Nutrition is important every day of the year, especially in a growing child’s life. With that in mind, parents who are raising active and athletic kids have to be extra careful on game day.
In order for your child to perform at his or her best, and stay energized throughout the game, they need to have eaten a balanced meal beforehand.
But, what exactly does a balanced meal consist of? Too much of one thing could make your kids sluggish, while too little of another could leave them dehydrated.
Let’s take a look at 5 awesome pre game day meals that will keep those energy levels high and ensure your child is safe, happy and ready to play a great game!
You’ll want to feed your kids a hearty meal at least 3-4 hours before the game. If your child eats too close to gametime, they could develop a cramp during the game which will affect their performance.
They’ll also need enough fuel to push them to the final whistle; so, they should eat a light snack about an hour before gametime too.
First and foremost, hydration is king. It’s easy for the body to overheat during exercise, and children often don’t drink enough water. This can become dangerous during an an athletic activity, as your child may experience decreased coordination and a loss of energy.
To ensure your kids are safely hydrated and have enough energy to push through the game, they need to drink between 10-16 ounces of water at least two hours before the game. A typical water bottle is around 16 ounces, so think of it as drinking one entire commercial sized water bottle.
Then, your child should drink another 8-16 ounces (½ to 1 water bottle) 15 minutes before the game. Of course, they should continue drinking every 15-20 minutes throughout the game and a significant amount afterwards.
The first thing that a young athlete loses when exercising is fluid, so make sure your child is drinking water on a strict schedule before, during and after games!
What About Sports Drinks?
Sports drinks like Gatorade work to replace electrolytes, carbohydrates and other important minerals, and are really only necessary for extreme athletes. However, if your child is refusing to drink enough water, it’s OK to supplement water with sports drinks or diluted juice.
Carbohydrates are the bodies most important source of energy. There’s no need to go crazy and carb load like marathon runners, but carbs are a crucial source of fuel, especially for young athletes.
Meals Starring Carbohydrates
A great source of carbohydrates is whole grains. These include whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, crackers, potatoes, cereal, and plenty of fruits and veggies.
A few meal ideas:
- Pasta with meat sauce, salad, fruit and granola with milk
- Baked chicken, steamed veggies, rice and a fig bar
Protein is essential for rebuilding and replacing muscle tissue. However, many sources note that we tend to eat more protein than we really need. While there’s no specific amount that works for everybody, the consensus is that athletes should consume a good amount of low-fat protein, such as lean meat, peanut butter, eggs, string cheese, beans and nuts.
Too much protein can actually lead to dehydration, so it’s important that you don’t overfeed it to your child on game day.
A few meal ideas:
- Eggs, oatmeal, berries and juice
- Egg and cheese sandwich on an english muffin and a side of fruit
Vitamins and Minerals
Calcium and Iron are extremely important parts of your kids diet. Calcium helps to build strong bones and iron helps to carry oxygen to the parts of the body that need it. You can find calcium in dairy items like milk, cheese and yogurt, and in certain leafy green vegetables such as broccoli. Iron-rich foods include lean meat, salmon, tuna, leafy green vegetables and dried fruits, to name a few.
A meal idea:
- Cereal (with less than 8/9 grams of sugar per cup), topped with nuts or seeds, with a glass of orange juice
Eating a balanced diet throughout the year is important for every growing child. Whether extremely active, or not, nutrition is key for a healthy body and mind. Kids that participate in athletic activities need to stay hydrated and energized in order to perform their best, and most importantly stay healthy, during the extreme conditions of a sports game.
A meal 3-4 hours before gametime with a mix of carbohydrates, healthy proteins, and assorted vitamins and minerals, combined with steady hydration, is essential to your child’s performance (and fun!) on game day.