young athlete

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!


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!


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! 


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...


  • favorite low sugar whole grain cereal

  • whole grain bread, pasta, wrap

  • Whole grain crackers


  • favorite fresh fruit

  • favorite dried fruit


  • raw veggies

  • cooked veggies


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

  • beans / tofu / eggs


  • low-fat plain milk or chocolate milk

  • low-fat yogurt

  • low-fat cottage cheese

  • cheese slices / sticks


  • 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



  • 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


  • dried fruit

  • fresh fruit

  • pretzels

  • graham crackers

  • juice box

  • toast (white bread) with jam

  • low fiber, low protein granola bar


  • 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!