Nutrition for Young Athletes: Hit It Out of the Park

Nutrition for Young Athletes: Hit It Out of the Park

With the vague hint of spring in the air, many families are gearing up for the onslaught of practices and games that come with spring sports. As the kids strap on their pads and cleats again, keep in mind that a healthy athlete needs more than just good physical conditioning; fueling their bodies with proper nutrition is just as important to keep them competitive!

Nutrition is vital for the health of people of all ages and activity levels but young athletes have higher fluid and energy needs. Nutrition can also help prevent injury and keep your young athlete competitive. Help your young athlete become a nutrition champion before the starting buzzer even goes off!

  • For healthy bones, make sure your child is getting enough calcium and iron from foods like low-fat dairy products, leafy green vegetables (broccoli, spinach), lean meats (chicken, turkey), fish (tuna, salmon) and eggs.

  • To make the most out of a rigorous physical conditioning schedule, make sure your child also gets plenty of protein (meat, beans/legumes, nuts), which helps build and repair muscle.

  • Carbohydrates like whole grain bread, pastas and cereals, and fruit and veggies will keep their energy levels high.

  • Lastly, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Our bodies need water to maintain energy, coordination and strength so make sure your young athlete is drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after practice and games. Water (not sport drinks) are the best option so even if your athlete isn’t thirsty, make sure they are drinking every 15-20 minutes during physical activity.

Including good nutrition into your child’s training regime will make the most out of their time on the practice field (and your time chauffeuring!)

Of course, this advice is all well and good until you actually have to put it into play! So how do you go about making healthy snacks and meals for your young athletes? Join dietician, Ally Colson at Swedish/Issaquah on Wednesday, February 20th as she covers strategies for game-winning nutrition. This free event from 6:30-7:30 p.m. will include an interactive training on how to keep your child happy and healthy during sports season. Take the time to help your young athlete train and care for their body and set them up for success on and off the field.

Registration for “Nutrition for Young Athletes” is required. Visit www.swedish.org/classes or call (206) 386-2502 for more information and to reserve a space in the class.

Comments
Kaetlin Miller, MPH, CHES | Health Education Specialist
Thanks for your comments, Sheridan! To answer your questions, both vegetables and dairy products are great sources of calcium for adults and children. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development has a wonderful website that breaks down calcium levels in a variety of foods (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/milk/prob/Pages/other_foods.aspx).

In regards to osteoporosis (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000490.htm), calcium as well as vitamin D (for calcium absorption) are certainly important for prevention. However, other factors including family history, certain medicine use, general body structure and age may contribute to the development of osteoporosis as well. I encourage you to check out MedLine Plus (from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/osteoporosis.html ) for more information about bone health and osteoporosis prevention.

In terms of carbohydrates, vegetables as well as refined foods like whole grain bread, pastas and cereals are valuable nutritional staples. Their listing order was merely an artistic choice and not a reflection of their respective nutritional value. When sticking to a healthy diet, it is important not only to provide yourself the right nutrients but also to enjoy the process. If you prefer to avoid refined foods, then vegetables, fruits and legumes can be a great source of carbohydrates to you as well. The Harvard School of Public Health (www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates-full-story/) provides a great breakdown of what carbohydrates are, why they are important and what foods are good sources for your diet.

All in all, remember that no diet is perfect for everyone. Nutritional needs for young athletes can vary greatly from their parents, their siblings and their friends. If you would like more information, talk to your primary care provider or contact one of Swedish’s many qualified nutrition experts (www.swedish.org/Services/Nutrition-Care).
2/22/2013 10:11:42 AM
Sheridan
Note that vegetables are a better source of calcium than dairy, which had been proven to leach calcium from bones. Countries with highest dairy consumption have highest osteoporosis rates.
Also, please explain (with reference to studies) why refined foods come before vegetables in your sources of carbohydrate.
Come on... Lift your game!!!
2/21/2013 10:02:21 PM
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