| By Irina Belfer-Lehat

Following proper nutrition preparation will guarantee an improved tennis match. Packing your lunch box with proper snacks and fluids will help you to avoid fatigue, cramps and will make you feel ready for any early, late or multiple matches. Here are some easy tips on what super snacks and drinks to have in your lunch box when playing in a tournament.

►Freeze some water and Gatorade the night before and pack it with your snacks and drinks. It will help to keep your refreshments cool and fresh.

The myth about Vitamin Water and Smart Water … they have empowering flavor names like "Endurance," "Energy," "Essential" and "Focus." Vitamin Water gives the illusion of a healthy, hydrating and rejuvenating miracle elixir. The bottles are beautiful, colorful, and the text on them is snappy and clever. However, they do not provide proper electrolytes and often are full of sugar that can lead to further dehydration. Low calorie Gatorades such as G2 do not provide proper hydration either. Regular water and Gatorade are the best sources of hydration.

►Fiber is a super nutrient that keeps you full for a long time. Look for snack bars that have more than five grams of fiber in them. I like Fiber One snack bars because they provide nine grams of fiber and less than four grams of fat. Always keep extra bars in your lunch box or bag.

►Fruits are super snacks. Not only do fruits provide all kinds of vitamins and minerals, but the potassium in fruit helps to prevent muscle cramping. Bananas and oranges are the best sources of potassium and are the easiest to have on the run. Here is a top … peel your orange in advance to avoid a mess on the court.

►Good news for chocolate lovers … in addition to being a feel-good food, chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and minerals such as zinc. Zinc is proven to work as an anti-stressor and provides a quick fuel release to your brain. Dark chocolate (more than 70 percent), provides up to 9.6 milligrams (64 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance) of zinc per 100 gram serving (most bars are 50 grams to 100 grams). A small piece of dark chocolate is a must-have in your lunch box or tennis bag.

Always remember to drink plenty of water and eat small, frequent meals during your tournament days, and let an expert analyze and personalize your diet.

Irina Belfer-Lehat

Irina Belfer-Lehat of Nutrition Solutions Co. is a New York State-licensed dietitian and certified dietitian-nutritionist. Irina Lehat RD Nutrition Solutions offers group classes starting in September, for kids in kindergarten through high school. Small groups, affordable prices! Mention this article and receive 20 percent off any services. For more information, call (917) 769-8031, e-mail irinalehat@gmail.com or visit www.irinalehat.com.