Time for a change up! Let’s talk kids, sports, and the foods that will make the two get along swimmingly. It’s that time of year where children are knee-deep in extra-curricular activities, often putting in a full day of school followed by a grueling practice or intense game. Their jam-packed schedules are physically demanding, and as parents it can be difficult to know what fuel to give your kids to keep them strong and healthy until they hear the final whistle. Mankato Free Press and April Graff, RD offer some simple rules of thumb for feeding your athletes so they can leave it all out on the field.

Before a practice or game, kids should pair a source of carbohydrates or starch with some lean protein. Examples include an apple with natural peanut butter, whole grain crackers with a lowfat string cheese, or half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. Stick to quality carbs from fruit or whole grains rather then empty calorie foods like soda or candy, which will cause a blood sugar rollarcoaster and likely drain your youngster’s energy. Make sure your child also packs food for after a workout, preferably non-perishable items that they can keep in their lockers, backpacks, or gym bags, such as nutritious energy bars (Clif Bars are my favorite!). Again, you want to focus on foods that provide good carbs and protein in order to replenish depleted energy stores. To ensure adequate hydration and electrolyte balance, provide water before, after, and during strenuous activity. Proper nutrition is important not only for keeping children fueled and performing optimally, but also for preventing injuries.

Here are some more tips to keep your child at the top of their game!

1. The Truth About Carbs: A pre-game meal consisting of only carbohydrates can actually leave your child feeling tired and sluggish on the field. Try to keep the meal low in fat and fiber, with a small amount of lean protein. Try a grilled chicken breast or a fresh fruit smoothie before game time.

2. Three R’s for Recovery: Replenish, Repair, Rebuild: Try to make sure your child eats something within 30 minutes to one hour of working out. Encourage athletes to reach for food or beverages that are high in protein to help rebuild muscles, such as Odwalla’s Protein Monster smoothie.

3. Keep it Simple: Seek out simple mini meals that will fuel your athlete for the entire game, including foods that are good sources of complex carbohydrates, like whole grain pasta or brown rice. Pair with a protein source such as grilled chicken, turkey slices, lean beef, or canned tuna.

4. Stick with Whole Foods: Whole foods are always better than supplements, so be sure to check the ingredient list of any packaged foods that your child is consuming. Be wary of hidden ingredients in powders, shakes, and drinks and encourage foods such as fruits and vegetables over vitamins and meal replacement shakes or bars.

5. Make It Easy: Teens are more likely to pick the most convenient – and often less nutritious – foods and beverages. Keeping your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy grab-and-go options like fresh fruit, lowfat dairy, whole grain cereals and crackers, and trail mix will make the most convenient choice the most nutritious to boot!

For more advice on sports nutrition or healthy eating in general, be sure to browse the ADA website atwww.eatright.org. If we can help, let us know! Visit our Facebook page or send us a tweet (just search Family Food LLC)!