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Preferred Fuel Sources for Youth Athletes 

Spring sports are here and if you are concerned about what to feed your young athletes this list may help. I have put together a list of the highest nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates and fats so you can build meals and snacks with the highest quality foods. Micro and macronutrient composition of meals is essential to performance and recovery so utilize this list to get out of your rut and incorporate new foods throughout your day!

Best Fruits & Vegetables for Youth Athletes 

Aim to get something from every color every day!!

GREEN: Mixed greens- spinach, arugula, kale, romaine lettuce, Broccoli, brussels sprouts and bok choy, asparagus, celery, cucumbers, Kiwi, green grapes and zucchini. 

WHITE/ YELLOW: Cauliflower, Napa cabbage, parsnips, corn, Yuka, red skinned potatoes, banana, plantains, Sun kiwis (they are delicious), starfruit, spaghetti squash, pineapple and yellow squash. 

RED Tomatoes, red apples (my favorite is sweet tango apples), cherries, raspberries, strawberries, radish, red bell peppers, goji berries and pomegranate seeds. 

ORANGE: Carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges, mandarins, orange bell peppers, acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, and cantaloupe.  

BLUE/ PURPLE: Blueberries, blackberries, purple sweet potato, grapes, purple cauliflower, plums/ prunes, raisins, red grapes, eggplant, purple carrots, purple cabbage and beets.  

Best Carbohydrate Sources for Youth Athletes 

  1. Whole Grains like faro, quinoa, brown rice and whole wheat pasta or orzo, rolled oats or Irish/ steel cut oatmeal. Whole grain or multigrain bread.
    • If white bread is preferred look for a high quality sourdough bread 
    • Whole wheat english muffins and bagels are also wonderful
  2. All varieties of lentils and beans (like chickpeas, red beans, black beans, etc…)
  3. Whole grain waffles or whole grain pancakes
    • I like Kodiak Cakes, Kashi and Birch Benders brands cause they taste great, have fiber AND have some protein
  4. Crackers (look for whole grains, real ingredients, and as much fiber as possible)
  5. Granola and high fiber cereal (look for varieties with <8g of sugar per serving and no food colorings)

Best Protein Sources for Youth Athletes 

  1. Game meats (grass-fed/ organic is preferred) like Elk, Bison, Venison, Wild boar & Yak
    • Pork is also a great source of protein. Pork tenderloin is very lean and easy to meal prep. You can use pork chops too. 
  2. Fish & seafood (wild caught or organically & sustainable farmed is preferred) like salmon, rainbow trout, arctic char, seabass, cod, halibut, tuna (if canned look for sustainable sourced/ mercury tested), shrimp, mussels, and crab
  3. Poultry, like  chicken breast, chicken thigh, ground turkey, turkey breast or turkey burgers.
    • A medium to large chicken egg
  4. Lean Beef (grass-fed/ organic is preferred)  like lean cuts include filet, flank steak, skirt steak & 93/7% ground or better
  5. Dairy including cottage cheese or plain Greek yogurt or Icelandic yogurt, organic is preferred
    • Do not purchase flavored yogurts. Purchase plain, and add your own fruit, all natural jam, vanilla extract or cinnamon to keep the added sugars minimized  
  6. High-quality whey protein powder: 1 serving per day and best when used as a pre- or post-practice snack
    • Preferred Brand: Thorne Labs whey protein or Optimum nutrition Gold Standard whey protein
    • Unflavored protein powder: NAKED Whey Protein
  7. Complete Vegetarian Protein Sources like Tofu/ Edamame/ Tempeh
    • Vegan Protein Powder: Thorne Labs Whey Protein or 1st Phorm Phormula 1 Vegan protein
    • You can create a complete vegetarian protein by combining whole grains & beans or lentils for another vegetarian option 

Best Healthy Fat Sources for Youth Athletes 

  1. Mixed nuts: almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts or macadamia, pistachios or peanuts 
  2. Nut or Seed butter like peanut butter, almond butter or sun butter (sunflower seed butter) 
  3. Seeds: pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, or hemp seeds 
  4. Avocado
  5. Oils: olive oil (best for low heat cooking & salad dressings), avocado oil (best for medium-high heat cooking), or coconut oil (best for high heat cooking & baking) 
  6. Butter, ghee, or tallow
  7. Cheese: goat, feta, mozzarella (these three are lower in saturated fat) or cheddar, Swiss, provolone, and Munster 
    • Organic cheese is preferred 

In Health & Happiness – Jessica Murgueytio, Registered Dietitian, Rehab 2 Perform

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