As younger players grow and develop, they need to make sure that they are putting in the work at the dinner table as well. Professionals have strict meal plans and nutritional regimens that they follow to make sure they are playing at full strength. These players dedicate themselves to a diet so that they are able to contribute every time they hit the field, court, or ice. Those in youth sports can learn from these players and their nutritionists as well, as their knowledge is second to none. Because many parents aren’t trained dietitians, the following guide and resources can help you get started on a meal plan for your own junior all-star!
Pro Stock Hockey’s Nutrition Guide
The following nutrition guide was created by Pro Stock Hockey with input from NHL trainers and staff and features a game day meal plan for hockey players. It contains a meal plan for the entire game day; breakfast, lunch, 3 snacks, and postgame meal. As you can see, it focuses on hydration, spacing out meals for digestion, and good variety. This guide provides the calories and protein to keep players going strong from puck drop to the final horn.
Using the above guide, we know which nutrients the child needs throughout the day. But proper dieting turns out to be much easier said than done. Unfortunately, most quick and easy microwave or canned meals generally have tons of salt and simple carbs, with little redeeming value. Some frozen veggies or canned beans are the exception. Not to mention the tempting convenience of fast food! Therefore, you need to plan ahead to know which fresh foods to buy, which things to pull out of the freezer, and what to throw in the slow cooker that morning.
Benefits of a Child Athlete’s Meal Plan
- Less Eating Out– eating at home is cheaper and restaurants, fast food especially, use much more salt and oils than home cooked meals
- Complete Food Pyramid– only the parent knows what your kids entire diet looks like, so it’s up to you to balance each section of the food pyramid
- More Regular Eating– fewer than half of children eat 3 square meals a day, and doctors recommend 3 meals and at least 2 snacks for optimal calorie intake
- More Variety– presenting your kid early on with a wide variety of foods can make them less picky and open them up to new flavors. Include at least one ‘exotic’ dinner in your weekly meal plan!
How to Make a Meal Plan for Athletic Children
The best part is that you don’t even have to invent your own meal plan! While you get the hang of it, there are a ton of great resources online to get you started:
- Nourish Interactive has printable meal plans for children and fun recipes they are sure to love!
- Whole Foods Market offers these ideas to make meal planning healthy and fun for the kids
- Florida’s Health Department has released this tremendous resource for children’s diets, with food group requirements and serving sizes. It also includes printable charts, choking hazards, and weekly meal plan drafts to get you started
- And finally, kidshealth.org lists hundreds of fun recipes that your kids can participate in making!
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