6 Protein - Boosting Vegetarian Meals

Today is the last protein post for the month. We’ve talked about key principles and facts to know before setting out to build lean muscle in the young student athlete. We’ve talked about what it takes to build that lean muscle. I’ve shared my go to protein-boosting breakfast ideas and then touched on getting adequate protein for the athlete who is a vegetarian. Today I’m signing off with a few last thoughts and facts and leaving you with some of my favorite vegetarian recipes that pack in some protein that I have discovered over the years.

As we wrap up this topic I want to say that I do believe, and position papers support, that a few questions need to be asked first to ensure the athlete has chosen this lifestyle for healthy appropriate reasons (vs an inappropriate means of restriction) and the athlete and family needs to be clear on the extra planning and work it can take to meet nutrition needs of a vegetarian athlete. However, once these items have been addressed and the athlete has shown the ability to do what it takes and follow recommendations to meet his or her nutrition needs, a vegetarian athlete can meet his or her protein and nutrition needs.

To help you create a meat-free menu that meets your young athlete’s needs, I’m giving you six of my favorite meat - free recipes plus links to some others I enjoy or have heard great things about!

Have more questions about protein for the young athlete? Reach out to me through my Contact page or please comment on the post below!

Happy Fueling!



I also follow Eleat Sports Nutrition, another sports dietitian, and she has a whole section of vegetarian recipes that would be worth a try!

Getting Enough Protein in the Vegetarian Diet

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I often get the question, “If you’re a vegetarian, how do you get your protein?” I also get a handful of questions about this from concerned parents whose young athletes have decided to remove meat from their sports diet. In these instances I assure the athlete or parent that it can be done but that it does take more planning and, often times, more food. As long as the athlete is (1) choosing this lifestyle for appropriate reasons and (2) committed to including a variety of foods and more of these foods in his or her diet, a vegetarian lifestyle can be possible.

I have published a handout for the vegetarian athlete which you can find here. This handout talks about all of the nutrients of concern for a vegetarian athlete. However, the focus of this post is PROTEIN, and so that is what we will stick to today. Today, in this post, I’m going to give you a list of protein-containing foods for the vegetarian athlete plus any other details. Stay tuned for a follow-up post where I will include some protein - packed meal ideas and resources for your vegetarian athlete!

Protein Sources for Your Vegetarian Athlete

  • Black Beans

  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

  • Lentils & split peas

  • Tofu

  • Peanuts, nuts and seeds

  • Peanut Butter, Nut Butter, Seed Butter

  • Tahini (sesame seed paste)

  • Milk

  • Yogurt (regular = ~8 grams/cup; Greek = ~14 grams/cup)

  • Cheese

  • Some whole grain bread, pasta, rice and crackers (not as high as those listed above and all of the protein in these foods is not as well absorbed, but it can still give a boost!)

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It’s important to know that vegetarian sources of protein are not as easily absorbed in the body in comparison to animal sources of protein. Therefore, the vegetarian athlete will need to consume a little or a lot more protein than he or she would if meat was included to meet his/her protein goal (different for every person and athlete).

Interested in learning more about nutrition for the vegetarian athlete? If so, comment below and I can work it into future posts!

Happy Fueling!


Nine Protein-Boosting Breakfasts for the Young Athlete

Breakfast seems to be the hardest meal of the day for adults, kids and teens alike. While, yes, some adults can get along just fine with a coffee-only breakfast, there are certain groups of people that really need this first meal of the day. If you have read my previous posts, you now know that the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is not just some silly phrase. This statement holds a lot of truth, especially for athletes and active individuals. For these groups breakfast really is necessary because athletes, particularly young athletes, cannot typically get all of the nutrition they need to support growth, development, regular functioning AND sport from just two meals a day! Our bodies can only utilize a certain amount of protein per meal or snack for muscle building and maintenance and other necessary body functions. We now know the rest of it gets excreted as seen with increased urea levels. So, if your high intensity or power athlete needs a higher amount of protein, it’s going to be pretty important that your athlete include breakfast as a chance to get some of that protein! Of course, the breakfast meal is also a chance to get quality carbs and healthy fats + micronutrients like calcium, zinc, iron and vitamin D, but today we’re talking about protein so I’m going to try and stay on track!

Today, I’m tying all of my previous posts together with these ten protein-boosting breakfasts for the young athlete. I hope it helps make your mornings easier and your athletes stronger.

And remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated to be effective!

Happy Fueling!



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Whole Grain English Muffin + 1 Tbsp PB + Mixed Berries

~ 12 grams of protein

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1/2 cup Cottage Cheese + Sliced Berries

~14 grams of protein



Whole Grain Oatmeal + Peanut Butter

15 grams of protein



Greek Yogurt + Egg + Mixed Fruit

~21 grams protein

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Greek Yogurt + Whole Grain Granola Bar

~20 grams protein

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Make-Ahead Egg Cups: Up & At ‘Em Eggs Cups

You can have 3 egg cups for about 15 grams of protein or have 2 + an 8 ounce glass of milk for about 18 grams!

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Egg Sandwiches

You can make these simple with one or two eggs & a slice of cheese on a whole grain English Muffin or, I love my 5-Ingredient Breakfast Sandwiches! About 18 grams of protein!

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SunButter Banana Overnight Oats

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Cherry Vanilla Overnight Oats

Keys to Building Lean Muscle in the Young Athlete

Something as easy as a sandwich can get you the protein you need. I love my Red Pepper Pesto Chicken Salad and this   grilled panini   that it creates!

Something as easy as a sandwich can get you the protein you need. I love my Red Pepper Pesto Chicken Salad and this grilled panini that it creates!

Hey there! I thought today’s post would be a brief reminder on what it takes to build lean muscle. This is probably one of my most common requests from athletes, adult and teens alike. Everyone wants to be leaner or bigger or stronger. So, I’m touching on the topic today as a reminder of what it takes. If you have really specific goals, I highly recommend you get with a registered sports dietitian to help fine-tune your goals and walk with you through the process.

5 Keys to Building Muscle in the Young Athlete

  1. Resistance Training. I think this goes without saying, but, if you want to build lean muscle, you have to work those muscles! Changing your diet without doing anything to stimulate the muscles will not lead to muscle growth. But remember, as I said in my previous post, children and teens cannot build muscle (or mass) like adults until they hit or finish puberty.

  2. Protein. You’ve gotta get your protein. However, you can’t load up on protein in one meal and call it a day. No, you need to space your protein intake out evenly throughout the day for optimal utilization. To all of my high school athletes out there, that means eating breakfast (or at least something in the morning)! A missed meal is a missed opportunity to build or maintain lean muscle.

  3. Carbohydrate. It’s sad to me how carbohydrates get such a bad wrap because they are so necessary for all humans, but especially, athletes! Not only are they a major energy source but they are necessary for building lean muscle. If we don’t give our bodies adequate carbohydrate for energy, they will have to turn to protein as an energy source during our more intense workouts and events. This completely defeats our efforts of resistance training and increased protein intake. If you’re trying to build muscle for your sport, allow yourself carbohydrates so your body can use it as fuel and allow the protein to build or maintain that lean muscle!

  4. Calories. I don’t often talk about calories on my blog, but it does require a mention here. If you want to build muscle (or mass), you need to increase your intake to allow for this. It’s hard for our bodies to add mass if we don’t give it additional calories (or energy) to work with.

  5. Rest & Recovery. And remember, while often overlooked, rest and recovery are also needed. Our bodies need time to rest and recover from workouts in order to see the best results.

I hope this was a helpful post. I’m not getting too specific because every person and every athlete is different, but, if, you need specific recommendations, reach out to a sports dietitian in your area or you can contact me! I am happy to try and connect you with a sports RD in your area or we can set up a session and see about working together.

Happy Fueling!


How Much Is Enough? 3 Things to Remember About Protein and the Young Athlete

I would say one of the most frequent conversations that I get is about protein, especially when talking to young male athletes. Everyone wants to be bigger, stronger, or leaner. Of course protein has its place in the young athlete’s diet but, just like all other components, protein has a time, a place and an appropriate amount. So often we have this “bigger is always better” or “more is always better” mentality. Well, this actually is not the case with protein. Our bodies can only utilize up to a certain amount of protein at once to help build or maintain lean muscle. After that threshold, studies continue to find that any gains in lean mass simply plateau and excess protein is excreted from the body seen with increased urea levels. Not only is there a threshold, but athletes must remember that the increased protein intake will not yield the best results if a resistance training program is not accompanied with the protein intake. There must be an actual stimulus on the muscle. Finally and, actually, most importantly we need to remember that guys cannot gain large amounts of lean muscle until they get through puberty. They simply don’t have the hormones needed to achieve the high increases in muscle mass.

This  egg cups  are such an easy morning option (or snack) packed with protein! It’s one of my favorites and a favorite of friends and family. Enjoy!

This egg cups are such an easy morning option (or snack) packed with protein! It’s one of my favorites and a favorite of friends and family. Enjoy!

When I walk into a school, classroom, or onto a field I usually get a LOT of questions about supplements and shakes and protein powders from the guys. I like to remind athletes that you can get just as much protein from real food plus so many additional benefits (like calcium and vitamin D for bone health, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, fiber, etc.). I also make sure the student athletes are aware that supplements are not regulated by the FDA and so there could be ingredients in the product that are not listed on the label or there could be too much of an ingredient in the product or not enough to have any effect at all. It’s important to pick a 3rd party tested supplement if you will be using one! I have a whole post on supplements here. Lastly, it’s also important to realize that supplements that are approved are typically approved for use in adults. The effects on a growing and developing child or teen are not completely known. If you feel that your young athlete must supplement get with a registered sports dietitian and / or a sports medicine physician to make sure it is appropriate.

So, with all of that said, what are my takeaways when talking with young athletes and their parents, coaches, athletic trainers and others who guide young athletes? Here are my top 3 nuggets to take with you….

Top 3 Things To Remember About Protein & Your Young Athlete

  1. Remember that young male athletes cannot build the amount of muscle that adult men can until they go through puberty. Tons of protein and resistance training are not going to be beneficial until they have the hormones to support that muscle development.

  2. While protein needs really depend on your athlete’s individual weight, a good general estimate is that our bodies can only utilize roughly 20 to 30 grams of protein at one time for muscle building. Therefore, it’s better to have 20-ish grams a few times a day vs. 40, 50 or 60+ at one sitting (another reason young athletes should get breakfast and not skip meals!).

  3. Be careful with protein supplements. Supplements (a) are not regulated by the FDA and (b) are not tested on children. So, even if it is proven safe in adults, that doesn’t mean it will have the same effect or results on children. Check out my previous post linked above to learn about 3rd party testing agencies for safe supplements.

If you have questions about the specific protein needs for your young athlete, meet with a sports dietitian, specifically one specializing in pediatrics, to come up with an appropriate goal and plan.

If you have any questions about this post, please comment below and I’ll get back with you!

Oh, and stay tuned for more posts this month where I’ll be sharing sample meals that are packed with protein to help you plan for the weeks!

Happy Fueling!


Navigating the Young Athlete's Early Morning & Evening Practices

One of the most common questions I get from parents and athletes is how to eat around early morning before-school practices and those tricky 6PM and 7PM games and practices. What should you eat before that won’t interfere with the athlete’s event? Should they eat something before? What about after? What do you do about these games and practices that are smack in the middle of meal time?

My answer to this question, whether it is breakfast or dinner is to divide the meal into Meal 1 and Meal 2 and include the more easily digested items in Meal 1 (think quality carbohydrates) and those less-easily digested items in Meal 2 (think more protein, fiber and healthy fats). In this post I’m going to try to simplify and break it down for you to get a better picture of what this would look like and why….

Meal #1 (the pre-event meal)

  • The focus of this Meal #1 is to provide energy to the athlete. To make sure energy stores are full and ready for play and practice. If an athlete heads out to practice with an empty tank or depleted energy stores (from running around at school all day and not having eaten since school lunch) they will not be able to play or practice at their best and could even run a higher risk of injury.

  • This meal should consist of quality carbohydrates because these are more easily digested in the body, which means they can act as a quicker source of energy that will not lead to digestive problems mid-event.

  • Examples of these quality carbohydrate meal components might be: pasta, rice, fruit, baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, whole or half of a PB&J or turkey sandwich, chicken noodle soup, crackers with some hummus or peanut butter (careful with too much of peanut butter or hummus because they do contain fat and, if eaten too close to events, could cause stomach problems during the event), dry cereal, waffle(s), slice or two of toast with jam, simple granola bar.

Meal #2 (the post-event meal)

  • The focus of Meal #2 is to replenish used up energy stores, to provide protein and other nutrients to the muscles so that they can repair and rebuild, to provide some healthy fats which can aid in recovery and decreased inflammation, and to overall satisfy and fill up the athlete.

  • This meal is especially important if the athlete has another game or practice the following morning or later that day.

  • Examples of these meal components might be:

    • Protein: chicken, turkey, lean ground beef, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, milk, yogurt, cheese

    • Healthy fats: salmon, tuna, avocado, flaxseed, chia seeds, nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters, olive oil (can be in salad dressings, etc.), tahini

    • Quality Carbohydrate: use the examples listed for Meal #1 ideas


Sometimes the athlete really cannot eat in the mornings before an early morning before-school practice (I see this a lot with runners, sometimes gymnasts, and I struggled with it as a figure skater growing up). In these cases it could be good to try:

  1. Have a liquid form of nutrition or something very basic for breakfast. Examples include: fruit juice, fresh or dried fruit, a shake, a little bit of a sports drink.

  2. If an early morning bite or drink is absolutely not doable, move over to focusing on dinner the night before. If dinner was early, incorporate a before-bed snack like a bowl of cereal, yogurt, granola bar with some peanut butter, something that can carry over so that the athlete’s fuel tank is not completely depleted when they wake up in the morning and head to practice.

  3. In these cases, make sure the athlete is getting something substantial as his or her post-event Breakfast #2. This could look like anything from a Greek yogurt with granola and a banana, to a granola bar, a milk carton and grapes, to 2 hard boiled eggs + fruit, to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a carton of milk.

Those odd-hour events can be tricky, but with a plan and simple meal or food ideas, keeping your young athlete fueled can be done! As I sign off, I’m leaving you with one last list of ideas to take with you this month.

Happy Fueling!


Early Morning Practice Meal Ideas for the Young Athlete


  • Glass of juice

  • Medium banana or other fruit

  • Dry cereal (ex: Cheerios, Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Chex, etc.)

  • Dried fruit

  • Fruit smoothie (made with fruit and water or some juice)

  • Breakfast shake like Carnation Instant Breakfast (tolerance may depend on athlete and on sport being played)

  • Slice(s) of toast with jam or honey

  • Simple granola bar (ex: Quaker chewy or soft Nutrigrain) or fig bar (low in fiber & protein)

  • Low-fat yogurt


I LOVE these easy   Egg Cups  !

I LOVE these easy Egg Cups!

  • Hardboiled egg(s) + cheese stick + grapes

  • Peanut butter and jelly or honey sandwich

  • Greek yogurt + granola + sliced strawberries

  • Pre-made egg sandwich (egg(s) on a whole wheat English muffin with cheese) + fruit

  • Chocolate milk + whole grain granola bar

  • Turkey & cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread (remember that Breakfast doesn’t have to mean only breakfast foods!)

  • Peanut butter crackers + glass of white or chocolate milk

  • To-go oatmeal cup (just add milk or water) + banana

  • Cottage cheese + fresh fruit + whole grain crackers

  • Pre-baked egg cups + fruit or a granola bar or whole grain crackers

Evening Event Meal Ideas for the Young Athlete


  • Baked white or baked sweet potato

  • Pasta with marinara sauce

  • Turkey sandwich

  • Pasta salad

  • Bowl of cereal (just like breakfast doesn’t have to mean “breakfast food”, dinner doesn’t always have to mean “dinner food”!)

  • Mini pizzas (on flatbread or English muffins with marinara, a sprinkle of cheese and any veggie toppings your athlete would like)


I’m such of fan of this simple mayo-free   chicken salad!

I’m such of fan of this simple mayo-free chicken salad!

And these hearty flavor-packed 7-ingredient   tuna burgers!

And these hearty flavor-packed 7-ingredient tuna burgers!

  • Baked chicken + veggies + whole grain roll

  • Grilled salmon + salad + glass of milk

  • Spaghetti with meatballs

  • Tuna or chicken salad

  • Omelet with veggies and cheese + slice of whole wheat bread

  • Glass of milk / chocolate milk

  • Greek yogurt with fruit

  • Avocado toast topped with a scrambled egg(s)

  • Chicken sandwich + veggies

  • Lean ground hamburger + veggies

  • Tuna Burgers - just the patty or with the bun - whatever your athlete needs!

Farewell to Lunchtime Chicken Fingers: Mastering the Pre-Game Meal

Yesssss.  It was chicken tender & french fry day at school.  My favorite.  For whatever reason, french fry day was a huge deal at our school.  Not sure why but once a week they were served.  And something about those chicken tenders... mmmm mmmmm.  Mouth watering just thinking about them.

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Right... mouth - watering until we fast-forward to about 4:00 that afternoon in the middle of cross country practice when I wanted to fall out on the Tuckahoe pavement (the street our practice runs often included), thinking maybe the SMS golf cart would appear like a knight in shining armor and cruise me back to the school (wishful thinking).  I realized in that moment that chicken tenders and fries may not be my body's fuel of choice and this was the way it decided to get my attention.

Cross country practice began at 3:30 and that particular day was a long run day.  Typically I would run at a pretty nice clip.  I'm mentally competitive with myself more than anyone else and would refuse to stop until I had reached the end.  Well, clearly this day was different.  I made it about 8 minutes and it all fell apart.  Nausea, stomach cramping, fatigue, you name it.  After deciding that lying down in the middle of the street waiting for a golf cart to come pick me up was probably not going to end in my favor, I walked the majority of the route back and finally finished with not only my worst time, but also feeling the worst I had ever felt after a run.  Now, I don't know if my lunchtime choice was the only culprit, but that was the only factor different than any other day.  I decided then and there that future lunches would be different.  Fried food clearly did nothing for me and if I was going to go to practice, I wanted it to be beneficial.

The next day and all of the days following were new days.  Of course I still enjoyed my chicken tenders and fries, but certainly not as my pre-run meal.  I started experimenting with different foods and different food combinations and took notice of how I practiced and how I felt at afternoon practices.  I found my ideal fueling lunch to include complex carbohydrates (fruits, whole grain crackers, whole-wheat pita, and / or low fat yogurts), a source of protein (peanut butter, string cheese, tuna, turkey, or chicken) and some healthy fats here and there (peanut butter, almonds, hummus, avocado, and olive oil).  I never had a practice like that again and, as I started to be more thoughtful with my school lunches and meal and snack timing, I saw myself get stronger and faster, both in my running and in my skating, as the weeks went on.  

Now, with this post I'm not saying no more fried food ever again.  I'm simply saying that if you want better performances and better practices, it's time to move the fried foods (or any other foods that can be harder to digest or leave you tired during events) over to make room for the more nutrient-dense foods that fuel those hard-working muscles and brain and propel you towards the finish line (especially when planning your pre-event meal!!).

Happy Fueling!


10 simple ideas for the Young Athlete’s pre-game meal

(This meal is typically consumed 3 to 4 hours before the event. you may also need a pre-event snack, which you can find ideas for in my previous post here.)

  • Turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and dijon mustard. Cheese, if tolerated. I love my Turkey Melt that I posted a while back!

  • Stuffed Sweet Potato (I love my 9-Ingredient Stuffed Sweet Potato as a vegetarian option!)

  • Breakfast Sandwich like my 5-Ingredient Breakfast Sandwich!

  • A yogurt parfait or overnight oats (my go-to’s are these and these)

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly or Honey Sandwich with an apple and / or glass of milk

  • Pasta salad with chicken + yogurt or glass of milk and fruit

  • Chicken & Vegetable Soup + a whole grain roll or whole grain crackers (I love Kashi, Mary’s Gone Crackers and Crunchmaster) + mixed fruit

  • Low-fat cottage cheese + fruit + whole grain crackers and hummus

  • Tuna salad (made without mayo) sandwich or on crackers + an apple + yogurt

  • Homemade pizzas (ex: thick English muffins, marinara sauce, some veggies of choice, sliced chicken and a sprinkle of cheese) + fruit.

Jello Legs & Strategizing Pre-Event Snacks: Something I Learned the Hard Way

"Shoot!", I thought as I was about fifteen minutes from taking the ice for my warmup.  "I forgot my snack.  Oh well, too late now.  I'm sure I'll be fine.  I'm sure I don't actually need that banana.  I feel fine.  It's just like eight total minutes of skating."

An easy snack that I love pre or post exercise!   Sun Butter Banana Oat Bites   can also be found here

An easy snack that I love pre or post exercise! Sun Butter Banana Oat Bites can also be found here

Fast forward about twenty-five minutes later.  I made it through my warmup and, I'll say, it was decent.  I did not feel strong like I knew I could feel.  However, I just rationalized it as nerves that always vanish as soon as my music begins and carried on.  After a mediocre warmup I exited the ice and kept warm while talking with my coach. "I'm feeling stronger", I thought.  "I can do this."  I removed my skate guards and handed my sweater to my coach.  The announcer called my name and as the cold icy air pierced my skin, I lifted my head high, took a deep breath, and skated out to my beginning pose, trying to leave my hesitations in the warmup room.

At this point in my skating life, I felt like I at least had my early morning pre-performance eating strategy pretty much down.  I knew my go-to meal, timing and routine for these early morning competitors.  What I was still working on, however, was the timing for those awkward mid-day to late - afternoon performances.  This competition happened to be around 12:30 p.m., smack in the middle of the day and lunchtime. At that point breakfast had certainly worn off and the question was, do I eat lunch before or after my skate? I couldn't eat a huge lunch because then it might not digest in time.  But should I eat a little something before I compete or wait until after I finish?  With limited time to go, I brushed off the necessity of this pre-performance snack, telling myself it was simple superstition and went on with my warmup routine.

Now I was standing on the ice, focused on the task at hand, ready to go.  My music began and I pressed into my first strokes and leaned into those beginning edges.  Unfortunately that is as good as it got.  The program was rough, to say it kindly.  I remember literally talking to my legs while skating, saying "What are you doing?  Get it together!"  But it was useless.  My legs felt like jello and my body was shaky, making landing any jump next to impossible and causing spins to be far from tight and centered.  That was one of those performances that I was happy to end and as I put my skate guards back on and made my way to my family I realized how low my blood sugar was. I was hungry and a pre-performance snack would from then on be a pre-performance staple.

Athletes work hard every day so that they can perform their best when it counts and it is important not to let a lack of pre-performance nutrition be the reason those practices don’t pay off. It is important to determine what nutrition your body needs for an optimal performance and to determine not only what but also when the body needs it, then making it a necessity in your practice and performance day plan (remember, never perform on something you have not practiced on first!).. Now, if a meal was eaten an hour or two or three before the event, a snack may not be needed. However, in the instance like I have talked about here, where the last meal was far away, a snack is most-likely a benefit or necessity.

Remember that the closer you are to the event, the simpler your snack should be. That means the closer you get to the event the less protein, fiber, and fat a snack should contain as these components are all more difficult for the body to digest. Need some ideas? I’m leaving you with a few of my tried and true favorites below.

Happy fueling!


10 simple pre-event snacks for the young athlete

  • Fresh fruit (banana, grapes, orange slices, melon, etc. whatever is best tolerated by the athlete)

  • Dried fruit (raisins, cherries, apple, etc.)

  • Simple granola bar (low fiber, low fat, low protein - think "easy to digest", like a Quaker Chewy granola bar)

  • Pretzels

  • Crackers (salty crackers if you’re a heavy and / or salty sweater)

  • Jam sandwich

  • Slice of toast with honey

  • Dry cereal (My go-to’s are Cheerios & Quaker Oatmeal Squares)

  • Small fig bar ( I really like these)

  • Pre-event homemade trial mix (dry cereal + dried fruit)

Happy Fueling!



Are You Eating Enough?? How Getting Competitive Changed the Way I Ate

One of my favorite mid-day snacks or an easy part of breakfast is an 88-Acres bar with a nut or seed butter!

One of my favorite mid-day snacks or an easy part of breakfast is an 88-Acres bar with a nut or seed butter!

There is often times a misconception that athletes in aesthetic sports eat less or need to eat less to be "better".  Cue the ballerina, the gymnast, the figure skater, and the dancer, to name a few.  In sports with constricting and limited attire, where jumping, speed and agility are crucial, athletes may often restrict intake, skip meals, or fill standard size meals with only low-calorie items.  However, something the sports community is realizing is that a lower number on the scale and bony prominences are not a sign of success and certainly not a fast track to the gold.

I have read about this in numerous articles over the past few years but actually experienced this on my own in high school.  These articles that I read later were a scientific confirmation of what I already discovered based off of personal experience and performance.

Growing up as a figure skater, I would say that I got really "competitive" in the USFS (U.S. Figure Skating) realm somewhere around sophomore year of high school (although I was serious about it and competing from somewhere around the age of 8).  After years of falls and frustrations, summer training camps away, and six days a week at the rink, I finally landed a very difficult element for me, and one I needed to compete at the next level, my double axel.  Alongside this I was also running cross country with my high school.  Top six days a week of skating with cross country and you find quite a physical and mental demand.  This was the point when I realized that to really compete I needed speed, I needed strength and I needed massive amounts of focus.  I quickly realized that none of those could be obtained when under-fueled or under-nourished.  While I felt like I was a fairly healthy eater, I realized that maybe that wasn't enough.  My practices were longer and more intense and I was looking to improve, not to maintain. In the past I might have arrived to the rink slightly hungry but would wait it out until a break or dinner.  However, returning from skating camp the summer I landed my double axel and beginning the new school year, I noticed this usual eating pattern only leaving me exhausted and with a sometimes sloppy practice.  I had my jumps, I had my spins, now I wanted to increase my speed, making those jumps higher and those spins faster, and nailing my routines nine times out of ten.  I quickly realized that to meet these expectations I had to show up to the rink ready.  I don't mean just having the right outfit, gloves, music, etc.  I mean ready in its entirety - fueled, nourished and ready to give practice my all.

We all know what our "A" game is.  Well, my thoughts are that if we can't bring it to practice how are we ever going to improve upon it and advance?  Of course we always have our off-days. However, for the most part, we have got to practice at our best as much as we can so that with each practice and each performance we can improve upon the last, thereby improving our performance and outcomes when it really counts - in competition.

It was during this time when my skating got more serious and I started to consider myself a real competitor that I realized just being “healthy” wasn't always going to cut it.  I needed extra fuel and more nutrition.  This was the year I (A) started to bring my lunch to school, (B) ate more food and ate it more frequently (packed my lunch and always made sure to include an afternoon snack within about 1 hour of getting to the rink) and (C) saw the biggest improvement in my skating AND my running. I was faster and stronger which made for an exciting year in my sports, in my schoolwork and in my overall attitude.  Many people that I have spoken with or clients that I have worked with have seemed to share or understand this common belief that to be more competitive an aesthetic sport athlete needs lighter meals, which often materialize as more salads, more fruits, and sticking to only three meals a day.  However, the reality is that athletes, including aesthetic athletes, actually need MORE if they to improve (and prevent injury). That may mean more food at meals or more eating opportunities or more energy than fruits & vegetables can supply.

A note to the young athlete

To all of those aesthetic athletes out there afraid of "eating too much”, if you're feeling fatigued and your performances and practices have not been up to your normal standards, or worse, you are suffering from multiple or non-healing injuries, take a good look at your daily intake and find room for improvement or small dietary additions here and there.  While those salads, fruits, and scheduled meals are great, they can leave you lacking in the energy required for your sport.  It may be that you simply need an extra apple, some peanut butter with your banana, a bigger salad with some almonds or avocado added, an extra slice of whole-wheat toast in the morning, or a small whole grain granola bar before practice. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’re a multi-sport athlete. Maybe you play school and club soccer and decided to join the cross country or track team and you’re going through your growth spurt. Remember that with your increased practices, games and tournaments, especially during this growing period, comes the necessity of a little or a lot more food whether that’s more at lunch, actually eating breakfast (for many of you non-breakfast eaters out there) or adding in an afternoon or evening snack.  Remember that it doesn’t have to be complicated and that there is not one universal prescription for every athlete. Your extra nutrition needs depend on you as an individual and your sport.  However, if you're looking to improve, remember that with each day and with each practice you have to fuel up to power up.  Give your body enough nutrition (along with sleep and a few other factors), and watch it hand you more energy, better focus and improved performance in return.

to the parent, coach & support team of the young athlete

Stay tuned for more posts this month as I dive more into pre and post event meal and snack ideas!

Happy Fueling!












April: Fueling Spring Sports

It’s April. Let’s Talk About Fueling Your Child/Teen Athlete’s Spring Sports & Workouts

It’s officially Spring and while the weather in Texas still feels blustery and cold and I’m still bundling up in my winter jackets, attending my nephew’s baseball games wrapped up in said winter jackets tells me spring sports are officially in full-swing. Personally, I’m also craving being outside more and being more active. With busy schedules and multiple kids in multiple sports it can be hard to find the the time to figure out what to pack and what needs to be eaten and when both for the kids and for ourselves. This month, to help you through the hectic work, school and sports schedules, I will be sharing pre and post event / workout meal and snack ideas as well as some recipes to help fuel your child or teen athlete!

I LOVE these No Bake Cherry Sun Butter Bars. So easy to make and delicious. I get lots of positive feedback from friends and family who decide to make these for their fam!

I LOVE these No Bake Cherry Sun Butter Bars. So easy to make and delicious. I get lots of positive feedback from friends and family who decide to make these for their fam!

There are more posts to come, but in the meantime I thought I would bring back a favorite recipe of mine, an oldie but a goodie. These No Bake Sun Butter Bars are such a favorite of mine! I love prepping a batch on the weekend or a weeknight and having them sliced and ready to go in my freezer for quick breakfasts as I head out the door or a quick energizing snack in-between projects or after runs and workouts. The same can be true for your child or teen athlete, especially if he or she is one of the many who skips breakfast.

no bake cherry sun butter squares

I started out with this batch recipe here. Then I doubled and altered the ingredients just a bit here to provide a little more energy for the athlete hitting that crazy growth spurt, a period of time where everything counts!

I hope you follow along and appreciate the recipes and information provided this month!

Happy Fueling!


Ten Calcium - Boosting Breakfasts Ideas

Love simple breakfasts that include filling a small mason jar with my favorite yogurt, fruit and homemade flax & chia seed granola.

Love simple breakfasts that include filling a small mason jar with my favorite yogurt, fruit and homemade flax & chia seed granola.

I always talk to young elite or multi-sport athletes about the importance of not skipping a meal. Each meal is an opportunity for the young athlete to get needed protein to repair torn muscles, carbohydrate to replenish energy stores, fat for brain health, satiety and inflammation-fighting, and certain nutrients like calcium to keep bones strong. Just as skipping a meal puts the young athlete at a disadvantage, not skipping meals can be one simple way to take your training and performance up a notch. Today I’m talking about calcium and I’m specifically focusing on ways to get calcium in breakfast because, of all the schools and sports teams I visit, the athletes skip breakfast the most often. Keep on reading for some breakfast ideas that will boost your young athlete’s calcium intake. Questions? Comment below!

Happy Fueling!


Ten Calcium - Boosting Breakfast Ideas

for the Young Athlete

  1. Sun Butter Banana and Chia Seed Oatmeal

    This is my newest morning oatmeal go-to recipe. Bump up the calcium by using some almond butter instead of Sun Butter or peanut butter!

  2. Sun butter banana overnight oats

    Still love the simplicity of these overnight oats. Again, use almond butter instead of Sun Butter or peanut butter for a little boost in calcium.

  3. Cherry Vanilla Overnight Oats

    A non-nut or non-seed butter option, this breakfast is packed with flavor and offers some calcium to busy mornings!

  4. Yogurt & Fruit Parfait with Flax Seeds

    No recipe needed here. Just layer your favorite yogurt, fruit and a sprinkle of flaxseed into a glass or bowl. Super simple and full of calcium.

    REMEMBER: Greek or higher protein yogurts tend to have less calcium than your regular yogurts. It’s due to how the Greek yogurt is strained / made. So, while your Greek - type yogurts boast more protein, they often have less calcium. If both protein and calcium are a concern, I always say, just mix it up! My favorite yogurts are Siggi’s, Chobani, and this Icelandic brand.

  5. Smoothie made with yogurt or almond milk

    Use whatever your favorite smoothie recipe is and try to get about 8 ounces of milk or almond milk or about 4 to 6 ounces of milk and 4 to 6 ounces of yogurt. Throw in chia seeds, flaxseeds or kale for a little more of a boost!

  6. Cheese Toast

    Growing up, on Saturday mornings I would often walk into the kitchen to mom eating a piece of toast with cheese on top that she had broiled in the oven. Guess you could call it an open faced grilled cheese if you need a better picture but we just called it what it was - cheese toast. This was typically a breakfast option in our household. Well, one morning last year at a high school, after I had finished a talk to a girls volleyball and soccer team, I was answering questions. I was talking with one young lady about easy breakfast ideas that could get her some protein and calcium quickly. I mentioned this cheese toast and she just looked at me curiously and with so much skepticism in her eyes and said, “like a bad grilled cheese??” . Ha! Touche. All I could do was laugh. Fair point I guess, if you didn’t grow up with it. So, with all that said. Take or leave the cheese toast. But it is an option! You could even dress it up by topping it with a slice of tomato and sprinkle of Italian season before broiled it in the oven.

  7. Mini Wafflewiches

    This idea came straight from the Kids in the Kitchen program that I was a part of for three years with the Junior League of Dallas. The kids made these in schools and it was by far one of the favorites in all of the schools. I downsized it a little here to be more compact and portable if you wanted.

    • 4 mini waffles (for 2 mini sandwiches)

    • vanilla yogurt

    • nut or seed butter (optional)

    • sliced banana

  8. Eggs with cheese & sauted kale. dried figs on the side

    Easy eggs. You could even add this into egg cups like the ones here to have ahead of time!

  9. Cottage cheese with drizzles of honey & fruit

    About 1/2 cup of cottage cheese gives you about 100 mg of calcium!

  10. Almond butter toast and an 8 to 12 ounce glass of milk or almond milk

    Go with your favorite toast. If you use almond butter you could get even an extra little boost of calcium! Pair it with milk, or almond milk to maximize your calcium in the meal.

A Sample 1300 mg Meal Plan Without Dairy


The always tricky situation occurs when working with a high level, multi sport young athlete who eats little to no dairy. Often times this is when I end up talking about supplements and make recommendations for supplement brands that are 3rd party tested for safety. To learn more about safe supplements for you or your young athlete, visit this previous post.

However, before jumping on the supplement train, I always like to demonstrate that calcium goals can be met from food alone even when a young athlete does not care for dairy foods. That is what I am showing you today. Below you will find one Sample Meal Plan that meets the 1300 mg calcium a day goal without the use of dairy. Again, this only reflects calcium. Calories, carbs, protein, and fat are not taken specifically into account Comment with questions! For the list of non-dairy food and beverage sources of calcium check out this previous post. And, don’t forget your vitamin D along with it to make sure that calcium gets to your bones!

Happy Fueling!




  • 1 to 2 scrambled eggs

  • 8 oz. of almond milk (300 mg)

  • Fresh fruit


  • 1/2 cup dried figs (90 mg)


  • Kale Salad

    • 4 cups fresh kale (360 mg)

    • grilled chicken

    • toasted almonds (12 nuts) (37 mg)

    • veggies of choice

    • 1/2 cup kidney beans (95 mg)

    • dressing of choice

  • Fresh fruit


  • Diced pears and apples


  • Grilled miso salmon (~76 mg)

  • Grilled Bok choy (~88mg)

  • Roasted potatoes (~30 mg)

  • kale salad (2 cups) (180mg)


  • Chocolate soy milk (300 mg)

TOTAL CALCIUM: ~1556 mg*

* I surpassed the recommended amount of 1300 mg here because the calcium in these plant sources may not all be fully absorbed and utilized in the body.

A Sample 1300 mg Calcium Meal Plan

DIY Blackberry Yogurt 1.PNG

Hey there! Hope everyone had a great weekend. If you follow me on my Instagram you know that I got to spend Sunday doing one of my favorite activities with the family, ice skating. It was so much fun to skate but to also get to help my niece and nephew skate.

I just posted my blog post about calcium & vitamin D needs for kids and teens and the young athlete last week. This week, because I’m such an advocate for food first if possible, I want to share with you a couple of examples of what meeting needs through diet alone can look like. For my examples I have chosen the 1300 mg goal because teens are who I most often see with stress fractures and who I most often educate. See previous post for calcium recommended daily amounts for different ages. Remember that I’m really only considering calcium here. This does not reflect any particular energy, protein, carbohydrate or fat intake. Nor does it address other micronutrients. Comment with questions!

Happy Fueling!


1300 mg CALCIUM PER DAY MEAL PLANS (with dairy)



  • 5 oz yogurt (250 mg)

  • 1/2 tsp chia seeds (85 mg)

  • fruit


  • 1 oz raw or dry roasted almonds (75 mg)


  • Grilled chicken sandwich

  • With 1 slice of cheese (150 mg)

  • Side kale salad (2 cups fresh kale) (180 mg)


  • 8 oz. chocolate milk (300 mg)


  • Pork tenderloin

  • 1 baked potato (~30 mg)

    • 1 slice cheese (~150 mg)

    • plain yogurt (~50 mg)

  • 1 cup cooked broccoli (62 mg)

TOTAL CALCIUM: ~ 1332 mg



  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (1/2 cup dry oats + 1 cup milk) (~328 mg)

  • 2 tsp almond butter (~28 mg)

  • 1/2 banana


  • 1 yogurt, not Greek (~ 5 oz.) (~250 mg)


  • Grilled salmon salad

    • 3 cups chopped fresh kale (270 mg)

    • 4 oz grilled Coho salmon (50 mg)

    • diced veggies of choice

    • 2 tbsp feta (~90 mg)

    • dressing of choice

  • fruit / crackers on the side


  • 5 figs (~135 mg)


  • Grilled chicken breast

    • 1 slice melted mozzarella cheese (~150 mg)

    • fresh sliced tomatoes + basil

  • 1 cup cooked broccoli (~60 mg)

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

  • 8 oz. milk (300 mg)


Calcium for the Young Athlete

DIY Blackberry Yogurt 1.PNG

Calcium and Vitamin D are big topics for me as I continue working with young athletes.  I see many stress fractures commonly caused by a combination of overuse, under-resting, and suboptimal nutrition intake, specifically of calcium and vitamin D.  I have also had a number of friends ask me specific information regarding calcium and vitamin D and so, while not going into specific recommendations, I am dedicating a full post to these two nutrients. This and other posts will talk about general information. If you have real concerns that you or your athlete are not getting enough calcium, you should formally talk with your doctor or sports dietitian. Stay tuned for posts focused specifically on recipes and sample meal plans to come!


Calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients with an important role in bone health.  While calcium plays an essential role in bone development, vitamin D is a nutrient that aids in the absorption and regulation of the calcium.  Therefore, these two nutrients work together to protect against the loss of bone mass and maintain strong bones, which is especially important during the teen years when bones tend to grow at a more rapid rate. Calcium is also used for things like muscle contractions and heart function. The body uses the calcium in the blood for these functions. If not getting enough calcium to keep blood levels normal, the body will pull that needed calcium from the bones. Thus the reason we need to be getting calcium in what we eat and drink!


  • 4 - 8 years old: 1,000 mg / day

  • 9 - 13 years old: 1300 mg / day

  • 14 - 18 years old: 1300 mg / day


  • 1 - 18 years old: 600 IU / day


Calcium doesn’t have to come from just dairy. There are non-dairy sources too. Just remember that if you choose to get it from non-dairy sources, you are going to need bigger portions of those calcium-containing foods!

  • Leafy greens (kale, bok choy and collards)

  • Chia & sesame seeds

  • Figs

  • White beans

  • Almonds

  • Broccoli (small amounts)

  • Milk (any %. They all have the same amount of calcium per serving)

  • Yogurt

  • Cheese

  • Cottage cheese

  • Canned salmon

  • Calcium - fortified tofu


  • UV exposed mushrooms

  • Fortified milk substitutes & yogurts

  • Egg (yolks)

  • Salmon & tuna

  • Ready-to-eat cereals


  • Make oatmeal with milk or calcium-fortified milk substitutes

  • Fruit smoothie made with milk or yogurt

  • Add cheese to eggs and sandwiches

  • Drink a glass of milk or chocolate milk with meals or as your after practice snack (love these Horizon milk boxes that can be thrown in a lunchbox or sports bag!)

  • Pack string cheese as snacks

  • Add dry milk powder to oatmeal, soups, stews and baked goods

  • Include a yogurt & fruit parfait for breakfast or as an after-dinner snack

  • Top a baked potato with steamed broccoli, 1/4 cup shredded cheese and plain yogurt

  • Add 1/2 cup of cooked calcium-rich greens to meals

  • Snack on 1/2 cup cooked soybeans or 5 dried figs or toss over salads

  • Make a breakfast shake with calcium-fortified beverage, fruit & greens

  • Add chia seeds to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies and salads

  • Include a glass of calcium - fortified orange juice with breakfast or a snack


Foods containing oxalates can inhibit calcium absorption.

Higher oxalate - containing foods = beans, nuts, soy beans, and some dark leafy greens like spinach.

Lower oxalate - containing foods = kale and Bok choy

This doesn’t mean you need to cut the higher oxalate - containing foods out of the diet, but try to incorporate some of the lower oxalate and non-oxalate - containing foods more often.

My Story: How Growing Up a Young Athlete Fueled My Passion for Sports Nutrition & Wellness


Hi and Happy New Year!  While perusing through my different posts and articles over the Christmas holiday, I realized that I have not devoted one solid post to MY story and WHY I actually went into nutrition and dietetics.  I tell my story in the beginning of every new talk or presentation I give and, while I’ve provided a small blip of my story in my “About” page of this site, I realized I have not shared my story in detail with you, my readers.  So, today’s post is not a new yummy recipe or fact on sports nutrition. It is a post dedicated to helping you get to know me and the story behind what fuels my passion for sports nutrition and wellness. Every dietitian has his or her own story of why he or she decided to study nutrition.  Maybe it was a culinary interest or a sick family member that needed a feeding tube or a desire for research or being a collegiate athlete.  The potential reasons are numerous.  My story, however started back in high school.  

As most of you who follow along with me regularly know by now, I was an athlete growing up.  My mom took me ice skating at about 6 years old and I completely fell in love with the sport.  I can still remember a few days in the first grade waiting for school to be over because mom was picking me up and we were going ice skating that afternoon.  I can feel the excitement that I felt at the age of six and seven like it was yesterday.  Ha!  I also remember how badly I wanted my first pair of ice skates.  Every night I would wish that there would be a pair of ice skates at the end of my bed when I woke up the next morning.  I know, I was quite the optimist.  I tell you this to give you a clearer idea of my enthusiasm for this sport.  As I got older I (a) finally did get my own pair of skates and then (b) started training consistently before and after school and on Saturday mornings.  In the 8th grade I began going away to training camps in the summer.  For six summers I packed my suitcases and headed to Indianapolis where I trained for about six weeks, each almost 7-hour day filled with freestyles, jump and spin classes, off ice conditioning, on ice conditioning, ballet, choreography and more.  

In the 7th grade I decided I wanted to participate in a school sport which led me to join our cross country team. Cross country being the only school sport that I could do that would work with my skating.  I joined the cross country team to be with friends but I quickly started to love running as well.  As the years went on and I got into high school, I found myself competitively participating in, not only figure skating, but running as well.

I would say that I was a dedicated athlete. I wanted to get better, learn new techniques, improve my times and be the best that I could be. So, I showed up to practice, I did what my coaches asked, and made the grades in school, and, for a while that worked… until the day that it didn’t.  I reached a point in the beginning of high school where I felt like I stopped improving.  I practiced my hardest but my times were not improving in running and I wasn’t mastering more difficult elements in my skating.  I tried to figure out what I needed to do to get over the hurdle and, as I started to focus on this, two things happened that made me realize my missing link…

The first event was a skating competition where I competed around 12:30 pm.  I had an early morning practice and so breakfast was easy, but as my skate time approached, breakfast was a distant memory and I couldn’t figure out how to navigate the lunch meal.  I had morning competitions down.  I knew what to have for dinner the night before and what to eat for breakfast that morning to support a short but intense 3 to 4 minute program.  What I did not have a clear understanding of, however, was fueling for a 12:30 skate.  I wasn’t sure where to place lunch and so I came to the conclusion that it was either (a) go ahead and eat lunch and risk it not being digested before I performed or (b) skip it all together and eat a late lunch after my skate.  I chose (b) skipping lunch, but as soon as I went into my first jump of the performance I knew I had made the wrong decision.  That was the longest program ever.  I couldn’t keep my feet under me to save my life!  I fell everywhere.  Nerves seemed to magnify my low blood sugar and as soon as I got off the ice I promised myself I would always eat something before I performed. I’m not saying every performance was perfect after that, but if I did have a bad skate, it was not because of my low blood sugar.

The second big “Aha” moment was in my running.  There was a day where I ate the chicken fingers and fries for lunch and then went to cross country practice about 2 and a half hours later.  I am super competitive by nature and so even practices were 100% for me.  I really never walked unless that was what we were supposed to be doing.  I always ran my hardest.  However, this particular day I did not.  The chicken fingers and fries caught up with me and, feeling extremely nauseated, I walked what felt like the entire course.  After that practice I vowed, “no more fried food at lunch before runs”.  

I also realized during this time that, for the most part, even though I ate fried food and sweets and pretty much all foods, I was eating too little. At many times, I think I worried about eating too much. I was in two aesthetic sports that valued leanness and often times I think I was educated more so on what not to eat than I was educated on what to eat for strong bones, muscles, practices and performances. I don’t recall ever being educated on the dangers of eating too little. Although, my parents did always make me eat something or drink a little breakfast shake before my 5:45 morning practices. That was always non-negotiable.

All of these discoveries combined along with finally landing my double axel in high school made me realize that my missing link was my nutrition. I realized the value of showing up to practices with strength, energy and power and the necessity of food to give me that strength, energy and power.  I didn’t have a dietitian to turn to.  I didn’t even know what a dietitian was.  So, I started playing around with my meals and snacks on my own.  I brought different things for lunch and tried different snacks at different times of day.  I finally figured out what meals and snacks worked best for me to be energized and fueled but not full or weighed down for my early morning and afternoon runs and skates.  

It was eye opening for me to see the difference in my skating and running when I ate consistently and ate certain foods throughout the day.  Previously I had done whatever I wanted and most often, as I mentioned earlier, probably had not eaten enough.  As I paid attention to and changed up my food and nutrition my skating got stronger, I started landing harder jumps and my running times got faster.  Seeing and feeling the impact of food on my athletic performance is what peaked my interest for nutrition and led me to study nutrition in college and grad school, eventually making it my career.  I was certainly faced with opposition as people told me being a sports dietitian was a one in a million chance and that I shouldn’t choose that path if sports is what I wanted to do.  However, I’m so glad I chose it anyway.  While I certainly enjoy my work in wellness, at the heart of it all, I picked the nutrition field so that I could help young athletes understand food and nutrition, build a healthy relationship with food and nutrition and understand how to use it to be stronger, sharper, more competitive, and injury - free athletes. Actually, being an athlete is probably what most shaped my relationship with food and later spurred my interest in and enthusiasm for wellness.  I think about what I might have accomplished in my running and especially my skating had I figured the whole food thing out sooner.  

There is more to my story woven throughout here that further inspired and continues to inspire me to work with athletes, but those stories are for another time and another post.  This one is long enough :)  My goal in my practice, my programs, my presentations and my blog posts are to help athletes, both adult athletes and young athletes, understand and build a healthy relationship with food in relation to their sport.  I learned so much about food by being an athlete. Being an athlete helped me view food in a positive light, as the best source of fuel for the body, and it is what has shaped my overall food and wellness philosophy that I practice today. 

I hope that I can help athletes and even non-athletes understand food as well and see it in just as positive of a light. My goal this year is to not only help you understand nutrition, but also help you see how to put these nutrition principles into easy tangible practice, by showing you easy meal planning techniques, simple recipes and versatile meals idea.  Stay tuned in posts to come!


Happy Fueling!


Meal Planning for the Young Athlete

I started meal planning and prepping in high school. I had begun to find myself giving the same effort as always but with less gains and improvements. I then experienced 2 individual events, one in my running and one in my skating. I first discovered that chicken fingers and fries from the school cafeteria was not the meal that was going to give me my best afternoon run or skate. Then I discovered that, on the flip side, not eating enough before events and not being prepared with snacks at away competitions would leave me tired and underfueled for practices and competitions. Both scenarios led to poor performances and, realizing this, I started to spend more time taking an interest in what I was putting onto my body and when.

I love working with athletes who have discovered this connection between food / nutrition and their sport and energy levels and are ready to take action. What I find they need the most is simply a starting point. Where to begin? How do you think about it? What is a framework for figuring this out?

Today I’m walking through some basic steps to meal planning and prepping for the young athlete. I’m focusing on lunch here but I can talk more about including breakfast and dinners if you guys want - just comment below! I hope you find this helpful. Please share with a friend or teammate who would also find this helpful!

Happy Fueling!



  1. Look at Your School Schedule

Before you can plan anything you have to know what you are planning for! How many lunches will you need? How many breakfasts? Are you factoring dinner into the equation or just breakfast, lunch and snacks?? I like to use my personal calendar for this so that it is visible in my busy daily schedule.

calendar front.JPG

2. Look at How Much Time You Have for Meals

How much time do you actually have for meals? Are you scarfing down breakfast as you run out the door in the morning? Do you eat breakfast at school after morning practice? Do you get a fast fifteen minutes for lunch that you squeeze in between last minute homework? Or do you have a full thirty minutes to an hour? ( IF your answer is none of the above, “I skip lunch”, then please resubmit your answer as either A or B, because, attention, you need all of your meals! Skipping a meal is not an option in the meal planning or prepping process! )

How much time you have for meals will also help you determine what you should plan for and bring. If you only have 15 minutes, bringing something that needs to be microwaved, is, realistically, probably not your best option. Write down lunch in your planner and how much time you think you will realistically have for it.

Week at a Glance.JPG

3. Know What Your Nutrition Needs Are

All athletes have different macro and micronutrient needs depending on their own unique body and the sport that they play. An endurance runner will have different needs than a volleyball player who will have different needs than a football player who will have different needs than a figure skater. I talk with lots of athletes who are working on increasing their calcium intake, protein intake and overall energy intake. If this is also you, then it’s something you need to be considering! Are you a vegetarian? If so, then it’s really important to make sure you are getting enough protein, iron, zinc and B12 from plant and dairy sources (if you include dairy).

4. List Foods You Like In Each Food Group

While the new MyPlate does a good job of showcasing and simplifying the foods groups and how to incorporate them into meals, it only shows 5 food groups, failing to showcase fat, which I believe is a very important part of a healthy young athlete’s nutrition plan. Now that you have in mind your time-frame and nutrition needs, take a look at the Six Food Groups and the foods that you most commonly include within these groups:

  • Meat or Meat Equivalent (for those that don’t eat meat)

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Whole Grains

  • Dairy

  • Fat

I like to put these categories in columns like the picture below so that it leaves room to brainstorm all of the possible foods you can include in each category.

01_Meal Guide_Blank.JPG
02_Meal Guide_with optionsJPG.JPG

5. Choose at Least 3 Food Groups Per Meal

Now, think about what foods you want to include in your meals that week. Say you are planning lunch and you know that you are trying to get more calcium in your meals, you have cross country practice in 3 hours and you will have about 20 minutes for lunch today. That means you should probably bring something that can (A) be served cold, (B) contains calcium, (C) will offer a good portion of carbohydrate to fuel your run but (D) be lower in fat so that digesting the meal will not interfere with your run. For me, I might pick a MEAT (or “MEAT EQUIVALENT”), some GRAINS/STARCH and some DAIRY at a minimum (this could look like chicken, whole grain crackers & yogurt). Young athletes will most likely need much more food than this, but this is an example of the minimum from different categories.

03_Meal Guide_with selections.JPG

6. Vary the Foods within Each of These Food Groups Weekly

To keep it easy, you could plan to stick with a meat, starch and dairy food in each of your lunches. However, try to choose two or three foods within each of those food groups to get a variety of nutrients throughout the week and to prevent getting bored. For example, I might focus on the following three food groups and then choose the following foods within each food group to mix and match for the week. I’ll also throw in a few foods from other groups to complement meals as needed. Something I might choose would be:

  • MEAT = chicken, beans, eggs

  • STARCH = whole grain bread, sweet potatoes, whole grain crackers

  • DAIRY = low-fat yogurt and cheese

  • FRUITS = apples, grapes, bananas

  • VEGGIES = spinach, cucumbers, bell peppers, mushrooms

What meals could I make from this? Examples might be:

  • A chicken sandwich on whole - wheat bread with spinach, cheese and mustard + an apple + a yogurt

  • A spinach salad topped with hard boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, cucumbers and bell peppers + an olive oil - based dressing + a low-fat yogurt (a Greek or high protein yogurt if I need more protein and it digests in time for my run) + a bunch of grapes

  • You can also keep it super basic and make what I like to call a “grab bag”. There is certainly nothing wrong with this! Bring a ziplock baggie of chicken + a baggie of grapes + whole grain crackers + a low-fat yogurt and whatever else you might need to keep you fueled!

Remember that my examples here are not personalized. You may need less or a lot more food than this. These examples are just to give you a basic visual.

Nutrition Talks: Key Messages for Young Athletes

School is starting back up, which means I get to be back in schools talking with young athletes about sports nutrition and how food can make them stronger, faster and sharper, and at the same time enable optimal growth, development and performance in school.  There is a lot going on with this group of athletes and I always remind them of that.   I then remind them that nutrition plays an important role during this time.

Try these Sun Butter (or Peanut Butter) Banana Overnight Oats!

Try these Sun Butter (or Peanut Butter) Banana Overnight Oats!

My first talk of the school year was last week and I loved it just as much as I always do.  I love the challenge and  I love talking about something I'm (a) passionate about, (b) believe in and (c) have the science and life experience (before I studied it I lived it) to back  me up.  As much as I love it, though, I always feel like I'm potentially walking a fine line - the line that divides the side of helping athletes become well-rounded, eating foods they enjoy but mostly focusing on foods that will support their training, sport, and day-to-day activities and the side of propelling them into the extreme, becoming too structured, too restrictive, or fixating on just one point discussed (this is the reason I always like to do follow-up talks and not appear just once, if I can).  Keeping this in mind, when giving talks or working one-on-one, I always try to remember or mention the following things.....



Get the recipe for this super simple Fig & Cheddar Turkey Melt!

Get the recipe for this super simple Fig & Cheddar Turkey Melt!

It's important to eat "healthy" most of the time but that doesn't mean a young athlete can't still enjoy his or her favorite "less healthy" foods.  I always want to make sure I get the point across that just b/c a certain food isn't ideal for training or competition that doesn't make it across the board "bad" (I avoid labeling foods as "bad" and "good") - it means it's not the ideal food at that time for reasons including:  it may cause stomach cramps, upset stomach or nausea during the event or it may cause blood sugar spikes and crashes throughout the day leaving the athlete feeling tired and drained at the time of the event. 



Need a quick breakfast, snack, or dessert idea? These  Sun Butter Banana Oat Bites  are delish!

Need a quick breakfast, snack, or dessert idea? These Sun Butter Banana Oat Bites are delish!

Part of my caution in talking to young athletes about sports nutrition also stem from my knowledge of the presence of disordered eating and eating disorders in adolescents and now in children, and I never want to say anything to offend or set someone off.  If one athlete isn't the one with the disordered eating or eating disorder, it may very well be the friend or teammate sitting across the bench.  These things are very personal and often not talked about.  



Easy dinner idea packed with nutrition, flavor and 3 out of the 5 food groups? Try this  Chili Lime Shrimp  Dish!

Easy dinner idea packed with nutrition, flavor and 3 out of the 5 food groups? Try this Chili Lime Shrimp Dish!

I also want student athletes to understand that as athletes they can't assume that their friend's or peer's definition of "healthy" is the same as their definition.  Young athletes want lots of fruits and veggies and lean protein and some healthy fats like everyone else, but, for most young competitive and elite athletes who have hit puberty, foods with carbohydrates should be a best friend.  On top of that,  young competitive and elite athletes typically need bigger portions or to eat more frequently than their friends and family members do due to increased energy and nutrition needs from hours of practice and playing.  As a figure skater growing up, there was a period of time in Middle School, maybe sliding into the 9th grade, where I thought less food = better skating.  I soon learned, and more on this is saved for a separate post, that that was not the case.  I'll say this again, but, under-eating or under - fueling doesn't make great athletes.  It makes great injuries.    



Easy to make & easy to pack, I love this  Red Pepper & Pesto Chicken Salad!

Easy to make & easy to pack, I love this Red Pepper & Pesto Chicken Salad!

Overall, yes, young athletes want to eat "healthier" foods because these are going to supply them with: (1) ample energy to work their hardest  (2) sustained energy for longer practices and maintained focus (3) strong bones to withstand the constant pounding and stress put on them  (4) decreased inflammation after wear and tear of muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. and (5) strong muscles to keep them running, kicking, hitting, jumping, swimming and diving.  There is the saying that a sport is 90% mental and 10% physical.  I can see the validity in this statement;  however, even with the toughest "go-get-em" attitude, an athlete can only get so far if he or she does not have the proper nutrition as a foundation.  Yes, this strong-willed attitude may work for a short while, but if the athlete keeps going, keeps advancing with longer practices and harder workouts, eventually poor nutrition (whether that's too much of the nutrient-void foods, too little of the nutrient-dense foods, or just too little food in general) will catch up with him or her.  So, yes, there can be room for favorite desserts, chips, french fries, etc., but these foods have to be placed at the right time and these lower nutrient foods can't crowd out the ones that fuel the sport, growth, and school work.  

Wrapping it up, this is what has been on my mind this week.  Of course, every athlete has his or her own unique nutrition needs depending on factors including, but not limited to, age, weight, height, and sport played.  However, at the root of all of my different talks for different teams and with different athletes is the following message: 

  1. You've got to get you fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, calcium and healthy fats to play / perform your best.

  2. That doesn't mean you cannot or should not ever include you favorite foods that don't fall into the categories in #1.

  3. Understanding digestion rates / timing is helpful so you know the best time to enjoy those favorite foods that may not be the best fuel for your sport. Knowing this will also help you incorporate those favorite foods that do best fuel your sport, helping you place them at the right times before, during and after events.

  4. Also remember that you're an athlete. If you're a serious competitive or elite athlete, you're using up a lot more energy and nutrients than your non-athlete peers. This means you most likely have to eat more food. Under-eating or under - fueling doesn't make great athletes. It makes great injuries.

  5. So, eat your meals and pack your snacks. Load them up with the nutrient-rich foods to support training, but enjoy your favorite foods along the way - whatever those may be.


Happy Fueling!


Five Granola Bars to Fuel Your Active Day

Question of the day... How many times do you find yourself at the grocery store staring blankly at the walls of "nutrition bars", "sports bars", "energy bars"?  If this has ever been you, I can certainly relate.  They are never ending!  With so. many. choices, and all claiming to be the best it was no surprise to me that I started getting questions from clients, friends and family about which bars to choose.

It technically all started with questions about "good" snacks to to have on-hand throughout the day.  Then these general snack inquiries turned into questions about snack bars more specifically.  People were looking for easy no-prep, no clean-up snacks when time is tight.  The questions then shifted towards not only bars but bars that would be good to have before or after a workout.  Then, I talked with several clients and friends who were looking for bars that met their food allergy restrictions.  After doing my own personal "research" on granola bars to find ones that keep me fueled and energized and after doing some research for clients to find bars that met their specific needs, I created my "go-to" bars that have become pantry staples for my own grab-and-go breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.  Nothing is perfect, in my opinion, and there are certainly other bars out there that I know could be great fueling options. However, out of so many options, these are the ones that positively stand out to me the most.   I like these bars for their nutritional profile and, of course, the taste.  And, it's not only me that likes these bars- friends and family and clients have told me that they tried them and like them as well!

I choose higher protein, higher fiber bars for regular snacks or as a component of meals and I choose lower protein bars with minimal fat and minimal fiber before I exercise.  Why?  Because you want a simpler snack pre-workout.  Yes, protein and fiber and healthy fats are all positive components of a snack bar;  however, these components are often not ideal right before a workout - especially a cardo or high-intensity workout.  Protein, fat and fiber are harder for the body to digest than simpler carbohydrates, making them less optimal right before a workout.  When you eat these components pre-workout you are making your body try and do two things at once:  1) Get energy to your muscles for exercise and 2) Use energy to digest the snack.  Usually one of these suffers, leading either to sluggish workouts or stomach cramps.  

So here are the details on my go-to bars that I keep on-hand and in my pantry to keep me fueled and energized during my active, and sometimes hectic day.  This is NOT a sponsored post.  I decided to write this on my own based on my personal and professional experiences and opinion. Please comment or email me if you have any questions or experiences of your own.  Would love to hear from you!

Happy Fueling!


Five Granola Bars to Fuel Your Active Day

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KIND Healthy Grain Bars - Honey Toasted Coconut bar

Nutrition Info

This is currently one of my favorite snack bars. It's the perfect size to keep hunger off until lunch or dinner time or it makes a great part of a breakfast or lunch. This bar contains 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar.

Workout Fuel

While I would not eat this bar, the minute before I go out for a run or workout, it's minimal protein, fat (5 grams total), and fiber could still allow me to enjoy it about 30 to 45 minutes or so before a workout (this is my personal experience - every athlete and exerciser is different). I would definitely choose this bar over one of the nut-filled bars before my run or workout. Those other bars filled with nuts are also filled with fat and fiber and a little more protein,which, as I mentioned earlier, while fine on its own, may not be the best right before intense physical activity.

Food Allergy Friendly

Many KIND bars are filled with almonds, peanuts, pistachios and more, so I was excited to find this one with that did not contain any nuts or peanuts. Hurray! It is processed in a plant that processed peanuts and tree nuts, though, so be careful if this would affect you.

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Nutrition Info

These are my new favorite find. I personally like these bars because, depending on the bar, they have anywhere from 3 to 6 grams of protein per bar and about 3 grams of fiber. They have about 8 grams of fat, but it's important to note that only 1 of those grams is saturated fat and none of it is trans fat. This is because the major ingredient in these bars are seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds. The high seed content adds fat, but mostly "healthy fat" (like omega 3's, which are found in flax seeds). This high seed content is also why these bars are higher in protein without having any protein powder added to them (like whey concentrate, etc.). I also love the simplicity of the ingredients in these bars. Pretty simple and straight forward.

Workout Fuel

Because of the high fat and higher protein content in these bars, I would take this out of my pre-workout options and keep it as part of a meal ( I love it broken up over yogurt), a regular snack, or post - exercise snack. Of course everyone is different, but for many people, that fat and protein could cause stomach cramping during a workout, game or practice. For those reasons it might not be the best bar to grab 15 minutes before a run or high-intensity workout, but still a good option another time of the day.

Food Allergy Friendly

If you read their story you see that a woman without food allergies created these bars because her husband did have food allergies and she wanted something they could both enjoy. So, although these bars are nut-free and gluten-free, they are made to be enjoyed by everyone! To learn more about the product and their story, click on the title above!

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Nutrition Info

I discovered these bars years ago because they were one of the bars consistently offered in our hospital cafeteria. I like these guys because they are a good "snack portion" or a little something extra at a meal. They have around 6 grams of protein, 6 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of fiber per bar. Due to the nuts, they also contain poly and monounsaturated fats.

Workout Fuel

Because these particular bars contain a good amount protein, fiber, and fat, for many they are best eaten further out from exercise. They could make a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack or part of a balanced breakfast or lunch.

Food Allergy Friendly

These bars may not be the right pick for friends with food allergies, but if you're food allergy free, they can be a good fueling snack to help get you through your day.



Nutrition Info

The "Original" LARABAR could be a good choice if you are looking for something FILLING. They have a higher fat content due to their high nut content (which means the majority of the fat is mono and polyunsatured fat vs. saturated fat or trans fat). They have a little bit of protein, about 4 grams per bar and around 3 grams of fiber per bar. They do have a higher sugar content, which is due to the dried fruit that these bars contain.

Workout Fuel

While I wouldn't pick this particular bar variety for a pre-exercise snack, it could be a good addition to a meal or included as another snack, especially for athletes having trouble staying full due to their high energy expenditure.

If looking for more of a pre-workout fuel, the "Fruits & Greens" variety may be a better choice. These bars have way less total fat (2.5 grams per bar), and sticks to around 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per bar.

Food Allergy Friendly

LARABAR makes varieties that are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan and kosher. Check their website for more details!

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NuGo Slim

Nutrition Info

This is one "protein bar" I have found that (1) actually contains a substantial amount of protein (2) while not being super high in calories, (3) is not packed with sugar OR artificial sweeteners, and (4) tastes good! These bars have about 17 grams of protein per bar, about 170 or 180 calories, and about 3 grams of sugar.

Workout Fuel

With so much protein, this would not be the best pre-exercise, especially high intensity exercise, snack. It could make a good post-exercise snack, specifically after resistance training exercise, or a good part of a breakfast or lunch, when a boost in protein is needed.

Food Allergy Friendly

I recently saw a client who was just diagnosed with several food allergies. When I went to the Nu Go Nutrition page to check out all of their products, I found that they make bars to accommodate all types of allergies or dietary needs (dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, etc.). Each bar may vary, so take a close look at the ingredient label.

Hydration for the Young Athlete

DIY Blackberry Yogurt 1.PNG

The name of the game this month is HYDRATION.  Here I want to touch on the importance of staying hydrated, signs and symptoms of dehydration and foods and fluids that can help you keep up with your fluid goals.

We all know Texas summers (or really any southern summers) are HOT.  However, that doesn't stop our morning or evening runs, our summer hikes and lake trips, and of course our kids' summer sports and activities.  Whether you're a parent or a young athlete, you run an increased risk of getting dehydrated out in the hot summer sun.  However, if you know how being hydrated helps your health and performance, the signs & symptoms of dehydration, and some strategies to help you stay hydrated, you can go on as usual, staying fit, staying healthy and playing your best.


The Importance Of Being Hydrated:  

Staying hydrated keeps us energized and alert.  We have to sweat because the act of sweating controls our body's core temperature, keeping us cool and preventing us from getting overheated, which can lead to heat illness.  We must stay hydrated to replace fluids lost in this process.  Staying hydrated will keep us energized, sharp, and promote optimal recovery time after a workout, game or practice


How To Know If You Are Dehydrated:  You may be dehydrated if....           

  • You experience fatigue early in your activity

  • You notice a decrease in performance

  • You get headaches or feel lightheaded

  • You have a hard time focusing, whether in your workout, in the office or in the classroom

  • You notice you are not sweating nearly as much as you usually do

  • Your urine is dark in color (like apple juice) and / or low in volume


Hydration Strategies for a Fueled & Focused Day:

  1. Drink fluids (focusing on water) throughout the day, starting when you wake up and make this a daily practice. You cannot make up for lack of fluids right before your event or the day of!

  2. Know your sweat rate. You can weigh yourself right before and right after your workout. The body weight lost is from water. You want to drink about 16 - 24 ounces of fluid for each pound of body weight you or your athlete loses during a workout. (Note: if there is a history of disordered eating or eating disorders with the athlete, I do not recommend this method)

  3. If you or your athlete is a salty sweater (notice a salty residue on the skin or clothing after exercise), a sports drink or salty snacks would be beneficial to replace the lost electrolytes (sodium & potassium, specifically).

  4. If you or your athlete is not a good drinker or does not often feel thirsty, salty snacks may also be beneficial to increase thirst and promote a higher fluid intake.

  5. If your athlete is not able to drink much at school, encourage high - water - content foods at breakfast and pack high - water - content foods in their lunch and for snacks


Hydrating Food & Fluids to Have On-Hand:

  • Bottled waters

  • Sports drinks like Gatorade (during or after exercise only)

  • Fresh or frozen fruits (like oranges, grapes, apples, watermelon & pineapple)

  • Fresh vegetables (like cherry tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, & cucumber slices)

  • Pretzels or other salty crackers (promote thirst and increased fluid intake)

  • Soups

  • Low-fat yogurts

  • Tomato juice

  • Bottled or home-made smoothies


Happy Fueling!


Summer Sports Camp Fuel


Just because it's summer doesn't mean the madness stops.  It seems to simply shift to a different routine of crazy as you juggle your own regular work schedule plus your athlete's morning practices, two-a-days, sports camps, and other summer activities, all while making sure you and your young athlete are fueled enough to get you both through the day.  Special attention is needed for young athletes who, depending on their sport, may have gone from a one to two-hour practice before school and / or a 2 to 3 hour practice after school to all-day sports camps consisting of breaks here and there throughout the day, but not much time for rest and recovery and often times out in the heat of the day.

So, let's talk SPORTS CAMP FUEL.  The goal here is to energize and to hydrate.  To provide quick fuel and also provide sustained energy.  "Quick", "totable", "simple" are the criteria for these meals and snacks - items that can be made before bed or assembled quickly in the morning before heading out for the day.

To hopefully make life a bit easier, below, I have compiled a list of snack ideas for camp with a little explanation of why they make great sports snacks.  For more ideas keep up with the blog, which will be featuring healthy fueling snacks throughout the months to come!


  • Water

  • Smoothies (fluid, antioxidants, and carbohydrate from fruits and water / ice)

  • Fresh fruits (such as: grapes, tangerines, pineapple, watermelon, apple slices)

  • Mini bottles of a sports drink (like Gatorade)



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  • Water

  • Pretzels or other salty crackers (quick carbohydrates + salt to replace sodium lost in sweat and help retain fluid)

  • Dried fruit (quick carbohydrate + antioxidants + some iron, depending on the dried fruit)

  • Whole grain cereal (low in fat and fiber)

  • Fresh fruit

  • Granola bars (low in fat and fiber)

  • Jam Sandwich on white bread (very quick carbohydrate)


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  • String Cheese

  • Turkey & Cheese Pita

  • Turkey & Hummus Wrap

  • Bowl of whole grain cereal with low-fat milk

  • Nonfat Greek yogurt topped with fruit and a little low-fat granola

  • DIY Blackberry Burst yogurt (a Taylored Recipe)

  • Hummus & whole grain crackers (healthy fat, protein, fiber + a little iron)

  • Low-fat milk or chocolate milk (carbohydrate, potassium & protein - great snack to refuel)

  • Smoothies made with milk / yogurt

  • Fig & Cheddar Turkey Sandwich (a Taylored Recipe)

  • Sliced tomato or pineapple & cottage cheese

  • Pasta salad with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and Italian dressing

  • Quinoa / rice bowl with bell peppers, avocado, chopped grilled chicken & salsa



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  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich

  • Graham crackers with peanut butter topped with strawberry or banana slice

  • homemade trail mix (nuts, whole grain cereal & dried fruit)

  • Hearty whole grain granola bars with at least 6 grams of protein

  • Peanut Butter Banana Oat Bites

  • Popcorn

  • Pre-packaged oatmeal packets (if a microwave will be available)

  • Carrot sticks, sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, baby tomatoes (as a side)


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  • Water

  • Nonfat yogurts

  • Nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese

  • Smoothies

  • Fresh or frozen fruit

  • Fresh vegetable slices (such as: carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber)

  • Sports drinks

  • Apple sauce

  • Chocolate milk (great recovery drink after a long intense practice)

  • Vegetable juice (such as V8 or tomato juice)

Feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions of things you do that work for you and your young athlete!

Happy Fueling!