Healthy Nutrition for Young Athletes

Healthy choices are attractive.

None of us has the perfect diet. But the demands on our athletes require that we help them make what they eat count. Consistent training and performance depend on it.

Here are some quick ways to check on how healthy your athlete’s diet is.

  • Do they eat in moderation? (quantity and portion size to maintain a healthy weight)
  • Do they consume a variety of foods? (3 servings of milk or dairy, 4-5 servings fruits or vegetables, 2 small servings protein rich foods daily)
  • Do they eat wholesome foods? (choose natural over processed foods whenever possible)
  • Do they eat at mealtimes with healthy snacks between?
  • Do they eat fast food only infrequently?
  • How is their energy level?
  • Do they drink water rather than sugary, expensive drinks? (six 8oz glasses per day)
  • Can they fight off illness or does it linger?

Here are some hints to encourage improved eating based on what I have observed is common among our athletes.

  • Pay attention to the # and variety of servings.
  • Eat from at least 3 of the 4 food groups at each meal.
  • Choose by 2’s each day: 2 dairy, 2 glasses of milk, 2 small protein (PBJ, tuna, sand. Meat), 2 lg fruits/veggies
  • Find healthy combinations: cereal + milk, sand meat + cheese or egg, stir fry combo, fruit smoothies, fruit + yogurt, dried fruit + nuts)
  • Have healthy snacks handy so they’re not “starving” (dry cereal, trail mix, popcorn, bagels/pretzels, nuts, some cookies like Fig Newton’s, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps, animal crackers)

Bottom line: they’re only as good as the octane in their engines.

*Special concern especially for those of you who coach and/or parent girls: Studies show that 1/3 of college female athletes suffer from disordered eating.  (anorexia, bulimia, laxative abuse, excess-ercise, crash diets, unhealthy weight loss practices)  They may even have team competitions supporting these.


Healthy Nutrition for Young Athletes — 2 Comments

  1. “They may even have team competitions supporting these.”

    That is a terrifying thought, but it’s still very true. Athletes have to be extra concerned about their bodies and what they eat and how much they exercise because their bodies are their livelihoods. But it can become a dangerous obsession.

    • The thing we need to realize, Jodi, is that what might seem an obsession becomes (or is) a mental disorder with a physical expression. They are sick and need help, from medical professionals that address the “whole” of who they are. Not just the symptoms (eat better) but the cause (why are you choosing this behavior?) In dis-ordered eating (over or under-eating) it is not really about the food. It’s about what is not nourishing them and helping them recognize that so they can find health. That is the national (and international) crisis. Our young people are caught in it’s midst.