One of the most common questions I get asked from parents is if I can talk to their child about nutrition. Every team and player I work with gets educated on high performance nutrition, but it has to start in the home and be reinforced by their parents (who actually need the education).
When I ask players how their nutrition was during the day they often reply, “There’s no food in the house”, or “I had some chips and cookies after school.” So here’s the thing I think we all understand, young hockey players don’t do the grocery shopping and they don’t prepare their own meals. Parents need to hold themselves more accountable for supporting the healthy eating habits we talk about.
If parents don’t want their kids eating junk, then they shouldn’t buy it. If they don’t want their kids skipping meals, then have healthy food already prepared in the house. I know parents are busy running kids around from practice to games on top of managing everything else, but there is always time to prepare proper healthy meals.
So here we go, these five tips below will help players performs at a higher level and increase their energy and focus for their games and workouts.
#1 PREPARATION IS KEY
As mentioned above, parents have to make the time to prepare meals. You can’t just give kids twenty bucks all the time for fast-food. The best way to be prepared is cook a bunch of food the night before and eat left-overs for a couple days. Store the meals in containers and stick them in the fridge for quick and easy nutrition.
#2 ELIMINATE THE JUNK
Again, briefly mentioned above if you don’t want kids eating junk, then don’t buy it. Sugary cereals, cookies and chips are foods that we all know lacks nutritional value and if it’s in the cupboard or fridge they’re going to eat it. Load up on fruits and vegetables instead. Slice them up, put them in a Zip-Lock bag and kids are more likely to eat it if it’s prepared for them.
#3 EAT HEALTHY WHOLE FOOD
Balanced nutrition includes foods from all food groups. Choose foods that are organic and free of added preservatives for added dietary benefit! Yes healthy whole foods can be expensive, but not as expensive as giving kids $20 all the time for fast-food. A balanced diet includes eating healthy proteins and carbohydrates together to get the proper nutrients and energy players need.
#4 HOW MUCH TO EAT
This is about portion control and it’s very important to know how much kids should be eating in one sitting. It’s not hard for an active young hockey player to crush a huge plate of pasta or eat 4-5 pieces of pizza, just make sure it’s not right before a game. Blood sugar levels rise dramatically after consuming high sugar or high carbohydrate foods and can cause a crash in energy not too long after. This can have a very negative effect on a player’s physical stamina and mental focus during a game. A good guideline to follow is to consume smaller meals more frequently throughout the day to sustain energy levels.
#5 TIMING OF MEALS
This is critical for getting optimal energy when needed for games. Different foods eaten in different amounts will digest, breakdown, and release different amounts of energy at different times. So, understanding what foods to eat (reference tip #3), how much to eat (reference tip #4,) and when to eat is the secret. As a rule of thumb, consume a larger meal approximately 2.5-3 hours before a game, and eat a small power-food snack 20-30 minutes before a game. When that large meal is finally digested it will sustain your energy throughout the game, especially for the third period. And that small snack will digest faster, giving the boost you need to get fired up for puck drop.
Remember, education starts in the home and needs to come from parents. Being prepared will save you time and money while setting your kids up for ultimate performance and a healthy lifestyle in the future.
Photo: Michael Stern Flikr