25 Easy Team Dinner Ideas for Sports Teams
Are you looking for some new team dinner ideas to provide for a sports team? Check out these 25 easy meal options that can help ensure the team is fueled to perform at their best.
Meeting the Nutrition Needs of Athletes at Team Dinners
When planning a team dinner, it is important to keep the sports nutrition needs of athletes in mind.
Carbohydrates should be at the foundation of the team dinner, as they provide athletes with the energy needed to perform at their best.
Carbohydrates can be added to the team dinner with foods from a variety of food groups, including:
- Grains: Bread, wraps, tortillas, bagels, pasta, rice, quinoa
- Fruit: Fresh fruit, dried fruit, applesauce, 100% fruit juice, fruit smoothies
- Starchy Vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, green peas, beans, legumes
- Dairy: Milk and yogurt
In addition to carbohydrates, the team dinner should contain a moderate amount of lean protein and be low in saturated fat.
Healthy Beverages with the Team Dinner
Hydration is important for an athlete’s health as well as sports performance. Thus, when planning team dinners, don’t forget to include plans for nutritious beverages to be served with the meal.
Consider offering a variety of beverages with the team dinner, including: water, low-fat milk, 100% juice, sports drinks, and unsweetened sparkling water.
25 Team Dinner Ideas for Sports Teams
Now that you have are aware of key nutrients to include in a team meal, let’s explore 25 easy team dinner ideas for sports teams.
Tean Dinner Ideas: Build Your Own Bars
Providing athletes with the option to customize or “build their own meals” from a selection of items is a great way to meet the unique tastes and nutrition needs of an athletic team.
Here are a variety of build your own bars that are great options for athletic team dinners.
#1 Pasta Bar
A build your own pasta bar is a great high-carb team dinner option. This is my go-to team dinner when planning a meal for the team to enjoy the evening before a competition.
I suggest offering a variety of noodles, including a whole wheat noodle as well as a gluten-free option. In addition, I would limit alfredo or cream-based sauces, as they tend to be high in saturated fat and a less healthy option.
Items to offer on the pasta bar include:
- Sauce Variety: Marinara (tomato), pesto, and lean meat sauce
- Lean Proteins: Grilled chicken strips, turkey meatballs, shrimp
- Vegetable Toppings: Broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, onions, bell peppers
Along with the pasta bar, offer a Caesar salad (dressing on the side) as well as breadsticks for the athletes to enjoy with their pasta.
#2 Burrito Bowl
A build your own burrito bar is always a popular option with an athletic team. Athletes can easily build a bowl that provides carbohydrates as well as lean protein to support their nutrition needs.
Possible items to offer on the burrito bar include:
- Lean Proteins: Grilled chicken fajita, shredded chicken, grilled steak fajita, lean taco meat
- Rice: Cilantro lime rice, cilantro lime brown rice, or Spanish rice
- Beans: Whole black beans or pinto beans
- Veggie and Salsa Toppings: Grilled onions and peppers, corn salsa, pico de gallo, red salsa, salsa verde, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, mixed greens
- Other Toppings: Guacamole, shredded cheese
On the side, offer wheat and corn tortillas that athletes can enjoy along with their burrito bowls.
#3 Deli Sandwich or Wraps
Handheld deli sandwiches and wraps are a simple solution for a team dinner. Just provide all the fixings and allow the athletes to build their own sandwich.
- Lean Deli Meat and Cheese: Turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef, assorted sliced cheeses
- Bread and Wraps: Offer a variety of bread and wrap options, including whole grain varieties
- Veggies: Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, sliced cucumber, bell pepper, pickles, black olives, sliced avocado
- Dressings and Spreads: Mustard, Dijon mustard, honey mustard, low-fat mayo, low-fat Ranch, oil and vinegar
#4 Baked Potato Bar
Baked potatoes are a great way to provide athletes with a high-carbohydrate team dinner. In addition to regular potatoes, consider offering sweet potatoes as well.
The key to a baked potato bar is ensuring the athletes have a choice of lean protein toppings to add to their potato. Ideas include:
- Shredded BBQ chicken
- Diced turkey, ham, or chicken
- Reduced-fat cheddar cheese
- Pulled pork
In addition to these toppings, consider providing reduced-fat sour cream, BBQ sauce, salsa, and hot sauce for athletes to add to their potatoes.
Along with the baked potato bar, offer healthy sides such as a garden salad, fresh fruit salad, and dinner rolls.
#5 Mediterranean Grain Bowl
Similar to building their own burrito bowl, another easy team dinner option is to provide athletes with the fixings for Mediterranean bowls.
Possible items to offer include:
- Lean Proteins: Grilled chicken, steak, salmon, falafel
- Grains: Basmati rice, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa
- Veggies: Mixed greens, sliced cucumbers, grape tomatoes, red onions, pepperoncini peppers
- Healthy Fats: Sliced avocado, olives
- Toppings: Hummus, Tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, Greek vinaigrette
On the side, consider offering a Greek salad, pita chips and hummus, and sliced pita bread for athletes to eat with their bowls.
#6 Asian Stir Fry
An Asian stir-fry is a popular team dinner option and an easy way to provide carbohydrates, lean protein, and vegetables. Allowing athletes to select their own ingredients ensures everyone gets what they want.
- Lean Proteins: Chicken, steak, shrimp, tofu
- Carbohydrates: White rice, brown rice, stir-dry noodles
- Veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, water chestnuts, bell peppers, onions, sugar snap peas, mushrooms
Offer a variety of stir-fry sauce options for athletes to select from. Also make sure to have condiments such as soy sauce and spicy mustard available.
Along with the stir-fry, consider offering springs rolls wrapped in rice paper. Fortune cookies are also a fun treat to include with the meal.
#7 Smoothie Bar
A fruit smoothie bar is a great option to include at a team dinner. Although it may sound complicated, it is actually easy to set-up. Just make sure you have a couple of good blenders ready to go.
Possible fruit smoothie ingredients include:
- Frozen fruit: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, mango, pineapple, peaches
- Fresh banana or frozen banana slices
- Fresh spinach, avocado
- Greek yogurt
- Low-fat milk, high-protein milk, unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened oat milk
- Nut butter, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup
To go with the smoothie bar, consider offering peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, premade deli sandwiches or wraps, or one of the hot buffet lines suggested below.
Tean Dinner Ideas: Buffet Line
If you prefer to offer a buffet line for the team dinner, there are numerous nutritious options you can select from.
#8 Traditional Team Dinner
Traditional team dinners centered around a selection of carbohydrates, lean proteins, as well as fruits and vegetables can help ensure athletes are well fueled for their competition.
Possible items to offer on the buffet include:
- Carbohydrates: Brown rice, quinoa, pasta, roasted red potatoes, roasted sweet potato wedges, mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes, fresh sliced fruit, dinner rolls
- Lean Proteins: Grilled chicken breasts, roasted salmon, sliced turkey breast, grilled sirloin steak
- Veggies: Steamed broccoli, oven roasted vegetables, fresh steamed vegetables, green beans, asparagus, garden salad
#9 BBQ Team Dinner
A BBQ buffet is an easy team dinner option that most athletes enjoy. For the buffet, aim to include lean protein options as well as healthy sides.
- Lean Proteins: BBQ chicken, smoked turkey, lean cut brisket
- Healthy Sides: Pinto beans, green beans, whole kernel corn, roasted potatoes, side salad
Make sure to have sliced bread available on the side for athletes to enjoy with their BBQ meal.
#10 Mexican Food Theme – Fajita Team Dinner
A Mexican food themed meal featuring grilled chicken and steak fajitas is always a popular team dinner. Along with the fajitas, offer high-carb sides, such as Spanish rice, black beans, and tortillas.
Maake sure to include a variety of salsas, pico de gallo, grilled fajita veggies, and guacamole for athletes to top their fajita tacos with.
#11 Italian Food Theme Team Dinner
An Italian food buffet is a great way to ensure athletes enjoy a high-carb dinner prior to competition. Possible items to offer on the buffet include:
- Entrees: Italian lasagna, baked chicken parmesan, chicken penne pasta, spaghetti with meatballs
- Sides: Pasta with marinara or pesto, Caesar salad (dressing on the side), steamed vegetables, Italian breadsticks
#12 Burger Bar
A quick and easy team dinner option is a burger bar. Offer a variety of burger patty options, such as sirloin, turkey, grilled chicken, salmon, and black bean (vegan option).
Make sure to provide all the fixings for athletes to add to their burgers, including sliced cheese, tomato, red onions, lettuce, pickles, and condiments.
On the side, baked sweet potato fries, beans, fresh sliced fruit, and a garden salad are great options.
Grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, and veggie kabobs are a great team dinner option. To help with prep, many stores sell pre-made kabobs that can easily be thrown on the grill.
Along with the kabobs, focus on providing nutritious sides. Ideas include:
- High-Carb Sides: Roasted potatoes, low-fat potato salad, brown rice pilaf, quinoa, roasted corn, black beans, pita bread, pita chips and hummus
- Vegetable Sides: Greek salad, oven roasted vegetables, fresh veggie tray
#14 Home Cooking
When planning a home cooked team dinner, ask the athletes if they have any favorite recipes they want to share. Many recipes can be adjusted to make healthier versions of classic favorites.
Items such as turkey meatloaf, Rotisserie chicken, breaded and baked chicken breasts, beef stew, and chicken and rice casserole can all be healthy entrees for a team dinner.
On the side, consider mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes, southern greens, red beans and rice, broccoli and cheese rice, healthy baked mac and cheese, green beans, and dinner rolls.
When the weather turns cooler, a team dinner featuring chili can be a welcome change. For a healthier option, prepare the chili with lean ground beef or turkey.
Offer baked potatoes or brown rice for players to enjoy with their chili. Providing a salad, fresh fruit, and cornbread will round out the meal for the team.
#16 Soup and Hot Sandwiches
A soup and hot sandwich buffet is another simple team dinner solution.
When selecting a soup, focus on broth-based soup options that include a source of carbohydrates (noodles, rice, barley). Soups such as homestyle chicken noodle, chicken and rice, beef barley, and beef vegetable with rice are all great options.
For the hot sandwich, consider ideas such as meatball subs, grilled ham and cheese, pulled pork (easy to prep in the crockpot), as well as turkey and cheese paninis.
In addition to the soup and sandwiches, offer a salad, fresh sliced fruit, as well as dinner rolls for athletes to enjoy with the meal.
Pizza is always a quick and easy team dinner option. When ordering, select thick crust pizza, as this will provide athletes with more carbohydrates than thin crust.
In addition, choose lean protein toppings such as Canadian bacon, ham, or grilled chicken. Veggie toppings as well as pineapple are also great additions.
If you need some ideas, a Hawaiian pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple, a BBQ chicken pizza, or a veggie pizza with grilled chicken are all good options.
On the side, make sure to have a fresh garden salad, as well as sliced fruit available for the athletes to eat with the pizza.
Team Dinner Ideas Restaurant Catering
In addition to the ideas above, there are many restaurants that offer easy, affordable catering options for team dinners. Below are a few ideas that are sure to be crowd pleasers.
Chipotle also offers a build your own burrito bowl catering set-up. They provide the protein, rice, beans, and toppings of choice allowing athletes to create their own bowl.
#19 Jason’s Deli
Jason’s Deli offers a variety of deli sandwich and wrap trays as well as boxed meals that are great team dinner options. You can also purchase a variety of salad trays, fresh veggies, and fresh sliced fruit for the team to enjoy with the meal.
In addition to these options, Jason’s Deli also offers the fixings for hot pasta or potato bars. If the team prefers a hot meal following a game, the pasta or potato bar can be a convenient option.
Chick-fil-A has a variety of packaged meals as well as party trays available that are an easy team dinner option. Since carbohydrates should be at the foundation of an athlete’s meal plan, I recommend choosing a sandwich on a bun or wrap rather than individual nuggets.
The Grilled Chicken Bundle is a great catering option for an athletic team. It comes with the fixings for everyone to build their own grilled chicken sandwich.
The Chilled Grilled Chicken Sub and Chick-fil-A® Cool Wrap sandwich trays are also good team dinner options. On the side consider ordering a fresh fruit tray and a garden salad tray for athletes to enjoy with their meal.
Similar to Chipotle, CAVA offers a build your own bowl set-up that features Mediterranean food items. This is an easy way to provide athletes with a nutritious meal including carbohydrates, lean protein, as well as healthy fats.
If you prefer a pre-made dinner option for the team, CAVA also offers pita platter trays as well as individual pre-made bowls.
CAVA has a variety of vegetarian and vegan options available on their menu. Thus, it is a great catering option if there are athletes on the team who follow plant-based diets.
#22 Jersey Mikes
Make sure to choose a sub made with lean deli meat, such as turkey, chicken, ham, or roast beef. I find boxed sandwich meals to be a convenient option for athletes to enjoy on the bus ride home from a game.
#23 Pei Wei
Pei Wei offers both individual boxed meals as well as catering packages with sharable platters. When selecting entrees, choose a non-fried option, such as: chicken and broccoli, Mongolian chicken, grilled bourbon chicken, Mongolian steak, or beef and broccoli.
For a high-carb side, go with brown rice, white rice, or noodles instead of the fried rice option.
#24 Panera Bread
Similar to Jason’s Deli, Panera offers boxed meals as well as catering trays. For the boxed meals, the “You Pick Two” option allows for the selection of both a sandwich and salad in the meal.
On the sandwich trays, Panera offers the option of selecting either cold or hot sandwiches. Along with the sandwich tray, ordering a fresh fruit salad or one of Panera’s signature salads is a great option.
Catering pasta from Maggiano’s Little Italy or other Italian restaurants can make for a convenient team dinner. Italian lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, chicken parmesan, and chicken penne pasta are always popular options.
Make sure to order salad as well as plenty of breadsticks for the players to enjoy with the meal.
Additional Considerations When Planning Team Dinners
Finally, I wanted to share a few additional considerations to keep in mind when planning team dinners.
Food Allergies and Special Diets
When planning a team dinner, it is important to find out if any athletes have food allergies. When serving the meal, make sure all food items are clearly labeled and identify potential food allergens.
In addition to food allergies, find out if any athletes are following a special diet that needs to be planned for. This may include athletes following a vegetarian diet or athletes who follow a gluten-free meal plan.
Food Safety for Team Dinners
Holding foods at the correct temperature is a critical aspect of food safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F, as the “Danger Zone” in which bacteria can rapidly grow.
Perishable foods should not be left sitting in the temperature danger zone for more than 2 hours. This time frame decreases to 1 hour if the temperature exceeds 90 °F, such as at an outdoor team dinner.
Food left in the temperature danger zone over the recommended time frames should be thrown away. You do not want to risk athletes on the team getting a foodborne illness.
Team Dinner Ideas for Sports Teams
You are now set with 25 team dinner ideas to help ensure athletes are fueled to perform at their best.
For additional sports nutrition tips, check out my blog on healthy food ideas for concession stands.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.