Managing youth nutrition can seem like a daunting task but we’ve made an easy guide for you.
Whether your son or daughter is tearing up the softball diamond, dominating the basketball court, or scoring goals on the soccer pitch, one thing’s for sure – youth nutrition matters. It’s not just about what they eat but how they eat it, and we’ve got the playbook for you.
Pre-Game Fueling Strategies
Picture this: it’s 6 am, the day of the big game or intense practice session. Your young superstar needs the right fuel to conquer the field or court, and that’s where the game plan begins.
1. Protein MVPs
Protein isn’t just for building muscles; it’s the secret weapon for sustained energy. On game day, it’s all about slowing down carb absorption. No need for a nutrition science degree; just remember to pair protein and/or fat with carbs for that winning combo.
Lean meats like chicken or turkey, eggs, and dairy products are excellent protein sources. Consider a breakfast omelet with veggies and cheese to kickstart the day, providing a balance of protein and essential nutrients.
2. Carbs – The Energy Dynamo
Carbs are the primary fuel during sports, but not all carbs are created equal. Important youth nutrition strategies include skipping the solo sugar rush – combine carbs with protein and/or fat for a steady energy flow. And stay clear of the breakfast villains like bars, muffins, and bagels.
Opt for more nutrient dense carbhydrate options such as vegetables and fruits. Sweet potatoes, chopped veggies, and cut fruit can offer sustained energy without the sugar rollercoaster.
3. Fats – The Unsung Heroes
Fats aren’t the bad guys; they’re the sidekick providing that secondary energy boost when carbs take a breather. Nuts, seeds, and yes, even bacon, can be the heroes of this nutritional tale.
Incorporate healthy fats into the pre-game meal. Avocado slices, a handful of almonds, or even an extra slab or two of butter can add the necessary fats for sustained energy throughout the game.
Bonus Myth-Buster: Carb-loading before a game? Time to put that myth to rest. Grain-based feasts pre-game tend to slow your young athlete down, cause cramps, and lead to an overfull stomach – not the winning strategy for youth nutrition.
Winning the Taste Bud Game
Now, let’s tackle the taste bud game. Kids don’t choose based on taste alone; they’ve got a whole playbook: novelty, texture, taste.
1. Novelty Rules
Shiny and new are the way to go. Get creative with packaging, plate arrangements, or a special “game day” bowl. Turn off those screens; let them choose their fruit – ownership and novelty, a winning duo.
Create a visually appealing breakfast by arranging colorful fruits or incorporating a variety of textures. A fruit skewer or a smoothie bowl can turn breakfast into a fun and engaging experience.
2. Texture Talk
Morning crunch is a game-changer. Soggy cereal? No thanks. Opt for crunchy options like fruit and nuts to complement the protein on their plate. It’s all about the feels, my friends.
Experiment with different textures – nuts or seeds can add a satisfying crunch to the protein choice for the meal. The combination of textures not only pleases the palate but also enhances the overall breakfast experience.
3. Taste Test
It has to taste good, but that doesn’t mean a sugar-loaded feast. Natural sugars from syrup and honey are no better than the table sugar villain. Fruit is the MVP. Keep the honey, but leave it for after the hard training session or game.
Offer a variety of fruits with different tastes to cater to individual preferences. Berries, citrus fruits, and tropical fruits can add a burst of flavor without relying on excessive sugars.
Your young athlete doesn’t need a gourmet breakfast every day; a bit of cut-up fruit, a handful of nuts, and a couple of pieces of sausage can work wonders. But that fast-food combo might give them a burst, followed by a crash – not ideal for a day on the field.
Levels of Nutritional Excellence
Now, let’s talk youth nutrition levels of excellence. We’re on the “Good-Better-Best” scale.
Good: They ate something. Cereal in the morning is fine for the lazy days.
Better: Protein joined the breakfast party. Cereal bars are okay if paired with eggs or bacon.
Best: Solid nutrition for at least three days before a big game. Treats? Sure, but in moderation – not a three-times-a-day kind of deal.
As the wise Greg Glassman once said, “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.” Words to live by, not just for the young athletes but for all of us.
So, lace up those shoes, grab that game day bowl, and let’s fuel the next generation of champions!