Dietician offers advice on how to fuel young athletes on the go

Plan ahead with snacks so you don't need to stop for fast food or at a convenience store
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 1:04 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - It’s officially summer break for families and with sports tournaments and summer vacations, it might actually feel a little more hectic than even the school year.

Ashley Chrisinger is a registered dietitian at Aspirus. She said the best advice for families is to plan ahead.

“When summers get hectic, especially with kids and travel sports, and you’ve got tournaments every weekend, the food planning and the meal prepping goes to the wayside,” Chrisinger explained.

She said data regarding diet quality in a person’s lifespan is the lowest in kids 14-18 years... and sometimes even poor starting at age 8.

“They’re at an age where they’re growing really fast. Their nutrient needs are really high. If they’re athletes, and they’re using up fuel really fast, you want them to replace those nutrients. So it’s important to get all of these good fruits and vegetables into their diets instead of relying on convenient fast foods-- foods that are no fruits and vegetables, foods that aren’t good quality proteins. Too much salt,” she explained.

She also said parents need to be cautious when use restaurant meals as a way to celebrate a big win or a busy weekend.

“It’s something we do in our culture, it happens and it’s okay to do that. But it can create habits and routines so kids grow up and feel like celebrations have to have food associated with them. The other thing I would caution is if you’re at sporting events all day long, eat concession food, and then you go to a restaurant with more of the same you’re missing out on all of the day’s needs for potassium and fiber and magnesium,” she said.

Chrisinger said it’s also important to be mindful of the amount of sugar kids consume in sports drinks.

“There are so many options with sports drinks. They almost all have either some sugar or some artificial sweeteners. So if you can get water, water is the best. Some of those electrolytes that we’re missing when we sweat... a lot come from fruits and vegetables. We don’t always have to get them from a sports drink,” said Chrisinger.

She said parents looking for a better alternative to sports drinks should consider coconut water. She said it contains both magnesium and potassium.