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:
Go through the kind of foods they need to fuel (carbs, protein, a little healthy fat).
Have them pick out food that they WILL EAT out of the list you created together.
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
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 cottage cheese
cheese slices / sticks
PICK SOME HEALTHY FAT
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
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
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.