WHEN ROBERTA ANDING got to work on a hot Florida day in early March, she tested a new smoothie: spinach and kale with ginger. A coworker walked by and grimaced. "Just try it," she said. He did and, shocked that he liked it, asked for the recipe.
It was a good start to the morning for Anding: She's the Astros' nutritionist. "It's never good utrition if your guys won't eat it," she says.
Although it's difficult to quantify the effects of healthy eating on a baseball career, a majority of teams are now convinced it's worth the effort. In 2011 the Pirates replaced outdated facilities (think Foreman grills) at PNC Park with a $250,000 "performance kitchen." Midway through the '13 season the Orioles switched from catered food to a team chef recommended by second baseman Brian Roberts. "Every place is different," says Astros reliever Pat Neshek (right). "You get Oakland, who throws out the cheapest food—it wouldn't even register on an A-ball level—and then the Cardinals, who were incredible."
The minors can be especially tough: Players make less than $2,200 per month, and a good day on the road is a rest stop with both a McDonald's and a Taco Bell. But given that teams put over $300 million into signing their draft picks and amateur free agents every year, it's an investment worth protecting. "That's why you see more teams buying their affiliate clubs," says Jake Beiting, the Astros' strength and conditioning coach. "You have dueling interests a lot of time with profit margins." Historically the pre- and postgame minor league spreads come from clubhouse dues; Houston has started supplementing their minor league food budgets.
Even in the majors, road trips can be tough. The Cardinals' chef, Simon Lusky, prepares frozen meals to send along with the players. Sometimes the Nationals wish head chef Faisal Sultani did too. "When we get home," says first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, "everybody is like, Oh, my God, it's so good to see you."