Health and Safety Nutrition for Youth Athletes

By Sheila Dunn | Posted 7/25/2022

During hot summer days, it is extremely important to keep yourself and young athletes' nutrition up to par. Having a healthy diet is essential when being active and, balancing nutrition alongside exercise is essential for long term growth as an athlete. 

A healthy well-balanced meal and snack schedule is essential in providing the nutrients for kids to do well in all their activities on and off the field. Doing this will help them play at their very best. At a young age young kids need the healthy foods and eating habits to help with positive body growth and to create healthy habits

The best way to incorporate a healthy balanced diet is to bring the essential vitamins and minerals into it for young athletes. Some of the most efficient and important vitamins and minerals are calcium and iron. Calcium has a huge impact on building strong bones that help prevent breaks and stress fractures. Calcium rich foods include low fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and leafy green vegetables. Iron is extremely important in providing oxygen throughout the body. Healthy iron sufficient foods include meat such as eggs, chicken, fish (tuna, salmon) and some dried fruits. 

Protein and whole-grain carbs are also very important in a well-balanced diet for athletes. Protein has positive impacts on the body such as helping repair and build muscles. Some protein food examples include fish, lean meat, dairy, beans, nuts, and soy products. Whole-grain carbs such as brown rice, whole grain bread, and cereal help bring essential nutrients as well as fuel and energy for the growing young athlete. Having a well-balanced meal of all the right nutrients and foods will keep kids playing their sports for longer and with increased energy and stamina. 

As well as eating the right vitamins and minerals, it is very important for athletes to continue to stay hydrated before, during, and after exercising. The right number of fluids can help decrease heat related injuries while also helping to maintain energy and strength during their sports. Water is the best choice to help with hydration. 

For Game Days, timing meals helps with athletic performance. Eating a heavy high fat meal before the game could have some negative effects in performance for the young athlete. Balancing plenty of carbs and proteins 3 to 4 hours before intense activity can help with stamina and performance. Food less than 2 hours before a game young athletes should be smaller and lighter meals such as fruit, crackers or even bread to help young athletes preform their best. 

Balancing nutritional foods and hydration can help impact a young athlete in many ways. Teaching positive eating habits for youth athletes can help impact them in a positive way for short- and long-term goals.