young athlete

6 Protein - Boosting Vegetarian Meals

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

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

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

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

Happy Fueling!



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

Nine Protein-Boosting Breakfasts for the Young Athlete

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

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

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

Happy Fueling!



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Whole Grain English Muffin + 1 Tbsp PB + Mixed Berries

~ 12 grams of protein

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1/2 cup Cottage Cheese + Sliced Berries

~14 grams of protein



Whole Grain Oatmeal + Peanut Butter

15 grams of protein



Greek Yogurt + Egg + Mixed Fruit

~21 grams protein

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Greek Yogurt + Whole Grain Granola Bar

~20 grams protein

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

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

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Egg Sandwiches

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

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SunButter Banana Overnight Oats

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Cherry Vanilla Overnight Oats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy fueling!


10 simple pre-event snacks for the young athlete

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

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

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

  • Pretzels

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

  • Jam sandwich

  • Slice of toast with honey

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

  • Small fig bar ( I really like these)

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

Happy Fueling!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A note to the young athlete

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

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

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

Happy Fueling!












April: Fueling Spring Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Fueling!


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.

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!