Monday, April 3, 2017

3 UP, 3 DOWN RULE - Packing Lunches for Tournaments

One of the most common conversations I’ve heard among parents whose kids play softball and baseball (or soccer or any other sport where doubleheaders and tournaments are common) is about what the players should be eating for lunch between games.

We’ve all seen our team come out strong in that first game to then come out at the second one to look like they’ve never even seen a baseball, much less know what to do with it. The same kids who were just turning double-plays and hitting bombs now look like they just need a nap. And maybe a hug.

Our first season of travel ball was a learning experience on so many levels, one of which was learning what NOT to eat between games. I’m a good cook. Feeding people is my thing. It’s how I show people I love and care about them so on game day, I’d show up at the ballpark loaded down like a pack mule with enough food and provisions to survive a nuclear holocaust.

I quickly noticed that the more the boys ate between games, the more sluggish they were. Well, duh, right? I don’t know why I didn’t see that coming. The same is true for us. If we eat too much or eat the wrong foods at lunch it makes us sluggish so of course the same would be true for our kids.

Let me be very clear here: I am NOT a nutritionist or doctor or anyone professionally trained in these matters but I CAN share with you my thoughts and opinions based on my own experiences as well as information found in the sources at the end of this post. What works for my kids and the kids on their teams may not work for everyone but I can assure you it’s what works best for us.

Simply stated, I stick with a 3 UP, 3 DOWN rule when packing lunches for tournaments.

3 Up, 3 Down Rule for packing food for baseball, softball and soccer tournaments plus lunch ideas.


Foods high in protein will keep the kids feeling fuller longer and also help to regulate blood sugar. Since you don’t often have a ton of time between games, high-protein foods are great for getting something healthy into them quickly. Here are a few ideas:
  • Pepperoni & salami
  • Deli meat (I roll it up into little “meat sticks”)
  • Boiled eggs and deviled eggs
  • Beef jerky
  • Cheese sticks
  • Roasted nuts (obviously, check for allergies on your team)
  • Boiled peanuts (OK, that one will probably only work here in South Carolina 😏)

Choose complex carbs (which contain fiber and/or protein) instead of simple carbs (food made with sugar, white flour, corn syrup, etc.) like these:
  • Whole wheat sandwiches or wraps
  • Fibrous fruits (apples, oranges, strawberries, watermelon, etc.)
  • Carrot sticks and/or cucumbers with hummus or ranch dressing
  • Celery sticks with peanut butter
  • Popcorn

The last thing you want is for Junior to eat a whole turkey and six pounds of cheese before taking the field. Just like with adults, when kids overeat they become sluggish and may experience gastrointestinal discomfort. I often find myself questioning whether the kids are going to love the food I’m bringing to the tournaments then I remember I don’t want them to eat a ton of food anyway!


Simple carbohydrates (foods made with sugar, white flour, corn syrup, etc.) are broken down very quickly by the body after which blood sugar drops significantly which causes the body to feel fatigued and lethargic. Complex carbohydrates contain fiber and/or protein which extend the release of energy over a longer period of time without the dip in blood sugar. Foods to avoid:
  • White bread sandwiches 
  • Plain flour wraps 
  • Cookies 
  • Snack cakes 
  • Soda 
  • Fruit juice 

Fried and high-fat foods commonly cause bloating, upset stomach and other gastrointestinal distress. Fried food also slows down performance because fat is turned into energy much less efficiently than protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. Avoid these common ballpark items:
  • French fries 
  • Potato chips 
  • Fried pickles or mushrooms 
  • Corndogs 
  • Fried chicken 

Just like I mentioned above, when kids overeat they become sluggish and may experience gastrointestinal discomfort. You may have to hover a bit if your kids are younger (and not taking responsibility for their food choices yet) to make sure they don’t overeat. You might also have to watch out for that one parent who’s known to pop up with a bucket of fried chicken and a 12-pack of Mountain Dew (even though you reviewed all this at registration).


Lunch ideas for baseball, softball and soccer tournaments

1 comment:

  1. Some good tips.....Always good to pack not only Gatorade but also fruit. When it is hot in the summer it is best to stay hydrated. We try to pack a ziplock bag of cut up oranges. Really good to help prevent cramps. We do small deli sandwiches with the mini deli Hawaiian rolls. Wrap them individually with saran wrap or in sandwich bags and put in a plastic container. That way when the boys don't wash their hands they are not handling all over everyone's food. When my kids are hot they tend to eat less but drink a lot of water. Good luck!!