Health Library

Categories > Family Wellness > Children’s safety

Nourishing your star athlete

Young sports stars need a healthy, well-balanced diet to help their bodies grow strong. For a winning game plan, look no further than the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. That’s because the pyramid provides a wide variety of food. Basically, it calls for 10 daily servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta; five servings of vegetables; four servings of fruit or fruit juice; three servings of low-fat dairy products; and two or three servings of three-ounce portions of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and beans.

Helping build the pyramid

Parents of sports-minded kids need to observe some other rules of good eating so their rising stars can play at the top of their game:

  • Avoid carbo-loading. Unless your child is training for a marathon or a triathlon, consuming larger-than-normal amounts of carbohydrates will just add fat.
  • Don’t allow dieting. Your child is still developing, so it’s difficult to say what a 10-year-old’s “correct” weight should be.
  • Take to the water. Kids should always drink plenty of water before game day, as well as during and after the game.
  • Forget bars and drinks. If your kid is following the pyramid faithfully, he or she shouldn’t need expensive, calorie-laden sports drinks or energy bars, too.
  • Say no to supplements. Protein powders, performance pills and salt tablets are not only unnecessary, but also potentially harmful.

Eating on game day

Kids who eat right should do the same thing before their game. Breakfast or lunch should be eaten three hours before game time; fruit snacks or juice make an ideal quick-energy snack an hour or two ahead.

Your little superstar shouldn’t eat anything an hour before the game. This way, energy needed for top performance goes to muscles and isn’t diverted to digestion.