Scoring Goals and Eating Right: A Dietitian’s Guide to Optimal Nutrition for Soccer Tournaments

Nutrition for soccer tournaments

Soccer tournaments can be full day or even full weekend events. While tournaments bring a lot of excitement to players, it’s important not to forget about their nutrition. Without proper planning, soccer players may not have the fuel they need to succeed. Common nutrition challenges players face with tournaments include what snacks to pack, what are quick foods to eat between games, what to eat at rest stops and what is a good breakfast to eat when traveling. Keep reading to learn how to best fuel your soccer player for tournaments! 

Snacks for soccer tournaments 

FIrst, let’s talk about snacks! My rule of thumb for snacks is never leave home without them. Being prepared with fueling snacks is an easy way to ensure that your soccer player will have nutritious options available. Depending on how much time there is between games, players will choose different types of snacks. When there is more than an hour between games,  look for a combination of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are the fuel for soccer players’ muscles and brains. Proteins will help repair broken down muscle tissue. When there is less time between games, simple carbohydrates are best. Simple carbohydrates also make a great half time snack. Coaches and parents should remind players to listen to their bodies, and not to try a new food for the first time on tournament day. 

Easy shelf stable snacks to keep in your soccer bag that provide a combination of protein and carbohydrates

  • Granola bars 
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches 
  • Almond butter and jelly sandwiches 
  • Sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches 
  • Homemade trail mix made with nuts, cereal and raisins 
  • Pretzels and jerky
  • Shelf stable chocolate milk 

Easy shelf stable snacks to keep in your soccer bag that provide simple carbohydrates

  • Freeze dried fruit 
  • Dried fruit 
  • Apples 
  • Bananas 
  • Clementines 
  • Fig bars 
  • Pretzels 
  • Graham crackers 
  • Sports drinks

Having these snacks around will make it easy to recover and refuel between games when it is not meal time. For some more tips on choosing post game snacks, check out my post on post game snack ideas.

Meals for soccer tournaments

It can be a challenge to obtain optimal nutrition when it comes to meals at soccer tournaments. This is because players might have long car rides, not a lot of time between their games, and they might be at the field for long periods of time. With advanced planning, meals at tournaments will be much easier! 

Four steps to simplify planning

  1. Choose if you will be eating at the field or going to a restaurant between games 
  2. Know in advance what options will be at the field 
  3. Know in advance what restaurants are in the area
  4. Pack meals to bring with you when necessary 

Breakfast ideas before soccer tournaments 

A fueling breakfast is an important way to start a day of soccer! Whether breakfast is at home, in a hotel or at a restaurant, look for a combination of fueling carbohydrates with filling protein. When possible, aim to have breakfast 3 hours prior to the first game to avoid an overfull stomach.

 Some breakfast ideas include:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with greek yogurt and fruit 
  • An egg and avocado wrap with fruit 
  • Bagel and cream cheese 
  • Scrambled eggs and toast 
  • Oatmeal with fruit and sunflower seed butter 
  • Waffles with greek yogurt and fruit 

Lunch and dinner ideas for soccer tournaments

Never skip meals during tournaments and avoid fried foods. The size of the meal will depend on how much time there is between games. Whether at a restaurant or at the field, the following options will help players refuel and recover during tournaments. 

Meal ideas 

  • Turkey sandwich with pretzels and fruit 
  • Grilled chicken avocado sandwich with fruit and graham crackers 
  • Bagel with cream cheese and fruit 
  • Sweet potato and a vegetable burger 
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chocolate milk 
  • Grilled chicken with rice, vegetables and a dinner roll 

Traveling for soccer tournaments 

Another challenge often faced when traveling for soccer tournaments is what to choose at rest stops. The following choices will help optimize nutrition for the tournament. 

Rest stop choices 

  • String cheese paired with crackers 
  • String cheese paired with pretzels 
  • Greek yogurt paired with a banana 
  • Greek yogurt paired with dry cereal 
  • Granola bars  
  • Nut butter packets paired with a banana 
  • Nut butter packets paired with bread 
  • Nut butter packets paired with graham crackers 
  • Trail mix 
  • Bagel with cream cheese


Last, but not least is hydration. Playing soccer all day in any weather can lead to dehydration. To avoid dehydration, Players should hydrate between, during and after games. Throughout the day, having a combination of water and sports drinks is beneficial. Sports drinks will help replenish fluids, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. When playing for more than an hour fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates are all lost and need to be replaced. 

Final tips

While practice and sleep will definitely help a team win, nutrition can separate a good player from a great player! In order to optimize a soccer player’s nutrition for soccer tournaments don’t forget to plan in advance, don’t skip meals and hydrate! 

Let’s stay connected! Sign up to join my mailing list, and join my facebook group. It is a great way to get your youth sports nutrition questions by myself, and other youth sports parents! 

Also, If you enjoyed this post please share it with friends, youth soccer parents and coaches.

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