All children need enough nutrients and minerals to meet their dietary needs. The best way for them to achieve this is to consume the right foods. If your child is a young athlete, you’ll need to ensure they’re eating the right foods that will keep them fueled enough to engage in physical activity. By eating healthy, they will stay more alert and feel energized to perform their best at practice and on game day.

Here are five nutrients and minerals to include in the young athletes’ meal plan:

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide energy for the body. Without enough of it, kids will run on empty and tire quickly. When choosing carbs to feed your kid, opt for whole-grain foods such as quinoa, brown rice, or barley.  Other healthy carbs include old-fashioned oatmeal, yams, sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pasta.

Calcium

The young athlete needs strong bones to perform their best. An excellent way to support their bone health is by ensuring they consume enough calcium. When people think of calcium, they almost immediately think of dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. However, calcium is in other foods like chia seeds, sardines, canned salmon, and rhubarb.

Iron

Our bodies need enough iron to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. When we lack iron, it could lead to conditions like anemia which impair standard body functions. Iron-rich foods to include in your child’s diet are liver, eggs, shellfish, spinach, legumes, and red meat. For dessert, give your kids some dark chocolate; which is delicious and high in iron.

Protein

Protein helps the body repair muscle and fight function. However, too much of it can lead to calcium loss and dehydration. It is why it’s essential to ensure they get just enough.

Foods that are high in protein include tuna, salmon, chicken, lean meat, and eggs. When most people think of protein, they think of animal products; however, fortified whole grains, dried fruits, and leafy green vegetables also have a decent amount of protein. Other high-protein veggies you can include in your kid’s meals are watercress, spinach, alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, and broccoli.

Fiber

High-fiber foods are essential to athletes because it not only keeps them regular but because they take a long time to digest, kids, don’t end up overeating.

We can’t always monitor what our children eat, particularly when they’re at school or out with their friends. They may eat simple carbs or foods that are high in sugar that will make their insulin levels and blood sugar spike. One of the benefits of fiber is that it will help steady blood sugar and insulin levels. Fiber-rich foods to serve to your kid include whole-grain bread, high-fiber cereals, wild rice, and bran.

When it comes to a healthy and nutritious diet for a young athlete, remember that adequate hydration is as important. To help them avoid sodas, keep your fridge stocked with healthier alternatives such as 100% fruit juices and naturally-flavored waters.

And to keep your kids from giving into cravings and junk food, ensure you always have healthy snacks available such as homemade trail mix, fruits, peanut butter, and air-popped popcorn.

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