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Eating Healthy At Tournament Time

What separates a great athlete from a good one is discipline and this means the difference between winning and losing. Kids know the things they should and should not eat.  However, they don’t always follow suit. And this might be easier said than done for baseball and softball players during tournament time when there are many different restaurants and fast-food establishments that serve delicious, but not really healthy foods.

During tournament competition, your child’s nutritional needs do not have to suffer.  As a parent, you can help your son or daughter eat healthy during tournament competition. Remember, they’re not just competing, they’re growing! 

Healthy eating is what athletes need to do in order to perform at their best. Fruits, vegetables and grains are dietary staples. These foods provide carbohydrates, which are the primary fuel source when they are working hard at practice or during games. Protein foods provide amino acids, which are the building blocks their bodies use to make all kinds of different proteins, including muscle tissue. Proteins should be an important part of your child’s meals.

Recommendations for dairy foods are to have 3-4 servings per day. Choose lower fat versions. Dairy foods provide high quality protein and often some carbs, and are also great sources of calcium and vitamin D.  Realistically, fats will be second only to carbohydrates in terms of calorie contributors in a diet. When kids eat them, try to have them steer clear of the unhealthy versions and towards those that can make them healthier. Unhealthy fats include butter, the fat around meat, fats in most fried foods and the fat in whole dairy products. Healthy fats are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in fish and a variety of plant sources, such as nuts.

Playing sports boosts your child’s need for calories. Somehow, you need to help your child get all of these extra calories from healthy food sources. Not on the list is what you find in most convenience stores, coffee shops or vending machines—chips and soda do not make the cut.  An occasional treat is fine but should not be the mainstay of your child’s diet plan.

The single largest contributor to fatigue during sports is dehydration. Kids need to consume plenty of fluids before, during and after practices and games. The best fluids are water and sports drinks. Juices may cause stomach upset during exercise. Carbonated beverages can cause bloating, and can cause a false fullness before fluid needs are met.  Remember, kids don’t always realize they’re dehydrated, so encourage proper hydration.  Plan for the road:  Keep water bottles and sports drinks with you and in the car just in case.  Drinking regularly is the best preventative step.

At baseball and softball tournaments, there are usually concession stands that sell different kinds of foods – a lot of them unhealthy. We realize it is hard to keep your child from being enticed by such foods. A suggestion would be that when time allows, eat with your child at a restaurant that serves healthy and delicious meals prior to the game.  This way, your child will be too full to even notice the enticing junk food.

If you do not have time for dinner, you can pack your own foods, like fruits, low-fat cheese snacks, granola bars, nuts, trail mix, yogurt, light sandwiches (grilled chicken or low-fat peanut butter on whole grain) or some fresh vegetables for snacking before and after the game.  And of course, do not forget those bottles of water and sports drinks.

It won’t be easy, but your child’s health is a challenge worth fighting for.

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