Fall Sports Nutrition for Kid Athletes: What You Need to Know

Fall sports are here and that means your little one needs to fuel their brain and their active body. We recently shared tips for fueling their brain in our Back-to-School Nutrition Guide: How to Boost Brain Health. Now it’s time to learn more about fall sports nutrition and what your child needs to stay fueled and strong. From education to timing, here’s what you need to know.


Educate Your Child on Nutrition

Step one in getting fall sports nutrition right is educating your child on healthy eating habits and how healthy foods help them perform in their sport. Jackie Burning, PhD and RD suggests that educating your child on healthy nutrition, in relation to sports, is helpful in a variety of ways. Not only does it allow you to address how good nutrition is important for sports performance, but this education can have an impact on their body image. Burning explains:

“Learning early in their lives to focus on the positive impact food can have on their bodies’ performance—rather than concentrating on things like body fat percentages and ideal weights—might help prevent some children, particularly young women, from developing unhealthy attitudes that could sabotage not only their on-field success, but also their health.”

You may be thinking, I don’t know anything about sports nutrition, how can I educate my child? This is a great time to meet with a pediatric dietician, who can do the teaching for you. Use this time to educate yourself as well, learning about the nutrients that are most important to your child specifically.


More: Growing Kids: Simple Things Parents Can Do to Help


Focus on a Well-Rounded Diet

Professional athletes use extreme diets, calorie counting and elimination to maintain peak performance. Your young athlete should have one nutritional focus during fall sports: getting adequate calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients to fuel their body, according to the American Dietetic Association

How many calories do they need? Refer to the following daily calorie overview:

  • Boys and girls, ages 4 to 6: 1,800 calories
  • Boys and girls, ages 7 to 10: 2,000 calories

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also suggests focusing on the following nutrients, all of which are key nutrients for a strong body:

  • Protein: Protein is necessary for building strong muscles and supports their growth. Protein, whether plant- or animal-based, should be incorporated into every meal.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the body’s most used macronutrient for energy. Carbohydrates are also needed for muscle recovery, which is especially important for child athletes. Aim to incorporate carbohydrates into their pre-activity and post-activity meals.
  • Water: Hydration is essential for regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients and oxygen, and helps remove waste from the body. Young athletes also need enough water to replenish the water they lose when sweating on the field or during practice. 

Child Athlete Meal Ideas

If you’re looking for meal and snack ideas that fit the bill for fall sports season, check out these ideas, also from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: 


Breakfast:

Scrambled eggs in a whole wheat tortilla

Cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese

Banana with peanut butter

Low-fat yogurt with fruit


Afternoon Snack:

Fresh fruit and graham crackers

Hummus in a pita

Granola with low-fat yogurt

Vegetables and dip (hummus, greek-yogurt based creamy dip)


Post-Game:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Low-fat chocolate milk

Turkey and cheese wrap

Smoothie


If your child loves protein smoothies, try Healthy Height Shake Mix, developed and tested by pediatricians. With no preservatives, growth hormones, artificial coloring or corn syrup, this gluten-free, soy-free shake mix provides everything their body needs, including 12 grams of protein per serving.


More: The Big List of Healthy, Homemade Snacks for Kids

Put The Kid Athlete Nutrition Tips Together


Now you know that it’s important for your child athlete to get enough hydration and nutrients to power their activities and stay fueled when they’re done. Now, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned together. 

In Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes, Laura K Purcell and the Canadian Paediatric Society, explain that an ideal diet for you young athlete should me made up of:

  • 45 to 65 percent carbohydrates
  • 10 to 30 percent protein
  • 25 to 35 percent fat 

They also suggest that the timing of meals on game and practice days is just as important as getting the right amount of nutrients if your child wants to optimize their performance. 

For example, meals should be eaten a minimum of 3 hours before exercise and snacks should be eaten 1 to 2 hours before activity. Don’t forget to sneak in a recovery snack or meal within 30 minutes of exercise and again within 1 to 2 hours of activity to allow muscles to rebuild and ensure proper recovery.


Fall Sports Nutrition: You Got This!

Make sure your young athlete gets the right nutrients this fall sports season. Use these tips and guidelines to prep food that help them perform better and stay fueled for practices and games. 

An easy way to fuel your kids is with protein shakes. Check out this helpful article Most Important Nutrients for Kid Athletes’ Protein Shakes and get inspired by other kid-friendly recipes on the Healthy Height Growth & Nutrition blog


Disclaimer: The content in the Healthy Height Growth and Nutrition Guide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


Nutrition to Help Kids Grow

Every year our team of Pediatricians at Schneider Children's Medical Center have 20,000 visits from children with issues relating to growth. Our doctors wanted to find a non-invasive way to help children grow and the nutrition in our shake mix is the result of their efforts.

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