To support the developmental demands of a growing child or teen, parents should ensure that they are consuming a healthy diet the meets their nutritional needs.

While youth athletes are always on the go and lead busy lives that juggle athletics, academics, and social activities, it shouldn’t be an excuse to rely on fast food or unhealthy quick fixes. Reliance on junk food, snacks, and sugary beverages, while convenient, will not support the nutritional requirements of someone who regularly participates in physical activity. It may even cause them to slow down and perform poorly.

In fact, because the physical demands of the student-athlete lifestyle, they should be most concerned about their nutrition. The right foods and drink can have a significant impact on their athletic performance, affecting everything from endurance and focus.

Here is a quick guide to what a youth athlete’s diet should involve:

Carbs

Carbs are essential for energy. Athletes need to consume more carbs than the average person. Carbs are a primary energy source, improving athletic performance and delaying fatigue. Good carbs include whole grain bread, cereal, pasta, potatoes, and crackers.

Fluids

Athletes should always be practicing proper hydration. They should know how to hydrate adequately before, during, and after a game or practice. Guide them not to rely on sugary sports drink but to choose water which will be a far better job at both quenching their thirst and keeping them well-hydrated.

Healthy Fats

Fats are vital to the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. These fatty acids protect vital organs and provide the body with insulation needed to regulate body temperature. And they provide the body with what it needs to drive activity. Good sources of healthy fats are poultry, lean meat, fish, nuts, dairy products, olive and canola oils.

Proteins

Proteins are essential for helping the body repair itself. There’s been much focus on the need for athletes to consume a lot of protein; however, it should still be eaten in the right proportions and be accompanied with healthy servings of carbs, fruits, and vegetables. Good protein sources are meat, poultry, Greek yogurt, beans, eggs, nuts, milk, and seeds.

Calcium

Calcium helps fortify bones which athletes depend on. It is also crucial for protection against stress fractures. It plays a role in normal blood clotting when injury occurs and helps nerve signals be transmitted. Calcium can primarily be found in dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.

When it comes to sports nutrition, it’s key that athletes remember their portioning. Meals should be balanced. When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Therefore, parents of youth athletes should be supporting their athletic needs by also helping them make better decisions about their diets. Explain why it’s important not to skip breakfast. Keep them from snacking on junk food in between major meals by stocking the kitchen and pantry with healthy snacks. For all junk food that kids love such as chips, chocolate, sweet gummies, there are alternatives such as baked homemade chips, trail mix with dark chocolate chips, or even homemade fruit roll-up made with real fruit.

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