Ask the Nutritionist: What Are the Best Foods to Help My Child Athlete?
By Leika Suzumura, R.D., PCC Nutrition Educator
For many parents, the topic of sports nutrition can get complicated quickly, and with marketing layered on top of that, flat out confusing. Here’s a breakdown of what children participating in sports should be eating in order to keep them energized.
The main nutrient that fuels our body is carbohydrates. The more “whole” the carbohydrate is, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta, the longer the fuel will last.
Carbohydrates can be found in:
• All types of grains such as rice, wheat, oats, quinoa, as well as products made from those grains including pasta, bread and crackers
• Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, peas, beans and corn
• All fruits and their juice
• Milk and yogurt (although cheese is much lower in carbs and higher in fat)
Protein is needed for growing and healing, but the idea that children, and especially young men, need to eat loads of protein “to build muscle” is false. Eating 2 to 3 servings of protein is adequate for kids ages 6 to 12, totaling about 6 ounces in a day.
Foods with high protein include:
• Animal meats: beef, poultry, pork, lamb, seafood
• Nuts and seeds
• Dairy products
An easy way to remember the correct serving size for protein: the size of the palm of your hand. Keep in mind the palm of your child’s hand is much smaller than yours; their needs reflect their size!