Packing a lunch to send to school with your growing athlete can be tricky. While demanding football practices and games can definitely give him quite an appetite, you want to insure that he is consuming foods that will give him lasting energy and not just fill him up with a bunch of empty calories. Make the decision to eat nutritiously easy for your son by sending him to school with a power-packed lunch that will carry him until dinner.
Provide an ample amount of carbohydrates in your son’s lunch to give him energy for playing football, according to Lesli Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Aim for one-third of his lunch to come from easy-to-digest starches such as bagels, pasta or potatoes. Remind your son that eating the right amount of carbohydrates will keep him from “hitting the wall” during the big game.
Pack one-third of your athlete’s lunch with a protein like meat, cheese or yogurt. Aim for 15 percent of his total daily calories to come from protein to build and maintain muscle mass. Simple ideas include a grilled chicken sandwich, turkey sub or hard-boiled eggs.
Fill the final one-third of your son’s lunch with fruits and vegetables. Pack apples, bananas and pears for a grab-and-go lunch, along with carrot and celery sticks, or raw broccoli with hummus dip. Fruit salad is a simple way to pack several types of fruit without requiring a lot of peeling or cutting at lunchtime.
Encourage your son to stay hydrated for grueling football practices and games. Pack a refillable water bottle in his lunch along with a sports drink to boost electrolytes. Explain that hydration carries water to the body’s cells to encourage him to drink enough. Avoid caffeinated foods and beverages which can lead to problems with dehydration.
Limit sugary foods and snacks in your son’s lunch to avoid energy swings that lead to low blood sugar and less energy at football practice. Save desserts for an occasional treat after a big game or on the weekends.
Add a heart-healthy fat to the lunch, like a handful of nuts or sunflower seeds, for an extra boost of energy on the field. Teach your son that healthy fats can protect his internal organs from trauma, help his body to absorb vitamins, and are an important part of nerve cells.