March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Have young athletes in your family? Feeding them requires knowledge and planning. Not only do they need optimal nutrition for fueling and recovery from training, but they must also meet the energy demands of growth and maturation. Help your kids to refuel with the nutrients carbohydrates provide, focusing on family mealtimes before and after practice or competition.
Gather the family together for a pre-game breakfast. About three hours beforehand, have your child consume sliced and lightly grilled potatoes, paired with scrambled eggs and nutrient dense carbohydrates such as berries and orange juice or fat-free milk for the optimal pre-game meal.
During the Game/Practice
Make sure that your child keeps hydrated before, during and after practices and competitions. Dehydration results when your child athlete fails to adequately replace fluid lost through sweating. Dehydration that exceeds 2 percent body weight loss harms exercise performance, so make sure your child is well hydrated throughout the game with small amounts of water. Also, make sure to replace fluid losses after exercise by having your child drink lots of water. Look to foods such as bananas, potatoes and fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk. They contain potassium and carbohydrates which are important to replenish after exercise.
Post-Practice or Afternoon Game Snack
If you have more than one child in sports, the hours after practice or a weekday competition may necessitate snacking before the family dinner. Make sure to have pre-prepared snacks ready when your kids arrive home hungry from a tough after-school practice or game. This can include cut-up fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and smoothies.
Post-Game Family Dinner
For a tasty and filling post-game family dinner, include baked or broiled lean cuts of meat such as chicken breast, salmon or tuna. Include whole grains, for example, whole-wheat pasta with a low-fat tomato or cheese sauce. Toss in vegetables or include a side green salad.
Complete your meal with fruit for dessert, such as baked apples or pears accompanied by a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk. Or create an instant yogurt parfait with layers of low-fat vanilla yogurt, fresh, frozen or canned fruit, and crunchy whole-grain cereal.
Include all five food groups — protein, grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy — and you will give your family and inspiring athletes the nutrients they need for energy throughout the day.
Monique Ryan, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, is a Chicago-based author and owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, LLC, which provides nutrition programs for athletes.