Very few kids stop to think about nutrition when they’re looking at a weekend soccer tournament. They’re focusing on playing and winning, not on whether they’re helping or hurting their game with the snacks and meals they’re eating.
Many of us send our young soccer stars off for weekend trips to soccer games with a backpack full of snacks and the money to buy meals while on the road. Much to a parent’s horror, we frequently learn that the “meals” obtained through the weekend were not like the healthy fare our children are served at home. When it comes to traveling sports players, the road trip “meal” may come down to what can be had quickly at a mini-mart while the van or bus is being gassed up.
Not to panic: this situation can be salvaged. Start with packing awesome snacks.
Snacks for Young Athletes
When participating in tournaments, any soccer player can tell you that game times are not carved in stone. Games or meet schedules could be changed at any moment so the players have to be ready to go on short notice. Or they may need to keep their energy levels on an even keel for a few hours more than they planned. There are preparations that can take these changes into account.
Pack snacks with a thought toward eating every two to three hours and between games or sets in a match. When fueling up before a game, young athletes need to try to balance a proper combination of carbohydrates and proteins. Fats need to be kept to a minimal level.
Go with carbohydrates that can be easily and quickly digested. Adding in a protein source can help sustain energy levels. Remember that fats will slow down digestion, while cramping can result from too much fiber before the game.
Don’t forget the water bottle. Fill it with cool water or a sports drink that is low in sugar. Your young athletes should be hitting the fluids throughout the day. Make certain he or she does not go any longer than 60 minutes without drinking, and that’s the absolute maximum!
Lunch at the Mini-Mart
As unbelievable as it sounds, you can find healthy foods at the mini-mart. Finding something to eat that won’t throw your child into early-onset diabetes is possible at a gas station mart. With a little training, your child can navigate the minefield of the mini-mart and come out unscathed.
Protein bars. Burn that phrase into your child’s brain. Most mini-marts will have a selection of protein bars. These may not be an ideal main course for lunch but they are better than your run-of-the-mill Slurpee. These bars are more protein than most items and they have fewer calories from fillers and sweeteners.
Most mini-marts will have a selection of nuts and sunflower seeds. Almonds are the best choice in the former and unsalted go best in the latter choices. If unsalted almonds aren’t available, check out the cashews or peanuts.
Most marts today will also offer a variety of dried fruits and trail mixes. These may not have as high a nut ratio as you may like but they are better than a handful of Ho Hos. In today’s world, there may be a sandwich shop along the line of Subway’s in many gas stations. If your child ends up in a mini-mart with one of these around, teach him or her to steer in that direction.
And again, think water! If your player forgot to bring hers or ran out, you can find bottled water is always at a mini-mart, and it is far more preferable than a sugary soda.