Fueling Up for Spring Sports

As you know, practice and physical training are keys to success in any endeavor. But the right food choices also help kids (and us) optimize performance in sport and play, and they also lay the groundwork for an overall healthy lifestyle.

So for spring sports (and beyond), here are some basics, as well as some power-packed ideas for fueling up and refueling…

The Basics

FuelUpGrains, protein, fruits, and vegetables are where it’s at!

WHOLE GRAINS from cereals, bread, tortillas, brown rice, whole wheat pasta — you name it. These are the body’s quickest energy source, and our kids need grains to keep them in and on their game.

LEAN PROTEIN keeps ‘em lean and mean. Seafood, any and all kinds of beans and nuts, chicken and turkey, dairy foods, lean cuts of beef and pork — it all builds and repairs precious muscle.

FRUITS & VEGGIES: fresh, frozen, dried, or canned in juice are all jammed with nutrients and will keep the kiddos jammin’ on the field, court, or track.

Power Pack for Peak Performance

These ten foods are nutrition stars. Make them a regular part of your entire family’s daily eating plan. (After all, we parents need to optimize our performance too.) So go ahead and put them on your grocery list!

OATMEAL: an exceptional whole grain for athletes and non-athletes alike

BROCCOLI: a super food for superior health

ORANGES: a great source of vitamin C, and excellent post-exercise fuel

YOGURT: contains “friendly” bacteria to promote a healthy gut

BEANS: a high-energy food, they’re high in fiber and low in fat

GREEN, LEAFY VEGETABLES: they’re are filled with fiber, potassium and folate

TUNA and/or SALMON: top-quality protein with healthy fats and heart benefits

BANANAS: a high potassium food that’s fantastic fuel for every athlete

LOW-FAT MILK or SOYMILK: high-quality protein for muscles, and calcium for bones

NUTS & NUT BUTTERS: protein + healthy fats = long-lasting energy!

Fuel & Refuel

Within 30 minutes of training or practice, it’s vital to refuel the body with fluid, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein. Water, water, water — bot sugary drinks — keeps kids on their feet.

Here are some great ideas to refuel:

  • Homemade smoothie (berry-banana is great; see the recipe below)
  • Granola mixed with yogurt and dried fruit
  • Whole grain crackers or bread topped with peanut butter and raisins
  • Apple, string cheese, and a handful of nuts
  • Piece of fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt
  • Oatmeal topped with berries, walnuts, & skim milk
  • Turkey (or other lean meat), cheese & veggiesandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-wheat pita with hummus and baby carrots
  • Graham crackers topped with peanut butter and banana slices
  • Hard-boiled egg, glass of juice, and a handful of whole grain cereal

Power-Packed Recipes

Berry-Banana Smoothie

This recipe makes for a great breakfast, snack or post-practice fuel. Make it ahead and keep it in the fridge for up to two days.

2 cups low fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup soy milk or skim milk, or 100% orange juice
1 cup frozen or fresh berries
1 banana

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Makes 4 servings, about 170 calories per serving.

Power Trail Mix

Provides both quick and long-lasting energy.  An excellent snack to have on-hand for pre- or post-practice.

1 cup low-fat granola
1 cup Oatmeal Squares cereal
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots or other dried fruit
1/4 cup roasted and salted almonds
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients and store for up to 4 weeks. Makes 6 servings, about 200 calories per serving.

Kids who participate in youth sports don’t need fancy foods and drinks, but they do need solid nutrition for sport performance and overall good health. Keep it real (real food, that is) and your kids will play like pros!

Anne Marie Kuchera is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Dietitian.