Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes

Ensuring that your children get proper nutrition can be hard enough without the worry of catering their dietary needs to their activity levels. But we cannot (and should not) keep our children from doing sport, playing at recess, or doing other activities that require higher than average energy expenditure.

Instead, we must educate ourselves and our kids in order to keep them functioning at their optimal level. This means feeding them the right foods to keep them strong, focused, and full of vibrancy.

Despite popular opinion, nutrition doesn’t have to be a bore. In fact, you can even make it a fun practice for your kids if you integrate healthy foods into their diet in the right way!

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Here are some of our top tips for maintaining your little athletes’ diets:

  • Feed them carbohydrates at every meal. But make sure they are GOOD carbs. By “good”, we mean carbs that are complex, high in fibre, and low in sugar. These items will keep your kids full for longer, and will sustain their energy over time. Because they release slowly, complex carbs are ideal for the long distance runner or high intensity athlete.

Some examples of such are oats, brown rice, wholemeal bread, corn or potatoes.

  • Prioritise high-quality proteins. Protein is an essential part of any nutritional plan, but is especially important for children who are still growing and constantly building muscle. But not all proteins are created equal. Complete proteins such as lean white meats, seafood, eggs or dairy allow for optimal muscle recovery. (We recommend that you choose organic animal products to limit hormone consumption.)

Vegetarians and vegans can opt for soy products or combinations of carbs and proteins (such as rice and beans or hummus and pita) to meet their needs.

  • Make sure they get their daily 5+ fruit and veg. Ideally, you should be serving up water-rich produce such as raw fruit, greens or steamed veggies. This is not only healthier than fried or dressing-drenched dishes, but will also increase total water intake which is crucial for athletes.

  • Don’t be afraid of fat. It is not the enemy, as many are led to believe. Fat is a critical component of sports nutrition, as it increases nutrient absorption. Additionally, it is a good option for kids who have trouble keeping their overall caloric intake up. Because fats are calorie-dense, they can help active kids maintain or increase their weight if needed.

  • Always choose water. Sports drinks are not as healthy as they seem. Many are extremely high in sugar, salt, and sometimes other harmful additives. Good old H2O is always the best option for your athletes.

Now that you know the general nutrition guidelines for your sports-loving children, here are a few meal and snack ideas to incorporate into their diet:

  • Peanut butter and banana on whole grain toast

  • Fried rice (made with brown rice, diced veg, egg and olive oil)

  • Buckwheat noodles with vegan “meat” sauce

  • Homemade, sugar-free muesli bars

  • Carrot sticks with greek yogurt dipping sauce

What do you think of these sports nutrition guidelines? Do you have any other ideas for appropriate sports meals or snacks? We’d love to know!