NFCA's newest Athlete for Awareness reveals what it's like to eat gluten-free on the road.
Last week, we introduced you to our newest Athlete for Awareness, Kaitlyn Breneman. As a softball star about to join the team at University of Delaware, Kaitlyn knows maintaining a gluten-free diet is critical - but that doesn't mean it's always easy. Here, Kaitlyn shares the challenges of being the only gluten-free athlete on her team, and what she eats to stay at peak performance on game day.
What’s the biggest challenge in being a gluten-free athlete? Is it tough to maintain a gluten-free diet when you’re with teammates?
The biggest challenge about being a gluten-free athlete is finding the proper foods to eat when traveling. At softball tournaments, I am the girl with the cooler, which is packed with enough food to last the entire weekend.
The difficult thing about being gluten-free with my teammates is going to team dinners, having team snacks and attending team celebrations because I am the only one who cannot participate. I was not able to eat at team dinners because of the difficulty in preparing a gluten-free meal; I could not ask another family to do that for me. So, at team dinners I prepare my meal the day before and bring it with me so I’m not left out.
Before games, parents would bring snacks to give to the girls, and I would have to politely refuse because I brought something I could eat. For example, I was playing at a tournament in South Carolina. After my team finished our last game, they decided to go to a buffet restaurant for dinner - a disaster for someone like me! When we arrived at the restaurant, I immediately found the manager and asked for his assistance in finding gluten and dairy free foods. He had no idea, so he gave me a copy of their food allergy list. I was able to scrounge up random food items that I could call dinner, but it took me a while to finally sit down and eat.
Team celebrations are a critical time, but I miss out on a lot of team bonding because I cannot eat cake or ice cream with the team. For Senior Night this year, the parents made a cake, and all the seniors were able to eat the piece of cake where their face was printed. I was not able to. I’ve grown accustomed to saying no graciously and accepting the fact that I have to bring my own food to events.
How do you stay gluten-free when you travel to games? What are your typical game-day snacks?
When I travel to softball games, I always bring my own food: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. The majority of my luggage when I travel for softball is food. This past spring, my team made it to the state tournament, which was hosted 4 hours from my house. I had to pack a lot of food to keep myself fueled for my games.
Sample Meal Plan:
8 a.m.: Breakfast (my personal favorite and the most important meal of the day) – Two-egg sandwich, with two pieces of Udi’s whole grain toast, with a slice of goat cheese.
10 a.m.: Snack – Blackberries and a dark chocolate, almond & cherry bar.
12 noon: Lunch - Spinach, chicken, salsa, and goat cheese salad with an orange.
2 p.m: Snack – Strawberries
4 p.m.: Pre-game snack – Mint Cliff Builders bar
Mid-game – Vitamin Water
Post-game – Café Latte Muscle Milk
Dinner - Turkey cutlets, sweet potato, and mixed vegetables.
As you can see, eating properly is very important to me, and I strive to eat only healthy and nourishing foods for fuel.