Achieving a well-balanced diet can be hard, particularly for the picky children or youth athlete. Whether you're wondering how to fuel a young athlete's performance or how to ensure a nutritious diet for active children, you're not alone. It can be challenging to create meals that meet nutritional needs and are appealing to younger tastes. However, below we offer some simple strategies and tips for creating a balanced diet for youth athletes and active children. These tips will help parents and guardians better understand what a balanced diet for youth athletes looks like, and how to ensure they're getting the right nutrition to fuel their athletic performance or fuel their normal growth and development.
Why is a balanced diet important for youth athletes, and active children?
The importance of a balanced diet can't be overstated, especially for a youth athlete's health and performance. As an athlete's guide to nutrition, it's crucial to understand that a healthy diet ensures an adequate intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fat - the essential macronutrients for athletes. A balanced diet also guarantees a supply of vital vitamins and minerals to fuel athletic performance and support growth, sports development, metabolism, and physiological function . It may even lower the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers , with a diet low in saturated fat and added sugars.
Therefore, it is essential to provide the youth athletes with a nutritious balanced approach to food intake.
So, if you're asking, why do athletes need a balanced diet? or how does nutrition affect athletic performance? It's clear that providing youth athletes with a nutritious, balanced approach to food intake isn't just about immediate performance—it also contributes to long-term health and wellness. Therefore, learning how to balance a diet for youth athletes and implement good nutrition habits for sports performance is paramount to their success, both on and off the field.
Remember that a well-structured athlete meal plan or youth athlete diet isn't just about what they eat—it's also about when and how much. For individual support with this contact a qualified sports nutritionist, such as Ellen.
We understand that parents of active children are busy, and how to overcome fussy eating habits of kids can be tricky. We also understand that budgets are tighter than ever, and most busy families don’t contain a qualified sports nutritionist, so sometimes struggle with maintaining a balanced diet. So before we get into how to create a balanced diet for kids, we wanted to let you know of our solution NUTRI-TEEN. NUTRI-TEEN shakes offer an easy and convenient way to fill any nutritional gaps in a youth athlete's diet, and we’re rated excellent on Trustpilot.
10 ways to create a balanced diet, for youth athletes and active children?
- How to get your 5-a-day in? Try to have at least 1-2 portions of fruit or veg with each meal. Fruit smoothies for youth athletes, or even snacking on fruit can help you achieve your 5 portions a day and get all the essential vitamins and minerals you need.
- Why create your own meals? Make your own versions of meals rather than buying store bought e.g., pasta dishes, chilli’s etc – this will be cheaper and can be enjoyed with all the family with extras frozen for another day! We’ve developed a free recipe app to help you find some nutrition ideas for children.
- Should you allow all foods? Having this mentality will help you achieve a balanced diet. By not restricting yourself it allows you to listen to your cravings which means sometimes you will snack on fruit and other times chocolate – but this is essential to a balanced approach to food intake.
- What does moderation mean in a diet? Moderation is key. Allowing yourself all foods is key, but this needs to be done in moderation to achieve a balanced diet full of nutritious, tasty food to support your performance demands. Allowing yourself chocolate, sweet, and savoury foods is the start, but moderation is needed to help you meet other requirements e.g., protein, fruit and veg intake.
- How to keep meals interesting for children? Try a new recipe: Each week try to select a recipe or meal you haven’t had before or in a while and get creative e.g., homemade fajita night! This makes mealtimes more enjoyable and encourages nutritious food intake for the athlete. Download the free recipe app for busy parents here.
- Best snack ideas for youth athletes? Have some fruit as a snack: This will not only satisfy your hunger but will provide you with one of your 5-a-day and won’t cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels! Watch Ellen talk you through some other snack ideas for kids here.
- Why try new foods? Try new foods: Always fancied a specific recipe, international cuisine or even a ‘fake-away’ meal. Adding variety to your food will help keep youth athletes interested in food, adding enjoyment, and changing things.
- How to reduce sugar intake? Swap sugary foods for low sugar options: Simply swapping your fizzy drinks for low sugar versions and using reduced sugar sauces will help maintain blood sugar levels and help to monitor and reduce sugar intake.
- How to increase your fibre content? Increase your fibre content: This can be easily done by increasing your fruit and veg intake as well as consuming fibre cereal bars, wholegrain cereal, and fortified products high in fibre. However, ensure you are drinking plenty to prevent digestive issues from increased fibre. Watch Ellen talk you through how much water to drink here.
- Importance of protein in youth athlete’s diet? Ensure you are eating enough protein: Adequate protein is required in the youth athlete to recover and build muscle to support their performance. Inadequate protein intake will cause muscle loss and poor recovery .
NUTRI-TEEN Shakes Solution
Sometimes, achieving a balanced diet may be tricky. When that happens, our NUTRI-TEEN Shakes come in handy. Developed specifically for active youths, they are packed with nutrients. Youth Sport Nutrition are rated excellent on Trustpilot, parents trust Youth Sport Nutrition for a quality, and great tasting product.
Youth Sport Nutrition Services
If you're looking for personalized nutrition advice, consider Youth Sport Nutrition nutrition services. We offer professional consultations with qualified sports nutritionists at below-market rates to help you explore the best solutions.
Author: Annie Skidmore- BSc Sport & Exercise Science Student
Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about nutrition for youth athletes and is not meant to replace professional dietary advice or individual nutritional counselling. Every child's nutritional needs can vary due to factors such as age, size, physical activity level, and medical conditions. We strongly recommend consulting with a registered dietitian or a healthcare provider before making changes to your child's diet, such as adding food powders. YSN and the author of this article do not take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, dietary modification, action, or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this article.
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 Neuhouser ML. The importance of healthy dietary patterns in chronic disease prevention. Nutrition Research. 2019 Oct 1;70:3-6.
 Wirth J, Hillesheim E, Brennan L. The Role of Protein Intake and its Timing on Body Composition and Muscle Function in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. The Journal of nutrition. 2020 Jun 1;150(6):1443-60.