A dietary game plan for young athletes

Between school, sports and social activities, your kids are always on the move. And while it’s encouraging to see them so busy and engaged, it’s also normal to worry about whether they’re getting enough fuel to stay energized.

Here, Susan Kasik-Miller, MS, RD, CNSC, clinical dietitian for HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital, offers insight on how to ensure they receive the 2,000 to 4,000 calories necessary to keep them nourished and strong.

  1. Prepare a movable feast: Since your athletes need sufficient sleep—and mornings tend to be rushed—a breakfast they can take with them might be the most practical choice. Options include hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter sandwiches made with whole-wheat bread, or overnight oats in a to-go container.
  2. Pack substantial snacks: “Cheese sticks or trail mix supply those extra needed calories,” Kasik-Miller says. They also tend to hold up in a backpack better than items like fruit or crackers.
  3. Replenish with dinner: Your athletes need to rebuild muscle and energy levels after playing sports, so for dinner serve starchy items such as potatoes or winter squash along with fish or lean meat. Include fruits and vegetables as healthy sides.
  4. Raise a glass: “Accompany every meal with 2 percent or whole milk to ensure they get enough vitamin D to absorb calcium and build strong bones,” Kasik-Miller says.

If you follow these suggestions and notice that your child is losing weight or lethargic, it’s important to address the situation, as it might go beyond a matter of diet. “Talk to your child and include his or her pediatrician in the conversation,” Kasik-Miller says. “Eating disorders can be an issue for athletes, especially among those playing individual sports or sports focused on body image and weight requirements.”

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