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October 16, 2017

Fuel Young Athletes With Good Food

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Clintonville Truckers get nutrition advice from Shari DeLisle, their school’s licensed athletic trainer from ThedaCare. High protein, low sugar choices help fuel long days at school and sports practice.

More Food, Good Nutrition Required by Busy Teens

We are wrapping up the first athletic season of the school year and about to start winter sports. Even after several weeks back at school, some students and families are still trying to figure out a workable plan for scheduling school, sports practice and competition, and homework. Many times, involved kids stay after school for one or two practices at night. The one thing that helps ensure more success in all three of these pursuits is good nutrition. Good nutrition means good food choices and enough food to fuel these young people’s incredibly busy and exhausting schedules.

When I was asked to write about sports and nutrition, I jokingly said the name of my article was going to be “Ban the Pop Tart!” I see so many young people who grab whatever they can on the way out the door. Here are some suggestions for providing smart food choices that may even help them lead a healthier life in the long run:

If you have a grab-and-go kid:

  • A full size bag of peanuts, trail mix, or dried fruit for their gear bag
  • Apples, bananas, oranges, and carrot sticks
    • If it makes it into their bag, it will get eaten. Kids get so hungry during the day, this is a great way to ensure they do eat their fruits and veggies.
    • Pouches from the baby food aisle
      • Yes, it sounds silly, but fruit and yoghurt blends in the baby aisle are high in protein and have very little sugar, and no refrigeration required.
      • A stack of PB&J sandwiches, prepped every Sunday night and stored in the refrigerator
      • Good quality granola bars, like Nature Valley
        • Watch the sugar content on granola and protein bars. Too much sugar causes a surge, followed by a sugar dive, a cause of dramatic mood swings.

If you have a lunch-packer with an insulated tote:

  • Greek yogurt that’s high in protein, but watch the sugar content
  • Hardboiled eggs, peeled
  • String cheese
  • Sandwiches made with whole grain bread
  • Bagels with cream cheese
  • Individual bottles of milk or yogurt smoothies
  • Now pack double! Your teen will be all set for the day and evening.

If your teen likes hot (microwaved) food

  • Almost all high school kids have access to a microwave. Avoid high-sodium prepared meals and canned soups if you can.
  • Beans! They are packed with protein and fiber. Add black or refried beans to deli turkey and cheese in a tortilla with a touch of sauce or dressing. It warms up quickly and well.
  • Send dinner leftovers and an extra hunk of bread
  • Investigate the frozen vegetable aisle for relatively new protein blends with a base of kale, quinoa, or chickpeas. They are often seasoned, so watch sodium content, but they taste quite good.

It’s very important parents keep the cupboard, fridge, and freezer stocked as well as possible if they have young athletes in the house. Because kids get so hungry, they indeed will eat almost anything, so avoid junk food and buy more fiber and protein-packed foods. Not only will your high school athletes feel and function better, this is your chance to teach them about healthy (and delicious) food choices that they will carry forth into adulthood. Game on!

Shari DeLisle, MS, LAT, is a licensed athletic trainer at ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano and contracted to work with student athletes and their parents in the Clintonville Public School District and the Shawano School District.

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