It’s March and at our house that means it’s spring tournament time. Our first spring soccer tournament is in the books and we’re heading into another weekend of baseball and soccer tournaments. This is just the tip of the iceberg for us. After a quiet winter we’ll be going strong from now until August with multiple kids playing sports. As any busy mom knows, it’s so hard to get kids to where they need to be and make sure they are properly fueled before their sporting events.
This is an area we struggle with particularly for my daughter. Getting her to eat anything nutritious is a battle. Getting her to eat breakfast especially before the early morning games can sometimes lead to a throwdown between us. Anyone else have kids that do not want to eat breakfast? To get into battle mode . . . errr the right mindset, I asked my girlfriend, who is a registered dietician, for some advice on fueling young athletes that I’m sharing with you today.
#1 Parents are responsible for providing a variety of food at regular intervals but the child chooses what and how much to eat.
Most active kids need about 1,200 to 1,500 calories, mostly coming from wholesome food, but 10% of their diets can be “fun food”. Try to keep the feeding environment neutral. If a certain food is taboo, the child may tend to over-indulge whenever it’s available. Let them self-regulate their food intake.
#2 Kids will eat poorly when their parents haven’t planned to have healthy choices available.
A young athlete’s body needs 2-3 hours to digest a meal before an athletic event. A light and simple snack can be eaten 30-60 minutes before an after school practice. Low fat chocolate milk is actually a good choice. Have these items easily accessible in your fridge and cooler for an after school “second lunch” before practices or games. It’s also a good choice for post-game recovery.
#3 Reduce consumption of engineered foods like bars, gels, and sports drinks. Real food is best.
Young athletes should fuel up with complex carbohydrates, which means whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Here are a few examples your kids might try:
- turkey sandwich halves
- prepped veggie snack bags
- fruit in a snack pack
#4 Aim for 0.5 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
You might be surprised to know that a serving of chicken is considered to be three to four ounces, not the whole breast! A 4 oz. serving of chicken breast has about 26 grams of protein. My daughter weighs 62 lbs. which means at a minimum she should be getting about 30 grams of protein per day. A 4 oz. serving of chicken breast and a couple of other real food sources of protein would help her meet her daily protein intake. Some good real food sources of protein are hard boiled eggs, cubed cheese, nuts and peanut butter (if they are tolerated), yogurt, and milk.
#5 Sports Drinks Are Okay But Hydrating With Water Is Better.
No surprise that your child should hydrate before, during, and after practice and games. Sports drinks are okay to consume with sporting events lasting more than an hour. Even then, you can encourage hydration with water and replace sodium and potassium losses with real food like pretzels, crackers, yogurt, bananas, and oranges.
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P.S. My girlfriend is a registered dietician and provides nutrition counseling services in Virginia and surrounding regions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more.
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Basketball photos c/o Cindy Kane Photography
If you like this post please subscribe to receive regular email updates. Did you know that now you can follow a hashtag on Instagram? Follow #lunchwithagirlfriend. For more inspiration, you can also follow me on Facebook and Pinterest .