What foods should young athletes eat?

For young athletes on the field, eating and drinking right can make a difference. Athletes need to be powered by nutrient-rich foods that aren't heavy on fat or added sugar.

Fuel your athlete with these tips:
  • Make sure meals include carbohydrates from a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy.
  • In addition to three balanced meals, make sure your child has a snack-pack for practice and game days. Include high-energy picks, such as 100-percent juice boxes, low-fat milk (which research shows may help with muscle recovery), peanut butter and trail mix.
  • Pack a water bottle. As a general guideline, in addition to regular fluid intake, kids participating in sports should drink an additional eight ounces for every half hour of strenuous activity.
With the right foods and fluids, your athlete can play stronger and feel better!
Doreen Rodo
Nutrition & Dietetics
Protein, carbohydrate, and fluids electrolytes are important for any athlete to help maintain optimal performance. This type of eating should be done routinely and not just on the day of the event. Here are some samples, high carbohydrate meal options that can be used:
  • Cold or hot cereal, fruit or fruit juice and 1% or skim milk
  • French toast or pancakes with real maple syrup +1 egg and fruit or juice
  • Scrambled eggs, low-fat cheese, toast with fruit or juice
  • Deli sandwich with lean turkey, chicken, veggies, mustard and baked chips
  • 2 single burgers (no cheese), fruit or juice, side salad
  • Pasta or cheese ravioli with red sauce, french bread, plain, unbuttered vegetables; canned fruit or fresh fruit
  • Baked or grilled lean beef, chicken, turkey or fish(not fried), steamed rice or baked sweet potato, cooked vegetable, low-fat frozen yogurt; fruit juice
(these tips are not intended for anyone with specific diet restrictions such as Diabetes-if you have this condition, see a Registered Dietitian for advice)
Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Young athletes need plenty of vitamins, minerals, water, protein, fat and carbohydrate to provide energy for activities as well as health and development. Three meals, plenty of fluid as well as snacks between meals are required to support growth and performance. A nutrient dense diet is recommended to include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, proteins including lean meat, poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, beans, soy or dairy and reduced saturated fat, sodium and sugar in processed and packaged foods. Smoothies made with low fat dairy, or soy milk, and fruit or chocolate milk can be made in advance and frozen to have ready between meals and activities to replenish energy stores and help supply necessary nutrients for bone health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.