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!

Taylor


6 STEPS TO SIMPLIFIED MEAL PLANNING FOR THE YOUNG ATHLETE



  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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.....

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE & TIMING OF FOOD VS “GOOD” AND “BAD”

 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. 

 

BE CAUTIOUS OF THOSE PRONE TO OR ALREADY STRUGGLING WITH DISORDERED EATING

 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.  


 

“HEALTHY” & “PORTION SIZE” ARE A RELATIVE TERM. UNDER -EATING OR UNDER-FUELING DOES NOT MAKE GREAT ATHLETES. IT MAKES GREAT INJURIES.

 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.    

 

SUMMING IT UP

 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!

Taylor

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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88 ACRES

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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KASHI TLC

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.

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LARABAR

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

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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!

Taylor

Summer Sports Camp Fuel

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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!


QUICK ENERGY WHEN YOUR CAMPER HAS A COOLER

  • 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)

 

QUICK ENERGY WITHOUT A COOLER

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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)



 LONG-TERM ENERGY WHEN YOU OR YOUR CAMPER HAS A COOLER

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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

 

SUSTAINED ENERGY WITHOUT A COOLER

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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)

SNACKS THAT HYDRATE

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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! 

Taylor

How to Use the Foods of Fall

As much as the Texas heat wave may have had us thinking otherwise, fall is actually here and it seems that the fall weather may finally be arriving (fingers crossed).  As we dive into this new season we see less of the summer strawberries, mangos, peppers and tomatoes and more of the fall & winter favorites like greens, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash, apples and pears.

At times it can seem like a lot fewer options.  And many of you may be thinking, "What do I have to work with now?  Parsnips?  What the heck am I supposed to do with a parsnip?"  Well, let me tell you - you can do a lot of things with a parsnip, as well as the other array of fall and winter fruits and vegetables.  I discovered this in grad school when we had to choose a new fruit or vegetable every week and use it in a recipe.  I distinctly remember getting the parsnip.  But I digress...

I have put together a list of ideas below that I incorporate into weekly meals and snacks or that I'm excited to work on incorporating this year (so many new foods and combinations to try!).  From these I hope you can find at least a few fun and fueling fall meal and snack ideas for you and your active family to enjoy.

Happy Fueling!

FOODS OF FALL:

  • Butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash

  • Sweet potatoes and white potatoes

  • Parsnips

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Apples

  • Pears

  • Grapes

  • Oranges

  • Greens (mustard, collard, turnip, etc.)

  • Pumpkin

  • Cranberries

  • Cauliflower

  • Mushrooms

INCORPORATE THEM INTO BREAKFAST:

  • Make a cinnamon apple oatmeal (let the apples and oatmeal simmer over the stove together until the apples are sweet and soft and the flavors blend into the warm oats.)

  • Top plain or vanilla yogurt with diced pears and a dash of cinnamon.

  • Add sautéed greens to your omelets.

  • Stir pureed pumpkin into warm oatmeal and top with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

  • Add cranberries to breads, sauces and trail mixes.

  • Add pureed pumpkin to breads to get that fall flavor and, if trying to make your item a bit healthier, to keep a moist crumb while decreasing the butter

  • Make peanut butter apple rings by coring & slicing an apple so that you have apple rings. Taking 2 rings, spread about 1 teaspoon of peanut butter on one side, sprinkle cinnamon onto peanut butter, and top with the 2nd ring for a fast and easy apple & peanut butter on the go.

INCORPORATE THEM INTO LUNCH:

  • Add thin slices of your favorite apple variety to your turkey & cheese sandwich.

  • Try a lunchbox sweet potato bar (Include the small baked sweet potato wrapped in foil accompanied by small containers each filled with a variety of toppings to choose from!).

  • Make a hearty salad by filling your bowl with mixed greens, roasted cauliflower, roasted pumpkin seeds, quartered baby bella mushrooms, diced apples, & your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

  • Make a Fall Vegetable Soup but filling your regular vegetable soup recipe with hearty fall and winter vegetables (carrots, butternut squash, greens, parsnips, mushrooms, cauliflower).

INCORPORATE THEM INTO DINNER:

  • Balsamic Glazed Chicken with roasted carrots and broccoli.

  • Grilled Dijon salmon with roasted parsnips and brussels sprouts.

  • Make your own Fall Garden Pizza by including roasted cauliflower, mushrooms & greens on your homemade pizzas (one of my favorite restaurants in Memphis, Trolley Stop Market, will do this and even add sweet potatoes. They have a pizza that constantly rotates and they throw on whatever is fresh out of their garden. It's the BEST!)

  • Put a spin on the traditional summer salad & instead make a hearty fall dinner salad with roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mushrooms & sweet potatoes. Top with beans, chicken or other protein of choice, a sprinkle of dried cranberries & a drizzle of dressing.

  • Pull out your favorite pumpkin soup recipe and top with roasted pepitas and a side of rustic whole grain bread.

  • Keep dinner simple and stuff a whole - wheat pita with grilled or rotisserie chicken, mixed greens already drizzled with some balsamic vinegar, sliced pears, and crumbled cheese like feta.

  • Try serving mini cheeseburger sliders with oven - roasted parsnip fries and diced sauteed cinnamon pears for dessert.

Food to Fuel the After-School Practice

School has officially begun or is about to begin.  While mom and dad work hard to get a balanced breakfast in their young athlete in the morning, the athlete is now on his or her own for about 7 hours a day in regards to food and nutrition.  This seven hours is a time that can include fueling for an afternoon practice or recovering from a morning workout.  However, often times it is not.  No one is close to guide the athlete's food choices, remind him or her to drink water, to see what he or she had for lunch or to see if lunch was even eaten.  

The challenge for the child or teen athlete is to not get so caught up in projects, friends and activities during the day that they miss snacks, skip lunch or forget to drink fluids.  Many times we see athletes skip lunch to finish last-minute schoolwork, hang out with their friends or simply because nothing appeals to them at lunch.  They either arrive to practice way under-fueled or they may grab fast - food on the way to practice or a game.  Either situation usually leads to a sluggish athlete and sub-optimal practice.

There is only so much we, as the parent, the coach, the dietitian, the trainer, the (fill in the blank) can do, but we can at least help explain to our athletes what an impact their food & drink choices throughout the day have on their practices and performances.  After talking we should then show them how to take this information and make it tangible.  We can work with them to find fueling healthy snack and lunch options that they can take with them to school, keeping in mind that this is going to have to be a compromise.  The meal or snack can be super healthy, but if they won't eat it, the health factor does not matter.  When working with your athletes you should:

  1. Go through the kind of foods they need to fuel (carbs, protein, a little healthy fat).

  2. Have them pick out food that they WILL EAT out of the list you created together.

  3. Help the athletes assemble their meal and snack bag for the day.

Get started assembling fueling meals & snacks with the below general guidelines and examples...

PICK A FEW WHOLE GRAINS

  • favorite low sugar whole grain cereal

  • whole grain bread, pasta, wrap

  • Whole grain crackers

PICK 2 FRUITS

  • favorite fresh fruit

  • favorite dried fruit

PICK 2 VEGETABLES 

  • raw veggies

  • cooked veggies

PICK 2 PROTEINS 

  • poultry / fish (salmon or tuna for a bonus of healthy fats) / lean beef

  • beans / tofu / eggs

PICK 1 - 2 DAIRY ITEMS

  • low-fat plain milk or chocolate milk

  • low-fat yogurt

  • low-fat cottage cheese

  • cheese slices / sticks

PICK SOME HEALTHY FAT

  • avocado

  • nuts & seeds

  • nut butter or seed butter (like sun butter for those with a nut allergy)

  • olive oil / olive oil - based salad dressings

  • if you choose salmon or tuna as your protein, you will also be getting some healthy fat

PICK A FLUID

  • WATER

  • low-fat milk

  • smoothies

  • Gatorade (for during or after intense practices in the high heat)

  • 100% fruit juice (for added calories)

  • remember that foods like fruits & vegetables, yogurts, applesauce & soups also contribute fluid

PICK A "QUICK FUEL" ITEM

  • dried fruit

  • fresh fruit

  • pretzels

  • graham crackers

  • juice box

  • toast (white bread) with jam

  • low fiber, low protein granola bar

PUT ALL OF THESE SUGGESTIONS TOGETHER FOR ....

  • Turkey & cheese wrap with lettuce, tomato, hummus + an apple

  • Tuna salad (made with a mix of light mayo & mustard) + crackers + grapes

  • Peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich

  • Salad with fresh veggies, grilled chicken + vinaigrette dressing

  • Bean and veggie soup

  • Cooked oatmeal made with low-fat milk, cinnamon, about 1 tsp of honey and fresh fruit on top

  • Bowl of cereal with low-fat milk topped with fresh fruit

  • Toaster waffle sandwich (with peanut butter and jelly)

  • Cottage cheese with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, turkey slices and a dash of salt & pepper

  • Chicken salad (see my Confetti Chicken Salad Recipe to be posted next week!) with whole grain crackers and fruit

  • Cooked whole - wheat pasta spirals with roasted tomatoes, oregano, thyme and ground turkey + fresh fruit

  • Mexican Salad Bowl: 1/2 cup cooked quinoa + 1 cup cooked veggies + 1/2 cup black beans (rinsed & drained) + 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro + 1/4 cup salsa mixed in + 1/4 cup low-fat feta

  • Trail mix made with unsalted dry roasted almonds, dried cherries and whole grain cereal

  • Graham crackers topped with nut butter & dried cherries or raisins

  • Hardboiled eggs + carrot slices & hummus + an apple

  • Whole grain granola bar (I like Kashi, some KIND bars, Larabar, & some varieties of NuGo Slim) + low fat Greek yogurt.

I hope this gives you a little guidance as to how to help you and your athlete eat for afternoon and evening practices and games.  Follow it strictly or use it as a base to create your own delicious and energizing meals and snacks.

Happy Fueling!  

Fuel Your Workday AND Your Workouts

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It's a busy day with so much to do.  Whatever you have on your plate, whether it's keeping the kids on schedule, getting to work on time, finishing a project or presenting a huge work presentation, the end of the day can find you weary and drained.  That's when it's hardest to get in your workout.  While you know the workout will make you feel better, the actual process of getting there and getting started can feel like too much work in itself.  There has to be a better way to get through the day, right?  RIGHT.

Sometimes a better nutrition strategy is all we need to give us a boost and help us through our day (Sleep is also huge but that's a post for another day).  Here I'm going to share with you six simple strategies to take with you during the work or school day that will keep you sharp, keep you healthy, and keep you energized.  Please keep in mind that this does not necessarily apply to those in intense training for sport as those individuals may need larger portions, more carbohydrate, and more snacks.  These strategies are more for the individual fitting exercise into their workday to feel better and stay healthy or those just beginning an exercise / training program.  If this is you, I hope you can incorporate a few of these strategies to whatever degree you are able and that it gives you a boost in your energy, your productivity and your workouts.

1.  Eat a good breakfast.

  • This does not mean donuts, or only coffee, or hash browns from the drive-through.  However, it doesn't necessarily mean a big sit-down hot breakfast either.

  • Aim to get around 10 grams or more of protein in your breakfast, at least 3 grams of fiber and some complex carbohydrate (from whole grains, fruit, or low-fat dairy).

  • Examples?  

    • Low-fat Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup low-fat granola (I currently am loving the KIND Cinnamon Flax Seed granola) + 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

    • 1 whole grain granola bar + 1 nonfat latte (regular or soy) + 1 orange

    • 1 or 2 hard boiled eggs + 1/2 cup red seedless grapes + 1/2 whole grain English muffin

    • 1/2 - 1 whole peanut butter & banana sandwich + 8 oz nonfat milk

    • 1/2 - 1 whole turkey & cheese sandwich (on whole - wheat bread)

    • Homemade trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, whole grain low sugar cereal) + 8 oz. nonfat milk or nonfat latte

2.  Don't skip meals.  Period.

  • Don't have time for lunch?  Make sure you pack hearty snacks to get you through the day.

  • What do I mean by hearty?  Choose at least 2 -3 out of the 5 food groups per snack

  • Examples?  

    • Whole - wheat tortilla with nut butter and sliced bananas

    • Trail mix with whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and almonds 

    • Whole grain crackers + cheese + apple slices

    • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with veggies or fruit 

    • Greek yogurt with low-fat granola

3.  Keep things lighter at lunch.

  • Try to go for leaner lunches that energize you instead of tire you out.

  • Examples?  

    • Salads with grilled chicken, tuna or salmon

    • Roasted vegetable, chicken and quinoa bowl

    • Homemade chicken salad (made with nonfat yogurt, diced veggies and fresh or dried fruit)

    • Turkey wraps

    • Vegetable or other broth - based soup with whole-grain crackers & fruit

4.  Drink water throughout the day.  It's amazing how not getting enough can zap our energy.

  • Remember that you can also stay hydrated by eating foods with a high water content like fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurts, soups and smoothies.

5.  Choose foods and meals with lean protein and complex carbohydrates.

  • The combination of protein and complex carbohydrate promotes a steady rise and fall in blood sugars.

  • The spiking and crashing of blood sugars (in diets mostly comprised of simple carbohydrates like refined breads, pastas, cakes, and candies and minimal protein) leaves us very lethargic and can put more stress on the body.

6.  Make sure to pack fueling snacks.

  • If your workout is 4 to 5 hours after your last meal, make sure you pack a snack.

  • Starting a workout under-fueled is only going to inhibit your workout.  If you're working to build lean muscle, training for a marathon or triathlon, or just trying to increase running time or distance, don't expect your body to take you further if you aren't giving it the resources it needs to get you there.

  • You have to start your workouts fueled so that you can give it your all.  Only when you are able to give it your all will you be able to improve.  So start fueled.  If you notice you feel tired or faint early into your workout, that probably means you didn't start fueled.  Grab an apple, a small nonfat yogurt, some dried or fresh fruit, whole grain crackers or a low-fiber, low-fat granola bar about 30 minutes to an hour before your workout.  You should soon start to see an improvement in your practice and workouts and therefore greater progress towards your goals.

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER: 

(A) If your workout consists of cardio - that's when you want to keep your snack low-fat and low fiber with minimal protein to avoid cramping and an upset stomach during your workout.  During cardio your body typically either focuses on the workout or digestion - so make digestion as easy as possible.

(B) If your workout is going to be resistance training or very low-intensity cardio, you may be able to include a little more protein and fiber in your pre-workout snack or meal.  The workout and digestion should not conflict here.

Happy Fueling!

Be Supplement Savvy

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If you feel you must supplement, make sure you are choosing supplements that are safe.  Did you know that the FDA does not regulate supplements?  The FDA only intervenes and can pull a supplement off the shelf if it has been found to be unsafe.  This basically means that someone has to have an adverse reaction bad enough that it becomes big enough news for the FDA to step in. Because the FDA does not regulate, we are relying on the manufacturer to be truthful in its ingredients listings and trust that it contains no more and no less than what it states on the label.  Unfortunately, studies and testing have found that the label is not always completely accurate.  This can be dangerous to any individual;  however, it can be even more detrimental to the young athlete because the unmentioned ingredient in a supplement may be one that is banned in sport (such as a stimulant).  If an athlete were to be tested and found positive for a banned substance, their defense of "not knowing" would not suffice.

All of that to say, there are several organizations that regulate supplements and examine them for good manufacturing practices and truth in labeling.  You can look up specific supplements on the organization's websites and some of them include a label on all supplements they have reviewed and approved (like the USP stamp above).  Check out one of thee sites below before you or your athlete start to supplement:

NSF Certified for Sport - http://www.nsfsport.com

U.S. Pharmacopeia - http://www.usp.org

Drug Free Sport - http://www.drugfreesport.com

Informed Choice - http://www.informed-choice.org

As a reminder, unless otherwise stated by your doctor, you should be able to obtain optimal fuel and nutrition from the foods you eat and the drinks you drink.  However, if supplementation is still needed or desired, I hope this information can be used as a guide to make the safest choices.

Supplement Safely & Happy Fueling!

- Taylor

Find It In Your Food

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This month is all about the facts in our food.  Its focus is on learning about the food we eat and why our bodies need it.  While, yes, supplements are certainly required and necessary for certain medical reasons, the generally healthy person can acquire what they need through the foods that they eat.  If we are choosing the right foods, we are often getting a lot more nutrition in these foods than we think.

I will go into detail about supplements in a later post, but, overall, this month I want you to explore with me the power and magnificence of pure, fresh food and the benefits that these foods hold - the ability to energize our bodies, clear our minds, improve our moods, sharpen our eyes, speed our healing, brighten our smiles, and tantalize our taste buds.  I think food is powerful, magical, medicinal, and, other medical complications aside, it can provide all that we need to be and work at our best.  As long as I'm able, I will pick food first.  I will choose the delight of smelling it, tasting it, pairing its different flavors and textures and temperatures, sharing it with good friends and family, or simply breaking for 10 minutes to savor it on my own over taking pills and supplements.

I hope this month you share in my love and joy and excitement for fresh wholesome food and learn the ways it can empower you to be your strongest, fastest, sharpest self.

Below is a general guide to knowing your food better.  Of course, some of these foods contain more vitamins and minerals than I list here, but I'm including what I get asked about most often.  Follow along on my Instagram account (@thediningdietitian) to learn more about the nutrients in your food this month!

POWER PLAY FOOD GUIDE:

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Meat [beef, poultry, chicken, fish, & eggs] &                               "Meat Substitutes" [beans, tofu, lentils or "plant proteins"]

  • Iron

  • Protein

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin B12 [only in animal sources]

  • NOTE: Pair a source of vitamin C with the plant sources to improve their iron absorption in the body.

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Green Fruits & Veggies [leafy greens, broccoli, avocado, kiwi]

  • Iron (not as much in kiwi)

  • Folate

  • Vitamin K

  • Potassium

  • Carotenoids (such as lutein in avocado)

Red Fruits & Veggies [bell peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit]

  • Lycopene

  • Vitamin C

Yellow / Orange Fruits & Veggies [carrots, mango, winter squash, sweet potato, cantaloupe, apricots,  pumpkin]

  • Vitamin C

  • Beta - carotene (precursor to vitamin A in the body)

Blue / Purple Fruits & Veggies [eggplant, plums, blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate]

  • Anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants)

Whole Grains [rice, quinoa, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, granola bars, bulgur, etc.]

  • Fiber

  • Phosphorus

  • Magnesium

  • Iron (if iron fortified)

  • Manganese

  • Protein (in varying amounts)

Low-Fat Dairy [milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.]

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  • Protein (whey & casein - a good combination for building or maintaining lean muscle)

  • Calcium

  • Potassium

  • Vitamin D (in fortified products)

Healthy Fats [olive, canola & flaxseed oil, nuts & seeds, nut & seed butter, avocado, salmon & tuna]

  • Monounsaturated Fats

  • Polyunsaturated Fats

  • Vitamin E


I hope you can use this list as an easy guide to fill your and your athlete's plates, lunch boxes, and snack bags this summer.  Be on the lookout for more posts detailing what these specific nutrients can do for you!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor