Healthy Eating for Young Athletes

Eating right is an important part of life for young athletes.  Getting the proper nutrition before and after a workout, practice, or the big game is essential to helping kids prevent injury and perform at an optimal level. Here are some tips and snacks for eating right before and after working out!

Before a Workout

It’s important to never work out on an empty stomach.  Athletes should eat a snack 30-60 minutes prior to working out, avoiding spicy or high fat food items.

Below is a list of great pre-workout snacks:

  • 1 piece of fruit and 1 string cheese
  • English muffin/ toast and peanut butter
  • Bowl of whole grain cereal with milk
  • Half of a turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Pretzels with peanut butter or cheese cubes
  • Granola bar and 1 piece of fruit
  • Bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups of pasta with meat and veggies
  • Apple or banana with peanut butter
  • Oat energy balls (recipe below)

After a Workout

After working out, your young athlete needs to replenish their body. Focus on getting at least 20 grams of protein and a carbohydrate. Eating 15-60 minutes after working out is key to ensuring proper health.

Below is a list of some great post-workout snack options:

  • 4 slices of lunchmeat and 1-2 pieces of bread
  • 3 eggs and 1-2 pieces of bread
  • 3 oz. grilled chicken and 1 whole wheat wrap
  • 16 oz. of chocolate milk
  • Smoothie (recipes below)
  • 3 oz. tuna (1/2 can) and 1 Tbsp. mayo and 1 piece of bread
  • Greek yogurt and ¼ cup trail mix
  • ½ cup oatmeal, 2 Tbsp. peanut butter and 8 oz. milk
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and 4 oz. milk

Oat Energy Balls

Adopted from: Bottom Line Health

  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1½ cups instant or quick-cooking oats
  • ½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • ½ cup chopped, unsweetened dried fruit of your choice
  • ½ cup maple syrup, agave or honey
  • ½ cup natural nut butter of your choice (or sunflower butter if you have a nut allergy)
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • If desired for extra protein: Add ½ – 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • If desired for extra fiber and healthy fat: Add handful of chia or flax seeds

Directions: Combine all the ingredients for this recipe in a large bowl (you may find that it’s easiest to mix these ingredients with your hands). Form into balls and refrigerate.

Banana Peanut Butter Oat Smoothie

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
  • ½ cup low-fat plain yogurt (or Greek)
  • ½ cup skim milk (could substitute with soy or almond milk)
  • ¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon honey (if needed)

Spinach Smoothie

  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup milk (or soy milk, almond milk, rice milk etc.)
  • 1 cup of vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries (I used frozen raspberries but any type will work)
  • 1 banana

Directions for all smoothies: Blend all ingredients together. Add more milk if smoothie is too thick (frozen fruit will make smoothie thicker).

For more information about sports nutrition, visit our website or schedule a consult with one of our Registered Dietitians by calling (614) 722-6200 or emailing SportsNutrition@NationwideChildrens.org.

Jessica Buschmann, RD
Jessica Buschmann, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine. As part of her role at Nationwide Children’s, she provides nutrition services to Ohio Dominican University’s athletic teams and the general student population. She is registered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and licensed by the Ohio Board of Dietetics. Before joining the NCH Sports Medicine team, Jessica completed her Master’s degree at Marywood University in Sports Nutrition and Exercise Science. Jessica’s professional interests include Female Athlete Triad management and prevention, employee wellness, and meal planning for optimal sports performance. Jessica’s personal interests include anything outdoors, running, cooking with friends and family, grocery shopping (especially at Farmer’s Markets!), trying new restaurants around Columbus, spontaneous and planned traveling adventures, skydiving, and reading with a good cup of java in local coffee shops.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *