Sports Dietitian Mom Shares: 3 Key Ways to Fuel Little Athletes

Feeding your young athlete at home can be challenging for so many reasons – picky eaters, crazy schedules and on-the-go eating, among other things. But, good news! As a sports dietitian and mom of three, 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 prior to activity, will help keep your kiddo’s energy levels steady.  A snack that contains carbohydrates (for energy), protein (for strong muscles) and healthy fat (to help keep them full longer) 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 corn chips with guacamole and an orange
  • Greek yogurt with berries and granola
  • Nut butter and jelly (or honey, or banana) sandwich
  • Smoothie made with frozen fruit and Greek yogurt
  • Boiled egg and a handful of dried fruit and nuts
  • Turkey and cheese roll-up in a whole-wheat tortilla
  • Apple or celery with nut butter and a granola bar

Help your little one power through practice with these 7 high-protein snacks.


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% fruit juice and smoothies, also count! Foods that are high in water (fruits and veggies) can also contribute to optimal hydration. As a bonus, they are also packed with nutrients for your growing athlete. Encourage your athlete to always carry a water bottle and sip throughout the day to stay hydrated.

Get creative with your hydration! Check out this 5-minute pineapple-orange smoothie for inspiration.

Post-Game Recovery

Nutrition after a game or practice can be just as, if not more important than, fueling up prior to activity. Nutrients that are consumed within 30 minutes to an hour after activity are quickly delivered to muscles to begin the process of recovery. Without this step in 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 is convenient, cheap and well-liked – from the littlest athletes all the way up to the pros!

Your kiddo can recover like a pro with a chocolate milk shake. Just blend ice-cold milk, four to five ice cubes and a banana in a food processor or blender.

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

Find more recipes.

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.

Get Content Like This in Your Inbox.