Exercise Meals / Snacks for Equestrians of All Ages

2 – 4 Hours before depending on your digestion:

  • English muffin with honey, low-fat yogurt and fruit
  • A bagel with nut butter topped with sliced strawberries
  • Soft or hard boiled egg with a slice of whole wheat toast and a piece of fruit

1 Hour before exercise

  • A high energy Cliff bar
  • Citrus fruit such as a clementine, tangerine or orange
  • Honey Applesauce Swirl – Stir 1 tablespoon of honey into one cup of unsweetened applesauce

Protein to Repair and Rebuild Muscle

Post-Exercise – Within 30 minutes of the completion of an event:

  • Fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt
  • Bagel with nut butter topped with slices of strawberries
  • Pasta with meat sauce and a slice of whole wheat bread
  • 3 ounces of lean meat, a baked potato and steamed veggie
  • Cereal with milk, piece of fruit, toast with honey or nut butter
  • Chopped egg sandwich with raw vegetables like carrots or celery
  • Sandwich with 3 ounces of lean meat, a piece of fruit and pretzels
  • Canned tuna or salmon sandwich with raw vegetables like carrots or celery

Some Examples of Items to Take With You and Don’t Forget the Cooler

  • Bagels
  • Triscuits
  • CliffBars
  • Nut butter
  • Pretzels, lightly salted
  • Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
  • All natural, unsalted almonds and raisins
  • Fresh vegetables such as celery, baby carrots, slices of peppers
  • Chopped egg sandwich with raw vegetables like carrots or celery
  • Sandwich with 3 ounces of lean meat, a piece of fruit and pretzels
  • Fresh fruit such bananas, clementine’s, tangerines, oranges, apples, grapes
  • Canned tuna or salmon sandwich with raw vegetables like carrots or celery

Stress, hot summers days, exhaustion etc… can make eating foods that you normally enjoy difficult causing everything from stomach upset to constipation and/or diarrhea and bloating. Always experiment with foods prior to an event.

Personally, I always carry a “go bag” and I recommend that you never leave home with out one. I always carry one apple, one clementine, two servings of almonds and raisins (one serving equals to six unsalted, all natural almonds chopped mixed with one tablespoon of raisins), one serving (30g) of mozzarella cheese, a homemade muffin and a banana and I always keep a bottle of water in the car. I never leave home with out my go bag.

 “Achieve Peak Performance Through Optimum Nutrition!” – Ian Harris

Ian can be reached at You can also follow his nutrition tips on Facebook at or visit