Young athletes need a lot of energy to fuel their activities on the field, on the court or in the pool.
It’s common in today’s fast-paced world for parents to grab fast food on the way home from the soccer game or let their kids snack on cookies or chips prior to practice. However, these foods will not provide your young athletes with the right nutrients for optimum performance.
According to Jamie Downs, registered dietitian with Sharp Rees-Stealy, “Young athletes will be hungry every three to four hours, so it’s important to plan meals and mini-meals or snacks accordingly to give them the energy they need to perform their best.”
“Provide young athletes with a light meal or snack one to three hours before a workout to properly fuel their activity, and offer a small snack within one hour post-workout, which will help their bodies recover,” Downs explains.
She suggests the following simple, healthy and energy-boosting snacks for young athletes:
- Cut-up fruit and yogurt dip
- Veggies and hummus
- Turkey sandwiches cut up into quarters
- String cheese and whole-grain crackers
“While chips, cookies, candy, soda and dining out are convenient options, you need to consider how often they are included in a child’s meal plan,” Downs says. “Kids who eat well-balanced, healthy meals and snacks will get the energy and nutrients needed to perform well in sports.”
Downs also recommends young athletes stay hydrated with water (not sports drinks with added sugar) before, during and after an activity.
“Eating healthy at all meals should be a consideration all members of the family pay attention to,” says Downs. “Spend a couple extra minutes to plan meals to ensure your entire family is eating healthy meals both at the table and on-the-go.”