5 Smart Ways to Keep Your Child Athlete Fueled

By Carmen Staicer - Chief Mom at DietsInReview.com

Any veteran "insert-sport-here" mom can tell you there's one consistency at any game or practice: Junk food.

That should surprise you. It makes no sense to me. As a self-confessed health food aficionado, I really have a hard time understanding the snacks that child athletes are offered after a game. I've seen corn chips, candy bars, fruit snacks, squishy fruit punch pouches, and even sodas distributed to the team; rarely have I seen healthy options.

As a team mom I'm often asked to bring healthier snacks, but the overwhelming concern is that kids just won't eat them. A Sports Moms Study, funded by PepsiCo, found that more than 70 percent of moms have children in competitive sports. The study found that sports moms spend one-third more time and more than twice as much money across their children's extracurricular activities than families without kids in sports.

According to the study, the area where moms most felt that their influence was felt is their athlete's nutrition. As parents, we do our best for our children. We secure them in safety seats, give them a multi-vitamin, make them eat vegetables, and get plenty of sleep. Offering the best choices to fuel them for sports is no less important.

Watch a soccer team played by a group of 10-year-old kids, and you'll intensity, focus, and effort in line with the pros. As adults, we (should) plan for our workouts with pre- and post-workout snacks, and our children and their future health deserve to learn the necessity of this, too. We all have the best of intentions, but getting started can be more difficult than we anticipate. That's why we've got five simple tips to help you begin!

1. Talk with your kids. You may feel like your children ignore you - but the truth is they are listening, so don't stop. Discuss what a body needs to perform well, the effects of protein on the muscles, how vitamins fuel your body, and how proper nutrition makes a major difference in their performance.

2. Revamp post-game nutrition. Three-quarters of moms in the aforementioned study did not know that athletes should have protein 30-60 minutes after exercise to promote muscle recovery. Quality protein sources that make great post-game snacks for kids include a nut butter sandwich, a protein recovery shake, cheese and crackers, or lean lunch meats like low-sodium turkey. In a pinch, a bottle of 100% fruit juice with a scoop of protein powder will work.

3. Recruit the other parents. Your impact on the nutrition of the entire team will be greater if all of the parents participate. Start the season by encouraging all the moms and dads to work together in creating team nutrition guidelines. Discuss and share ideas for pre- during- and after-game snacks and beverages.

4. Get the coach on board. The coach needs to be a champion for the cause, too. Before the first practice, express your concerns and actionable ideas. A good coach wants the best for the team, too.

5. Make hydration a priority. Water and recovery drinks are important to the success of your child athlete. Proper hydration is as important during the game as it is before and after. Seventy percent of athletes arrive to games dehydrated - and that's before they've run a single lap! Discuss how important it is to be properly hydrated, how it affects muscle memory, is critical to thinking and endurance, and how it can avoid serious health problems. Make sure there is plenty of water available leading up to the big game, all the way through to the car ride home.