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Spring Shape-up Guide: Nutrition for Equestrians

A busy schedule is no excuse for neglecting your own nutrition. Here are some ideas for healthy, on-the-go snacks.

By Holly Werner and Rallie McAllister

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If you’re like most equestrians, you have a number of things besides horse care and riding that keep you busy: school, work, a spouse or kids. However, you want to stay healthy while taking care of everything you need to do.

Horse Illustrated asked Rallie McAllister, MD, author of Riding for Life: A Horsewoman’s Guide to Lifetime Health and Fitness, for some tips on how to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into hectic schedules.

Nutrition
HI: What healthy snacks can riders eat to keep their energy up between work and the barn, or pack for a horse show or trail ride—especially when they’re short on time?

RM: It’s a good idea to keep a cooler stocked with nutritious, easy-to-eat foods in your car or truck. This will help you avoid the temptation of dashing to a fast-food restaurant and loading up with foods that weigh you down instead of energizing you.

Cheese sticks and yogurt cups make great snacks. Pack your cooler with bottled water rather than sugary soft drinks, and aim for foods that give you a good mix of protein and complex carbohydrates that are low in fat. These types of foods provide long-lasting energy, so they won’t make you feel sleepy or sluggish after eating them. A sandwich makes an excellent snack: use whole-grain bread and low-fat deli meat. Add dark green lettuce, sliced tomato and cheese (hold the mayo), and you’ve got all your food groups right there in your hand. For munching on the go, keep a couple of apples, celery stalks and a bag of baby carrots (just don’t feed them all to your horse). Eat a handful of blanched almonds for an easy, high-protein pick-me-up, or make your own nutritious trail mix with raisins and other dried fruits, as well as whole-grain cereal, sunflower seeds and nuts. Choose a protein bar that is low in fat and high in fiber—it’s great as a mini-meal or a snack.

Poor choices of foods and beverages include alcohol, candy bars, snack crackers, chips, anything that ends in “ito” or “eeto” (Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, et cetera), cookies, pastries, burgers, fries, sodas—you get the picture. Sugary and highly processed foods and drinks (junk food) may give you a quick burst of energy, but it is typically very short-lived, and leads to an energy crash and brain drain within about 25 minutes, since these foods cause rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar.

The foods you eat at a show or on the trail are important, but it is also necessary to get good nutrition every day. A healthy diet is especially critical for riders who want to achieve optimum performance, both mentally and physically. For the vast majority of equestrians, water is the best beverage. For those who are losing a great deal of body water in the form of sweat, a sports beverage with electrolytes may be beneficial, but remember, these drinks are typically loaded with sugar.

Nationally recognized health and nutrition expert Rallie McAllister, MD, maintains her online home at www.rallieonhealth.com. Riding for Life: A Horsewoman’s Guide to Lifetime Health and Fitness can be ordered on Amazon.com.


This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe.

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