Teach Your Young Athlete to Eat Like a Pro
By April Schetler, MS, RD, FAND, Registered Dietitian and Director
Virtua Health and Wellness
If you are what you eat, then your growing athlete needs to eat like a varsity all-star. Here’s how to help your child get ready for the big game.
Get the ball rolling
Feed your child a hearty meal 3 hours before the event. Closer to game-time, your child is better off with a small snack. Plan a meal that’s carb-focused that also has protein. The carbs provide lasting energy, and the protein offers a sustained feeling of fullness.
You want to prevent stomachaches mid-game so avoid fats, as they take the longest to process.
So what should you go with?
- A winning starting line-up: fruit, pasta, whole-grain bread, lean meats, yogurt, eggs, nuts
- Benched: hamburgers, burritos, donuts
Go for the H2O
Hydrate your child like a champ. Water is the best choice, as juices and sports drinks are usually loaded with sugar. Generally speaking, a person should have at least 8 to 20 ounces of water before physical activity, and then rehydrate during half-time for stamina.
When the whistle blows and the equipment is packed away, chances are your young athlete will be eager for a big meal. Your stomach is like a sponge after physical activity, so it’s the perfect opportunity to load up on healthy, hearty items from all the food groups. Fajitas—when served in appropriate portions—are great because they offer a quality mix of veggies, grains, protein and dairy.
After all that exercise, it’s time to refuel and recover. Win or lose, it’s about giving it your best and staying active.
Are sports supplements a boost or bust?
- DO: Give your kid a sports drink if he or she is playing a high-energy sport for more than an hour.
- DON’T: Worry about your tee ball player running low on electrolytes. Water will do just fine.
- DO: Look for bars that have only a few ingredients (and ones you’re able to pronounce).
- DON’T: Assume these convenient creations are necessarily good for you. There’s often a large amount of sugar in those tiny packages, so read nutrition labels.
Did you know that Virtua’s registered dietitians can help your athlete come up with a healthy eating plan that supports their needs and goals?
Call 1-888-847-8823 to make an appointment.
Updated December 15, 2020