Winter is a huge season for sports tournaments from basketball to all kinds of club sports. Many families are packing up bags to spend countless days in gyms around the country over the Christmas holidays and into the New Year. During this time, many athletes are playing games all day long and have little opportunity to fuel their bodies. This can lead to tired athletes and decreased performance.
First things first, you must provide them a quality breakfast. Make your child get up in enough time to fuel appropriately before playing. A breakfast of eggs, whole wheat toast and fruit or even a bagel with peanut butter, banana and a yogurt can get them off in the right direction. Ideally have them get in a full 16-20 oz of fluid before they hit the gym floor too!
The challenge with many tournaments is they don’t let you bring in ice chests to hold snacks and though you might have a small lunch box with an ice pack, it can still get warm putting foods like dairy, meat and egg based items at risk for food borne illness. Packing your young athletes snacks that can stay at room temperature safely while also providing quality carbohydrate and protein is where you win. Even if they don’t have time to eat a whole meal, providing nutrient-rich snacks every few hours can help them keep their energy up. Here are some example ways to fuel athletes throughout a long day of playing:
Peanut butter and banana sandwich: Peanut butter provides protein and healthy fat while a banana provides carbohydrate and lots of vitamins and minerals. Pairing these two on whole wheat/oat bread are a winner for a balances blood sugar. You can also switch the bread to a bagel or bagel thin, wrap it up in a whole tortilla or stuff it in a whole grain pita.
Fruit and jerky: Pick a fruit (banana, baggie of grapes, sliced apples, dried fruit chips) for your child’s carbohydrate part of their snack and pair that with a beef, turkey or even venison jerky to pump up the protein. The combination of carb and protein helps keep their blood sugar and energy balanced.
Nutty sauce: Fill a snack baggie with your child’s favorite nut mixture and pair that with an all natural apple sauce. There are brands of apple sauce that are striclty pureed apples with cinnamon or another spice. This is a whole food choice that packs your child’s snack with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Homeade trail mix: Research shows that kids that help prepare their food are more likely to eat it. There are many store bought trail mixes available, but allowing your kids to make their own can be a fun treat. Try to include the following in your child’s homemade trail mix:
Whole Grain: Pretzels, Chex cereal, Ceerios, whole grain goldfish, pita chips, granola or even Kashi Go Lean Crunch Cereal provide a crunch with some fiber.
Fruit: Dried apples or tropical fruit, banana or apple chips, raisins and craisins are all great choices
Protein and healthy fat: Peanuts, almonds, honey roasted nuts, mixed nuts, cashews, soy nuts, dry roasted edamame soybeans are all great ways to help their trail mix seem satisfying.
Sweet treat: Every trail mix needs a sweet sprinkle to help kids feel like it is a fun snack. Some can even be healthy. Don’t be afraid to let your child sprinkle in M&M’s, dark chocolate or white chocolate chips, chocolate/yogurt covered raisins or nuts, peanut butter chips, or coconut. All can fit into a healthy snack for kids.
Homeade protein bites and bars: This can be great in-between match/game fuel! One of the easiest recipes is stir ½ cup peanut butter and ¼ cup honey together. Then stir in 1 cup oats and ½ cup protein powder (chocolate or vanilla or you can use non-fat dried milk powder). Once all mixed together, roll into 22 balls and refrigerate. You can double or triple this recipe and freeze them. Plus, you can creative and add dried fruit, seeds, chocolate chips, cocnut, etc., but the basic recipe is really tasty!
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Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSDD, LD is a sports dietitian in the DFW area. She has worked with Texas Christian University Athletics, the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, FC Dallas Soccer, Jim McLean Golf School and many PGA Tour players as well as with many middle school, high school and endurance athletes. Amy speaks at a variety of nutrition, athletic training and coaching conferences. She is an ambassador/spokesperson for the National Dairy Council, a Dairy Max Health and Wellness Advisory Council member and on the Speakers Bureau for Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Amy is also the co-author of “Swim, Bike, Run – Eat,” a sports nutrition book for triathletes.
Amy received her Bachelor of Science in speech communications from Texas Christian University and Master of Science in exercise and sports nutrition from Texas Woman’s University. She is also a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.
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Experts who work with professional & Olympic athletes share information for your youth athlete!