Well-Rounded is Not Just a Description of a Ball
As high school athletes, it is important to be fueling your body right to reach peak performance. While you may look in shape on the outside, is your body in shape on the inside? What I mean by that is, teens between ages 14 to 18 struggle the most on eating a well-rounded diet.
This happens mostly because you are still growing and require greater calorie intake than any other age group (check out page 153 of the link). So, make sure you are eating nutritious meals!
The Core Elements of a Healthy Diet
Important food groups that should be included in the everyday diet are vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and of course – protein. While you may be eating these things on a daily basis, are you actually eating enough of each group?
The Dietary Guidelines recommend 2 ½ cups of vegetables, 1 ½ - 2 cups of fruit, 6-8 ounces of grains, 3 cups of dairy, and 5-6 ounces of protein a day for 14-18 year-olds. (Build your own My Plate plan.) This means about half your plate should be made up of fruits and veggies and the other half should be grains and proteins (including 3 cups of dairy also).
The greatest area of struggle for teens is vegetables. An easy and delicious way to add more vegetables to the diet is with smoothies. You can’t even taste the greens in them!
Limit Foods and Beverages Higher in Added Sugars and Sodium
We tend to eat a lot of things we can easily grab like granola bars, fruit snacks, chips, cookies, and sugar-sweetened beverages. While these things are definitely easy – and even fun – to eat, they are high in added sugars and sodium which you want to cut down in you diet. Sugary foods often don't contain any of the other nutrients you need and may cause you to "crash" or run out of energy before you’ve finished working out or competing.
Foods high in added sugar and sodium can also lead to health problems such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. You should try and eat more whole foods that are nutrient dense. Examples of nutrient dense foods include whole grains, low fat or fat-free milk products, lean fresh meats (such as pork), eggs, beans, and nuts.
Eat Your Protein
Protein is important for muscle building and repair, which is very important to athletes. This means you need to make sure you are meeting your protein needs every day.
Many athletes turn to protein supplements when it is easy to meet your protein needs in the American diet using whole foods. Here is a recipe for Sweet Pork Stir Fry that would be delicious and protein-packed for dinner after practice!