Millions of teens enjoy athletic sports, such as soccer, running and basketball. Their growing bodies need lots of healthy nutrients and energy to sustain both their growth and their physical activity. While it may seem easy to toss them a prepackaged, classic teen snack like greasy pizza, look into more nourishing alternatives that take very few minutes to put together. Help your athletic child get the nutrients he needs, and set a lifestyle foundation for healthier eating practices in the future.
1. Fun Fruits
When your teen works out, she loses electrolytes, such as potassium, which can negatively affect her performance. Building up and replenishing these electrolytes throughout the day, and even during her workout, can help enhance her stamina and strength. Sports drinks often contain unnecessary additives, such as artificial dyes and high fructose corn syrup. Instead, try potassium-rich fruit, such as bananas and oranges. These fruits are self-contained inside relatively hardy peels, which makes them perfect for the on-the-go teen who needs something durable to quickly toss into her backpack.
2. Savvy Shakes
"Grab-and-go is a must for teens," says Lisa Cohn, a registered dietitian in New York City. Cohn recommends shakes or smoothies as a healthy, energy-providing snack for athletes that's quick to make and quick to eat. "Good energy sources made of complex carbohydrates are key for growing and exercising muscles," says Cohn. She suggests combining low-fat milk or a vegan substitute, such as almond milk, with fresh or frozen fruit. To add a dietary punch, toss in a scoop of whey -- a rich, convenient source of protein that your teen's body can quickly digest.
3. Bread Boosts
The classic sandwich acts as the perfect pre-event snack for a teen about to head into a game, athletic competition or similar workout. It provides a moderate amount of calories without overloading the digestive system, lots of energy-providing carbohydrates and, best of all, takes just seconds to put together. Try a scoop of natural peanut butter between whole grain toast or, to keep things interesting, switch out ordinary bread for a tortilla or a pita pocket. Fill a pita with lean Turkey slices, ranch dip made with fat-free sour cream and shredded lettuce for a portable yet filling meal. Make several sandwiches ahead of time and leave them on the counter in individual zip-top plastic baggies. Your teen can grab one as he heads out the door, saving you both any last-minute trouble.
4. Exciting Energy
Instead of feeding your teen athlete those chalky energy bars packed with artificial substances, make your own delicious energy bars at home. They take just minutes to make --- and even less time to eat --- and can be made in advance for on-the-go energy fixes. "Make energy balls or bars by putting nuts in a food processor with dried fruits, shredded coconut, oats and some dark chocolate or carob chips," says nutritionist Linda Rose, author of several raw food cookbooks. Form the mixture into bars and put them into your fridge. The resulting combination offers up complex carbs, protein and natural sugars.
- Colorado State University Extension; Nutrition for the Athlete; J. Anderson, et al.; December 2010
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System; Sports Nutrition for Young Adults; Robert Keith; August 1998
- Lisa Cohn, RD; Founder, Park Avenue Nutrition; New York City, NY
- Linda Rose, Ph.D.; Author, "Raw Fusion"; Tampa Bay, Florida
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