Even young athletes know that success on the field of play goes beyond practices to all aspects of lifestyle, including what you eat. Most kids and teenagers leave the house early for a day spent learning, socializing and practicing their sport after school. These long days require a complete lunch that provides enough nutrients to support growth and health needs, as well as the high caloric requirements of young athletes.
Children benefit from lunches that contain many separate ingredients. This allows for increased variety of nutrition and for snacking on bites throughout the day without losing interest in large meals. Each lunch should be comprised of whole, healthy foods and include carbohydrates for energy needs, protein for growth and muscle repair, and fats for satiety and mental development. Good sources of carbohydrates to pack for lunch include fruit, bread, crackers, pretzels, wraps, potatoes, cereal, oats, lentils and granola. Good sources of protein for lunch boxes include yogurt, cheese sticks, turkey slices, shredded chicken, legumes, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs and tuna. Good sources of fats for lunch boxes include hummus, nut butters, nuts, oil-based dressings, full fat dairy and avocado.
Since most kids eat lunch early in the day, packing extra food ensures there is enough for an afternoon or pre-practice snack, such as a pudding cup, oatmeal cookies, a piece of fruit, a granola bar, energy bites, chocolate milk or trail mix, to top off energy stores.
• Shredded chicken, pretzels, cut fruit, hummus, cut veggies
• Brown rice bowl with chickpeas, orange slices, green beans and teriyaki sauce
• Pasta and chicken salad with shredded carrots and fruit
• Turkey and cheese roll-up with celery sticks and nut butter
• Tuna salad with crackers, granola bar, fruit, cheese stick
• Peanut butter and jelly with banana, yogurt and carrot sticks
• Oatmeal cups with nut butter, dried fruit, and milk
• Corn, black beans, salsa, and avocado with a yogurt, an orange and trail mix
• Bagel, cream cheese, nut butter, apple and hard-boiled egg
• Pita, hard-boiled egg, cucumbers, tomatoes, hummus, cottage cheese and an energy bar
• Nut butter and apple sandwich with cut veggies and hummus
• Chicken salad with an orange and two oatmeal cookies
• Tuna salad with grapes, walnuts, broccoli and a whole grain roll
• Oat muffin with an apple, cut veggies and ranch dressing
• Pasta, meat balls, tomato sauce, fruit salad and chocolate milk
• Falafel with cucumbers, tomatoes, yogurt and quinoa with dried fruit
Remember to check in with your child about their lunch; did they eat it, toss it, trade it with a friend? These things happen, and you'll only know if you ask! Getting your kid involved in ideas, prep and packing of their own lunch will ensure they are more likely to eat it. If your child is very hungry at dinnertime, it might be an indicator that their lunch wasn't enough to support their needs throughout the day. Have them bring a larger portion or extra snack. Whether your child is participating in sports for fun or for a serious athletic future, getting in a quality lunch is important to improving health, mental focus and preventing injury.
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