When feeding a busy little athletic body during summer sports season, remember this: carbs are king. Children burn through five to six times the amount of glucose in their brains compared to adults, and they need an incredible amount of energy from whole carbohydrates to fuel them for activities.
That said, you don’t want to miss out on the important balance between carbs, fats and proteins to help with recovery. You also don’t want their bellies working on digestion while they’re leaping and jumping around.
So what can you feed them that won’t weigh them down before the big game? See registered dietitian Nishta Saxena’s tips below.
The size of the portions will be determined by the age of your child; much smaller portions for smaller bodies, and larger adult-sized portions for school-aged children.
1.5 hours before
- 1 medium banana or 2-3 pieces of other fruits (think citrus, grapes, peaches, plums)
- 1 cup of fruit smoothie with ¼ to ½ cup yogurt or milk, banana, and ¼ cup of blended berries or mango
- Trail mix (80 grams of dried fruit like raisins, apricots, and dates, and ¼ cup of pumpkin or sunflower seeds)
- 70 to 175 grams of fruit yogurt. This is where we could have a little bit of sugar, if a vanilla or berry-flavoured yogurt is preferred. Though we don’t often suggest parents feed their kids sugar-sweetened foods, little athletes can have small amounts of these foods near game time.
1 hour before game
- 2-3 cereal/muesli bars or a small bowl of whole grain cereal with milk
- 2 slices of pita or bread with 100 percent fruit jam or hummus
In-between games (30-40 minute gaps)
- 125mL to 250mL of chocolate milk or fortified soy milk, depending on child’s size
- 100 percent fruit orange juice (no sugar added)
- Low-fibre pita or bagels with 100 percent fruit jam
About one to three hours post-event, you should focus on fibre. The nutrition in fibre-rich foods, like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and proteins are fantastic for muscles to repair and are still rich in carbs. Beans and lentils, for example, are a fantastic post-game super food because they provide everything at once.
- Bowl of beans or lentils as chili/soup and rice/pasta and fruit
- Meat (i.e. chicken) or fatty fish with a lot of steamed dark green and orange vegetables and rice (like a stir fry)
- Sandwich with two slices of bread with cheese, ham, or poultry plus one large fruit and small salad.
- Spinach omelette with 100 percent whole grain toast and tomato and avocado
- Baked potato with black beans, cheese, salsa and sour cream.
Add some fruit at the end of the meal to round out the nourishment!