Nutrition for Young Players
Healthy nutrition is a critical part of your child’s development — both as a young person and as a young hockey player. Follow these tips to ensure your child is ready for practices and games. Our partners at Communities ChooseWell have provided a number of articles that provide tips and suggestions on how to eat well and promote healthy living during the hockey season.
Game Day Nutrition
On game day everything counts and athletes must eat well to perform at their highest level, on demand and from beginning to end.
- Drink water, not sugar drinks. It’s important for your child to day hydrated for practices and games, and water is generally the best choice. Avoid soda beverages and sport drinks that are full of sugar.
- Eat balanced meals. During the day, make sure your child eats from all the essential food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, meat substitutes, dairy, healthy fats). It’s not necessary to incorporate everything into each meal, but your child should eat some of these items each day.
Game Day Nutrition Challenges & Possible Solutions
- If a player has low energy and is losing mental focus they should be provided with fuel such as fresh fruit, a sport drink, unsweetened juice or a granola bar.
- Quality ingredients provide quality nutrition. Given the choice between processed flour or whole grains, choose whole grains. Rather than processed fruit snacks, eat whole fruits. In general, stick with unprocessed whole foods and avoid processed packaged items as much as possible.
Examples of Meals from Breakfast to Post-Game, Food to Avoid & Timing
- Eat carefully on the road. When possible, stop at a grocery store and eat fresh from the deli department, or create your own healthy meals with whole grain breads, meats, nuts, cheeses, vegetables, and fruit. If you know you will be eating at a restaurant, do some research ahead of time to find places that serve balanced meals and healthy food.
- Avoid fried foods and sugary sauces. Fried foods are difficult to digest in general, and they often feature unhealthy trans fats if you are eating at a restaurant or a concession. Similarly, many sauces and dressings from restaurants and stores are full of unhealthy sugars, hydrogenated oils, and chemical additives. Either reduce the serving portions of these sauces and dressings or create healthy alternatives at home using olive oil and natural ingredients.
Coaching happens on and off the ice, so how does one coach healthy food choices?
Coaches have the ability to foster a culture of healthy eating within a team setting.
Depending on the age group of the athletes, parent involvement and buy-in to the healthy eating for sport may be needed. Coaches can provide athletes and their parents with resources that have pre- and post-hockey meal ideas.
These resources should also include reasoning behind consuming certain food or food groups, as this will help spark motivation to comply with the suggestions. Coaches can also work with parents to coordinate a tournament potluck. For example, coaches could lay out 10 different foods that should be consistently included in the potluck (e.g., fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, yogurts, sandwiches). Parents could then take turns bringing each food item and set up the items “buffet” style for the athletes during a tournament lunch break.
To encourage athlete hydration, coaches can also invest in a set of reusable team water bottles that are constantly refilled to ensure they are available to athletes before, during and after competing.
For tournaments held at your local facility, coaches can work with the local concessionaire to ensure healthy meals and snacks are available for the home and visiting teams. Talk with your coach about how healthful eating can be incorporated for the upcoming season.
Improve your on-ice performance by drinking water? It’s that easy!
Hydration is a key component of sports nutrition that is often overlooked by young athletes.
Drinking water before, during and after an activity can improve mental and physical performance. Sports drinks are only needed during intense, continuous activity that is lasting longer than an hour, for example, during a tournament. This prolonged activity is draining the body of electrolytes (e.g., phosphate, potassium and salt) and sports drinks have the ability to replenish these nutrients. Unfortunately, these sports drinks are full of added sugars (sugar and dextrose) that do not provide a sustained energy source.
With water being the best source of hydration that is readily available to athletes, it’s important to have a reusable water bottle on hand to help make drinking water a habit! Find water boring? Try adding some citrus, watermelon, or cucumbers to boost the flavour profile!
Fill up those water bottles and boost your game today!
Don’t let ‘Away’ games affect your routine & performance - Tips for eating healthy while on the road
Eating healthy while travelling can be a challenge, but is easier when the team is on the same page with the same goals!
When on the road, pack items that can last without refrigeration for a few days, ie. bananas, trail mix, whole-grain bagels, and/or nut butters. If you keep a cooler in your car, other snacks you could pack include unsweetened yogurt products, cut up veggies and dip, hard-boiled eggs and/or hummus! Out of town tournaments are often associated with eating at restaurants.
A coach or parent representative can contact the restaurants ahead of time to prepare a modified “Team Menu” that is passed out upon arrival. This menu can solely advertise options that have been pre-approved by the coach to ensure each athlete still has autonomy in their choice, but each option is healthy! When narrowing down the menu, choose options lower in fat, sugar and sodium, while higher in fibre. Small switches such as baked sweet potato fries instead of the regular deep-fried russet fries will lower fat content and boost micronutrient intake (e.g. fibre and vitamin A). Suggesting athletes choose water over soft drinks will increase hydration and decrease sugar intake, as well as save a few dollars per bill.
Think ahead before travelling to out of town games and consider packing some healthy snacks to limit the amount of times you’re visiting fast food vendors.
Not another bake sale; revamp your team’s fundraising efforts to see benefits!
Fundraising is a great way to collaborate as a team and community to achieve financial benefit.
Fundraising can also be used as a means to promote healthy behaviours to athletes. As a team, you should decide on a fundraising platform - the more of you interested in the fundraiser, the greater the likelihood that your fundraiser will be a success! Healthy foods can be sold, such as fruit or veggie kabobs and protein shakes to raise money.
Of course, don’t forget about using non-food items! Some non-food fundraising ideas could be selling sport-related items such as water bottles and mouth-guard kits. Fundraising events can also be a good opportunity for team bonding. Hosting a recreational hockey tournament or a dance-a-thon would foster financial income, collegiality, and physical activity! A step-count challenge could also be organized with minimal effort, presuming everyone uses their own pedometers (via smart phones or watches), with a 50-50 style buy-in to raise funds and create friendly competition.
Suggest a new fundraising idea for your team this season!