Sports Nutrition: Feeding Your Child

To perform well in sports, kids need to maintain a healthy diet and eat at the right times particularly on days they have games and practices. Kids who can compete in sports will have higher energy and fluid requirements.

Parents of young athletes will need to make sure their child is getting the right amount of calories, vitamins and minerals, protein, and carbohydrates to keep young athletes performing at their best.


Carbs provide energy for the body, and your child will need them as a source of fuel. When choosing carbs, opt for whole grain foods like whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, and cereal, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables.


Protein is essential to building and repairing muscles. Most kids get plenty of protein through a balanced diet that includes foods like lean meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, beans, nuts and soy products.

Vitamins and Minerals

Calcium and iron are two vital minerals for athletes:

Calcium aids in building strong bones. Calcium-rich foods include low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and even leafy green vegetables like broccoli.

Iron helps carry oxygen to the different body parts. Foods that are iron-rich include salmon, tuna, lean meat, chicken, eggs, dried fruits, fortified whole grain and leafy green vegetables.

Here is a nutrition guide for the game days and practices:

Pre-Game Breakfast

It’s important to eat a good meal before the game. Prepare a healthy breakfast for your child 2-4 hours before the competition. Here are some examples of a good breakfast:

  • Whole wheat bagel with scrambled eggs and a slice of ham, fruit, and milk
  • Sliced and lightly grilled potatoes paired with scrambled eggs with berries and orange juice or fat-free milk
  • Pancakes topped with fruit, eggs, sausage and a glass of juice
  • Oatmeal, 1/2 cup of yogurt and piece of fruit

During the Game/Practice

Ensure that your kid stays hydrated before, during after practices and games. Have them drink plenty of water. Between the ages of 6 to 18, kids should drink approximately 5 to 10 ounces of water every 20 minutes. Of course, this varies depending on weight. Sports drinks and diluted juices are good alternatives to water.

It’s crucial that young athletes drink adequate amounts of fluids to prevent dehydration. Mild dehydration can affect athletic performance. Not replenishing the fluids lost from sweating can lead to loss of coordination and result in heat-related illnesses.


Experts recommend that athletes should eat carbs within 30 minutes after intense activity and again 2 hours later. On game day, this could mean a post-game snack followed by a hearty, healthy dinner. Many athletes swear by chocolate milk as a post-game/workout snack because it is high in protein while also replenishes lost fluids.

Your child’s body will need to rebuild muscle tissue and replenish their energy stores and fluids up to 24 hours after the game. It’s important that their post-game meal is a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat.

Remember that your child needs to eat well year-round and not just during the game season. Eating right even if it is off-season will provide them with the strong foundation when it’s time to return to competition.