Keeping Child Athletes Hydrated and Healthy On (and Off) the Field

It’s already a chore to make sure children eat healthy in a world where fast food is champion and soda can be found in almost any fridge in the country. However, children in the world of youth sports have an even more dire need to eat healthyand keep hydrated.

A child has their own duty to keep on top of their diet. When they go to a friend’s house, should they eat a whole bag of chips or grab some fruit when offered a snack? If you’re out at a restaurant, should they pick the fatty, greasy options? This kind of thinking, though, needs to be instilled in them – both on the field by coaches and off the field by parents.

Parents – Making Healthy Choices at Home

When a child is at home, they’re comfortable. They have a routine they fall into. How you set up this routine for them is how they ease into healthy habits.

For instance, say your child comes home from school and wants a snack. They go for a chip bag and sit on the living room sofa doing homework for a few hours, absentmindedly eating chip after chip. This casual behavior makes eating junk food a casual action, which is an unhealthy habit.

Take control of their dietary habits by both enforcing guidelines for food they can eat and when, as well as limiting your purchase of junk food for your entire family. You set the example in your home, so make sure that you stay healthy with your child – eat lots of healthy foods and drink lots of water.

This should also be something you keep in mind when it comes to youth sports snack rotations. If team parents are set up for snack schedules to pass out food at games, think about healthy options. Carrots, peanut butter crackers, 100% fruit juice popsicles and low-sugar cookies are all great examples of sports-friendly treats. Also, consider assigning someone to bring water bottles every game and/or practice.

Coaches – Informing Players of Nutritional Importance

As a coach, you have a responsibility to know high-level health information. Know the answer to the following questions:

●      How big is a portion size for x food?

●      What kind of desserts are healthy to eat?

●      How much protein should your athletes eat?

●      How many ounces of water should they be drinking every day / on practice days?

●      What vegetables offer the most nutrition value for athletes?

●      What are vegan/vegetarian options for staying healthy as an athlete?

If you don’t know, make sure you do your research. Players depend on you to know this kind of info in order to inform their parents and make better food choices themselves.

Talk to parents about this information as well. Parents of athletes should have access to information about how to feed and hydrate their children in a way that benefits them. Before your season starts, have a meeting with parents to ensure they know what you expect out of your athletes, and dietary guidelines to follow that will help them succeed.