Sports Nutrition for Kids
Kids playing sports need a well-balanced diet to be at the top of their game. We have balanced meals and snack ideas for kids before, during, and after their training.
Whether your kids are competitive athletes, or weekend warriors, it’s good to be at the top of their game, have good energy, and feel healthy enough to participate in sports! On Saturday our family did a “for fun” race. We participated in an event called, The Dirty Dash- where we all ran (and fell) through an obstacle course full of mud! It was crazy fun, and we’ll definitely do it again next year!
While we didn’t need any special training or nutrition to participate in the Dirty Dash, many kids these days are involved in competitive activities where they need to be at the top of their game! A while back I got an email from Amy, who sent me this question:
My boys are 9 and 12 and I am interested in sports nutrition for kids. Do you know of any good sources? These would need to fit along with our clean eating, no HFCS, etc.
Specifically, my question boils down to this. Right now, my 12 year old is starting track. He has track right after school, from 2:50-4:30. After a long day of school, and lunch around noon, I really want to send him with a snack for before practice. What are a few things that he can take for a quick snack before practice that will satisfy his hunger and energy requirements?
Energy for muscle activity comes from both glucose and fat. We are constantly using our fat stores for energy at rest. However, glucose is the main source of energy for high intense activities. The storage form of glucose (glycogen) runs out quickly and needs to continually be replaced. To increase glycogen stores just before intense activities, we look to carbohydrates. Carbohydrates stay in the stomach a shorter time than protein or fat and are easily digested. The glucose then enters the bloodstream quickly for energy to exercise.
Eating more carbohydrates applies to just prior to, or during activity. However, studies have shown that athletes who train while consuming higher fat diets (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc.) may increase their body’s ability to use fatty acids for energy formation during prolonged exercise. So, bottom line…. The rest of your child’s diet needs to be balanced! Carbohydrates do not provide a sufficient amount of zinc, iron, vitamin B 12 or other nutrients. Balance is necessary to build up the storage of fat for energy, as well as provide adequate protein for muscles building and repair, and the carbs for quick use.
Here are some ideas from my nutrition textbook under “Nutrition Now” as well as “Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes” by Anita Bean
- Cold Cereal
- Toast with Jam
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Italian bread
- Apple Juice
- Pineapple juice
- Oatmeal with fruit, honey, and nuts
- Scrambled eggs
- Toast with honey,
- OJ and Yogurt smoothie
During Events (and when you have your snack turn!)
- Grapes- cut into vines of 1-3 inches)
- crackers (whole wheat crackers with minimal ingredients)
- fruit juice (100% fruit of course)
- Fruit leather (made from 100% fruit)
- applesauce (single serving works great)
- oranges (sliced into wedges or circles)
- Pears (sliced)
- whole wheat mini bagels (bring some fruit spread for the top)
- corn bread
- Bread or mini muffins
- canned fruit (little fruit cups of peaches or pears)
- Granola Bars (with under 8 grams of sugar)
And of course, Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Post training meals should include carbs to replenish depleted glycogen and protein to build and repair muscles. A little sodium is also good to replace sodium lost through sweating.
- Flavored milks (Studies have shown that low-fat milk is better than sports drink at promoting muscle recovery)
- Fruit and yogurt
- Apples and cheese
So Amy, I wouldn’t hesitate to send a bag of cereal, to school with your kids to eat afterward, or even a few pancakes. The pancakes wouldn’t be so bad even eaten dry and cold!
Anyone else have ideas of transportable high energy snacks, resources, websites or books on sports nutrition??
Information in today’s post taken from the textbook, “Nutrition Now” and Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie
Hi, you explained the topic very well. The content has provided meaningful information thanks for sharing info.
I read some of your post and I learned a lot of knowledge from it. Thanks for posting such interesting articles.
Hi Amy! Looks like you had lots of fun on your Saturday race – mud and smiling faces and all!
You have a good list of healthy food for young athletes. The only other suggestion I might give is to add more protein, perhaps pb sandwiches, cheese and crackers, etc. I like the fact you are thumbs down on sport drinks. I would just recommend pure water, perhaps with lemon or orange. Sounds like you have a winner here!
These menus looks yummy yet nutritious. Thanks for sharing.
The only other suggestions I might give is to add more necessary protein, perhaps pb treats, milk items and cookies, etc. I like the easy truth you are thumbs down on activity drinks. I would just recommend authentic the the water, perhaps with lemon or lemon.
This is the most useful guide for kids nutrition. I work on fitness and nutrition for men and women, this post give me an idea to add up in near future. Thanks
Great meal suggestions! I will print this meal plan and make sure that I prepare these meals whenever the kids have sporting event.
Every child wants to get involved in various sports activities and for this they require proper nutrition. I think the nutrition that you have prepared is definitely useful for the growth of children. All the recipes gave me proper guidance for the children’s development. Thanks for sharing.
Nowadays kids are into very poor nutrition like junk food and fast food which give them no substances,But your article shows the reality i mean the thing its better to have these kinda things rather than artificial stuff.
Your article shows that you’re fairly savvy and great for writing attention-catching posts.
Would you write for other individuals? I’m able to compensate you for the work (hourly, per page, .etc).
I was never a fan of the colored sweet sports drink when I was active in sports as a kid. My go to drink was coconut water. I always had pretzels, banana, peanut butter, apples, mixed nuts and dried fruit in my back pack. Now that I have 5 kids and the 3 oldest are active in sports during the summer they get the same snacks that I had. The oldest doesn’t like plain coconut water so we flavor it with 100% juice like pineapple or mango and add a dash of Himalayan pink salt for the needed sodium and potassium combo that is in commercial sports drinks. The kids make their own trail mix of nuts, dried fruit and pretzels.
thank you for the great post! I’ve always questioned my choices in what I give my very active child throughout his long and active days! Nice to see I’m on the money, also a great, easy and comprehensive list! Thanks again!
One of my favorite go to recipes is for homemade cliff bars. It is a no bake recipe and my daughter loves to help make them. She is in Jiu-Jitsu and these are our go to snacks for before practice. Not to heavy but just enough to give her a boost before practice.
Your comments about the right balance is so right – we had the same problem too trying to find a convenient snack before practices for my son – but we came across a natural snack bar called ProYOUth Nutrition – which is actually for kids and young athletes made with all the nuts, chia seeds but taste delicious for kids and didn’t have any bad stuff but just natural foods. So that’s now really helping us. Infact on their website the mum founder talks about awful lucazades and health problems by sugars.
Hello this is Leo Harry. My soccer coach told me that we can make our own form of Gatorade buy just putting half orange juice with half water.