How to Fuel Your Young Athlete

Feeding your young athlete at home can be challenging for so many reasons – picky eaters, crazy schedules and eating on the go, among other things. But, good news! As a sports dietitian and mom of two, I have a few simple tips to keep your little athletes fueled.


With practices often falling right after school, it can be tough to get a full meal in. Snacking throughout the day, and especially 45-60 minutes before activity, will help keep energy levels in check. A snack that contains both carbohydrates (for energy) and protein (for strong muscles) is ideal. This is especially important for those long days with multiple games or events. Try these portable snacks that can easily be eaten on the go:

  • Whole wheat crackers with low fat cheese and apple slices
  • Greek yogurt with berries and granola
  • Peanut butter and jelly (or honey, or banana) sandwich
  • Trail mix and a piece of fruit
  • Boiled Egg and a handful of dried fruit
  • Turkey and cheese roll up in a whole wheat tortilla


Hydration is one of the most important things when it comes to fueling an athlete. However, hydration doesn’t always have to come in the form of water. Other fluids such as milk, 100 percent fruit juice and smoothies also count! Foods that are high in water (fruits and veggies) can also contribute to optimal hydration. And, BONUS, they’re also packed with nutrients for your growing athlete.


Nutrition after a game or practice can be just as important as fueling up prior to activity – if not more important. Nutrients that are consumed within 30 minutes to an hour after activity are quickly delivered to muscles to begin “refilling the tank.” Without this step of your nutrition plan, you risk low energy and faster fatigue during the next bout of activity.

  • What is the best thing for recovery? Chocolate milk! It’s convenient, cheap and well liked – from the littlest athletes all the way up to the pros!

Fueling your athlete doesn’t have to be hard or expensive – no powders, bars, or supplements necessary. Real food is always the best option!

By Tara Boening, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD
Tara is a registered dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics who is passionate about teaching athletes how to fuel their bodies to maximize their potential. Tara loves sports, cooking and spending time with her husband and two kids.

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