Are your kids always hungry? My kids are ALWAYS. HUNGRY.
I will fill the pantry and fridge to the brim and just because we are out of bananas, they complain to me there is ‘no food in the house.’ We need to buy stock in Dole Organic Bananas. I’m not sure we could exist without them.
Snacks are my mom-super-power. I spend a lot of time thinking about our family’s nutrition (definitely on the boat where storage space is limited) but most specifically for my sporty kids. As my teens get older and their athletic commitments more intense, I incorporate hydration and recovery foods into our family meal planning.
I became mildly obsessed with sports nutrition years ago after watching little league players drag themselves, hungry and low on energy from dugout to field on hot summer days. When I saw my own kids do this, I would sneak an orange slice or three through the chain link when the coach wasn’t looking. Voila, energy restored! Moms know things.
Sometimes I see families hit the nearest fast-food chain with their car-load of hungry team players. Sophia’s Middle School softball team/bus used to stop at Wendy’s on the way home from away-games. Nooooooo! I need to clarify, I harbor zero judgement on any dad (or mom) who finds a way to quickly and cheaply feed a carful of hungry kids. Fast food chains were made for this. But if there is information out there to help us make better travel-snack choices, we must try to incorporate some up-leveled nutrition if and when possible. Because of their newly adult-sized muscles and endless appetites, teens need more nutrients now and they (& their sore muscles) will be happier in the end.
“The nutrition habits your children form now influence the way they relate to food as they progress in their athletic life.” – Bj Gumkowski, YogiTriathlete
I found that healthy snacks make a HUGE difference in our homeschool. When our kids are hungry or dehydrated, they can’t focus, so they don’t learn. It is a simple fact that our brains and bodies need nourishment at the right time (ie: when we need it) in order to best perform in any capacity. Smart-snacking is good business.
So if this is true for students crushing brains cells to learn hard math, why wouldn’t the same principle apply to sports performance?
This summer I took some time to specifically research sports nutrition for my young athletes. Our (almost) 16 year old daughter sails and plays volleyball. This means long days on the water and intense practices on the volleyball court. When I pick her up from practice or a regatta, she is STARVING and will eat anything in sight. Sophia is taking on most every athletic challenge that comes her way lately, but to sustain this pace, she has to take care of herself. Post-play stretching and nutrition-based recovery will serve her well (volley-pun intended).
In addition to other sports, Oliver plays baseball often and at a high level. While he plays multiple positions, he mainly pitches and catches. The effect of these two positions alone is brutal on the shoulders, knees and toes. At almost 14 years old, he appears to be growing nearly an inch a month, so his muscles are constantly playing catchup to his stretching, growing bones and tendons.
“Growing Pains” are a real-deal in our household. I take nutrition-based recovery to heart as I want our kids to play a lifetime of sports.
15x Ironman triathlete and personal trainer Bj Gumkowski further reminds us that, “Choosing foods mindfully, meaning you are 100% present in those moments you are actually selecting them, brings into alignment your thoughts and actions of what is best for your kids. The foods you prepare for them to digest before, during and after the sporting event is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s about longevity and allowing your children to participate in the sports they love not only today, but well into the future, preparing them for that one day when they decide to complete an Ironman!”
We are constantly looking for car-snacks and post-game-lunches that provide anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, protein, fiber and healthy vitamins. All these work together to hydrate, help with recovery, prevent inflammation, strengthen performance and hopefully also prevent injury. The list below includes some of our family favorite sports-specific snacks:
– Blueberries. Fresh or frozen (great on hot days) are super anti-oxidants and prevent inflammation. All berries, actually will do the job. It is easy to buy a bag of washed, frozen, unsweetened berries and throw right in the cooler.
– Oranges or watermelon. The very best snack when you are asked to bring a bulk snack for the team! You cannot lose with chilled, cut-up, easy-to-grab fruit.
– Bananas… sliced with Nutella or peanut butter are the top choice here. A good post-game sandwich is PB&H (peanut butter, banana and honey) on whole grain bread. Bananas: Monkeys like them, so we do too.
– Add to your berries and bananas, whole grain barley and/or oatmeal for morning healthy carbs and fiber.
– Chilled red, yellow and orange bell peppers cut up in a baggie are Oliver’s favorite pre-game snack. Along with whole cherry tomatoes, apples and cherries, these are excellent for hydration and perfect to take the edge off while driving to or home from a game.
– Other veggies: cucumbers, carrots, celery. raw, chilled, cut in to sticks. No dip required.
– Smoothies. Our family favorite recipe: one banana, a cup of fresh spinach, a blob of almond or peanut butter, ice and unsweetened almond milk (sometimes we add a little Nutella or chocolate chips). Gah! so good.
– Whole fruits. Plums, nectarines, clementines, apricots are the easiest-ever teen car snacks.
There are many alternatives to gluten these days, so substitutions are easy. Since gluten can cause inflammation, we have reduced our family’s gluten intake across the board. And GF oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies are dee-licious.
Apparently the optimal window for young athletes to eat something that aids in their recovery lays in the 30-60 minutes after their workout, practice or game. So, along with your fan-chair, sun-hat, extra water bottles and abundant first aid kits, keep a small soft-cooler in your car with some version of the list above.
Maybe an Ironman is in our kids’ future, or maybe it isn’t. But why not prepare them for whatever level of physical fitness comes their way with mindful snacking now. Ok sports-moms-and-dads: please message me your tricks of the teen-athlete nutrition trade ~ and best of luck in your games!
About BJ Gumkowski
BJ is a 15x Ironman triathlete, Ironman 70.3 World Championship and Boston Marathon qualifier, personal trainer, triathlon and running coach, certified in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and a 200-hr Live Love Teach trained yoga instructor. He works with athletes of all ages and abilities with their nutrition, mindset and performance goals.
YogiTriathlete is the lifestyle, wellness and coaching team of Jess and BJ Gumkowski. It is centered around their passion for sharing a recipe of vibrancy that has transformed the way they approach everything in their life. It’s a recipe that takes the work out of life and gives entry to the coveted flow state. Jess and BJ refer to this process as tapping living the awake and ready life. The YogiTriathlete method merges athleticism and mindfulness to achieve optimal performance. Through physical fitness and mental fortitude, Jess and BJ train their athletes how to lift their limits and master their goals. Their high vibe mindset is translated to each athlete through customized one-on-one coaching. Every YT client is seen and trained as a unique and powerful individual.