For children and teenage athletes, proper nutrition is important not only for their training and performance but also for their growth and maturation. By planning out meals, snack and hydration for your young athlete, you can ensure they are receiving nutrients to meet their energy and fueling needs.

According to, sports performance will take into account the foods a child has eaten over the past several days and weeks. You can help boost your athlete's performance by focusing on a "diet rich in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat."

Here are some nutrition tips to keep in mind for yourself, your family and your children when entering into the sports preseason or throughout the year. 

Stock Your Kitchen with Whole Foods

Try to choose whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread) over processed options like white rice and white bread. Whole grains provide the energy athletes need and the fiber and other nutrients to keep them healthy.

Remove the worry about food for your athlete and try a weekly meal plan. Stick to the prepared menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week. If you’re making homemade snacks, do this over the weekends so it’s ready and available.

Hydration is Key to Athletic Performance

Water is the best hydrator. Make sure hydration before a big game or event starts the day before and early in the morning the day of the event. While playing or training, continue to drink fluids to rehydrate during and after sweat loss. Water is highly recommended for kids when exercising 60 minutes or less, while training sessions lasting more than an hour may require a sports drink to replace electrolytes.

Hydration is a huge struggle for most active people. Studies show that back-to-back training sessions can progressively encourage dehydration. Meaning, athletes don’t necessarily rehydrate adequately after training, leading to a greater risk of being dehydrated as they enter the next sports training session. Dehydrated athletes experience sub-optimal performance. 

Consider a re-fillable water bottle your athlete can take back and forth to practices. Have a lot of these hanging around? Fill them up and store in the fridge so they are cold and ready to grab.

Eat a Protein and Carb Filled Breakfast

Athletes do best when they eat breakfast. The food you eat at the start of the day sets the appetite cycle in motion and may influence how well the morning training session will go. It promotes satiety, endurance and balance. For a filling and nourishing breakfast, combine a protein (about 20-30 grams at breakfast) with carbohydrates such as oatmeal, a whole grain bagel or whole wheat toast. Protein satisfies the appetite for a few hours, and the carbs give the muscles the energy to go. 

Healthy Lunchbox Tips for School

To achieve a healthy, balanced lunch, try to include a serving from each food group or at minimum, target at least three food groups.

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meat and alternatives
  • Dairy and dairy products

When using an insulated lunch bag, use ice pack for cold food and discard any uneaten chilled food to avoid food borne illnesses. For warm foods, it is recommended to warm both the food and thermos carrying the food.

Use Smart Snacks for Training

Active people tend to have more hunger and could make poor food choices if too hungry. Think ahead about foods that will keep you fueled while covering your hunger. Foods that contain protein, fiber and/or fat such as granola bars, yogurt or combination snacks like peanut butter crackers are filling, fueling snacks. Include energy snacks in your gym bag for extended practices or schedule changes. A small jar of nut butter (or nut-free butter), turkey jerky and crackers, or granola are great options.

Eat Nutritious Food Between Training Sessions

If you or your child has double training sessions (morning and afternoon), the meals and snacks between training sessions are important for recovery nutrition. Some athletes can succeed with a big lunch however, others do better with smaller, frequent meals. Figure out which eating style works for your athlete. Recovery is for after intensive exercise. The muscles are better able to absorb nutrients like protein and carbohydrate. Eating a protein and carbohydrate containing meal or snack within 30-45 minutes after exercise facilitates the repair and replacement of energy stores in muscles.

Aid in Proper Recovery After Training


At the end of the day, a nutritious dinner sets you up for a good night’s sleep. The body can grow and repair quicker with a dinner including lean proteins, dairy (or non-dairy substitutes), fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.


Growth hormone is secreted at night, making a good night’s sleep incredibly important for young athletes. Not only do kids and teens grow while sleeping, the body repairs and rejuvenates itself. Encourage at least 7 hours of sleep (or more) at night.



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