Thursday, November 26, 2015

Move over protein shakes! Five power foods every teen athlete needs

Nutritionist Beth Wallace Smith gives us her top picks to fuel a teen athlete's body.

Move over protein shakes! Five power foods every teen athlete needs


School is in session!  I could say that it was the whistles during drills from the high school football field that reminded me of fall sports season, but truthfully, it was the cross-country team that passed me running on Kelly Drive that made me think about being a teenage athlete. 

Though many teens may not think daily about the direct effect each meal has on their sports performance, the rapidly growing market for sports drinks, nutrition bars, and nutrition supplements has made teenagers more aware of the role nutrition will play in their physical abilities. 

Despite their engaging promises and attractive packaging, there is no super bar, drink, or supplement that will be better than an actual healthy diet for teenagers when it comes to making the most of their time the field. 

There are, however, several foods (or categories of food) that every teen should make sure they are eating in order to prepare and restore their hard working muscles before the next practice or game. 

  1. Water: Yes, just water.  Proper hydration is equally as important as food making sure your body isn’t running on empty.  Even mild dehydration leads to early fatigue and decreased performance.  However, most teens don’t need a sports drink.  They can meet their hydration requirements with water throughout the school day, in addition to drinking water during and after their game.  For vigorous activity more than sixty minutes, a sports drink can be considered, but is not a necessity.
  2. Spinach: Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are great vegetable sources of iron, a mineral that is necessary for carrying oxygen in the blood.  Due to the increased demand of oxygen by working muscles, teen athletes have a higher need for iron than their less active peers.  Pair vegetable sources of iron with vitamin C (peppers, tomatoes) to help absorb the iron. 
  3. Greek Yogurt: Strong bones are just as important as strong muscles during training.  On average, teens typically consume less than the recommended amount of calcium they need in the day to support bone development.  Greek yogurt packs a big punch with a good source of calcium for bone health and protein for muscles. 
  4. Whole grains: Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but truly, are the active body’s fuel.  Carbohydrates are easily utilized for quick energy when there is an increased demand by the muscles, and teens need additional carbohydrates mixed with protein for recovery after the game.  Whole grain breads, whole wheat pasta, and grains like quinoa and lentils have the added benefits of fiber, protein, and minerals, all important for active bodies. 
  5. Nuts: Not only are nuts a good source of protein, but their nutrients serve another purpose.  Nuts are a natural source of healthy, unsaturated fat.  Athletes need fat in their diet because after carbohydrate energy is used, fat provides the body fuel during extended periods of physical activity.   Unsalted almonds, pecans, and even peanuts (technically a legume) are convenient, healthy snacks for teens during the day. 
More coverage
Move over protein shakes! 5 power foods every teen athlete needs
Which milk alternative is best for your child?
You say yes, I say no: Parenting style may affect teens’ behaviors
The truth about whole grains

Have a safe, healthy sports season!

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About this blog
Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS Assistant Professor of Psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAAAI, FACAAI Associate Professor of Medicine in division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Magee DeFelice, M.D. Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Emiliano Tatar, M.D. Pediatrician at Einstein Healthcare Network Roxborough Plaza
Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at CHOP
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP Director of Integrated Health Care for American Psychological Association
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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