When it comes to sports carbo-loading is important, but for the best performance, it’s just a part of the story. Add these healthy foods into your child’s daily menu - that will help him build strength, sustain energy and recover faster.
1. Berries, fresh or dried - excellent source of antioxidants.
Berries contain lots of antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E) and therefore help protect against free radicals that form in the body during physical activity. The most colorful berries - raspberries, blackberries, blueberries - have more of those protective substances. Berries are great in the morning cereal and in smoothies. For best smoothie recipes for young athletes check 10 Best Smoothies for Young Athletes
2. Cheese - great source of calcium and protein.
Cheese is an international healthy food staple, and it should be in each athlete’s daily menu because it contains muscle-building protein, bone-building calcium and vitamin D, and fat-burning conjugated linoleic acid. Cottage cheese and ricotta cheese are among the higher protein varieties. Examples of calcium-rich cheeses include mozzarella, Swiss, and ricotta.
3. Yogurt, kefir or combucha - for probiotics' benefits.
At least one glass of yogurt is a must for every child doing sports, as it contains healthy bacteria that improve the overall health of their bodies. The most beneficial probiotic drinks should be kept refrigerated. Greek yogurt trumps regular yogurt because it’s higher in protein content and much lower in sugar.
4. Nuts and Seeds - a source of valuable micronutrients.
They have unsaturated fat to fight inflammation, protein to support recovery, fiber to help maintain energy levels, and vitamins and minerals to support all the physiological functions they play a role in. Together with dried fruits, nuts and seeds are great as a snack option (the best is to make homemade bars to avoid excess sugar), and with a cup of Greek yogurt they can make a quick but healthy breakfast.
5. Whole grains - a source of fiber and complex carbohydrates.
Grains give athletes a long lasting energy. We recommend the real-food ones like oats, buckwheat, rice, rye, bulgur, quinoa. Include whole-food carbohydrates foods like these at breakfast, lunch, and smaller amounts in daytime snacks. Avoid processed and sugary grains like granola bars or white bread in daily nutrition (the exception being an optional smaller treat per day).
6. Fruits - for vitamins, dietary fiber and micronutrients.
The choice of fruits mostly depends on your child’s taste preferences. But some of fruits are especially good for young athletes. Bananas are top sources of potassium, a mineral and electrolyte, or salt, that conducts electricity in the body. They also deliver easily digestible, low-glycemic carbohydrates, which provide fuel before workouts or competitions. Oranges are one of the best sources of Vitamin C, which can reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and support a healthy immune system. Raisins provide significant amounts of other valuable nutrients, including potassium, iron and fiber.
7. Vegetables - depositary of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Besides, vegetables are great tool in helping us control portions of other more calorie dense foods. Ideally, a young athlete should have 3-4 servings of vegetables per day. There is a great variety to choose from, and so many ways to serve.
8. Meat, eggs, poultry, fish and seafood - natural protein and Omega-3 sources.
Proteins are the building blocks of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein. You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Make sure your athlete eats protein-rich food at least 1-2 times a day. Serve fish to your child 1-2 times a week to enrich his dies with Omega-3 acids. Protein bars may be good if you want to avoid skipping a meal, but at daily basis we recommend natural protein sources. For more info read Are Protein Bars Good for Young Athletes?
Puzzled how to squeeze all those must-eat-daily foods into your athlete’s meal plan? Try this Nutrition Plan to Maximize Training Results that includes three main meals and snacks, concentrating on carbs before kids sports classes and offering your child proteins after the gym.