Your young soccer player needs plenty of fuel to keep up with practices and game days. This means a balanced diet every day, even those days without soccer tournaments or training, and special attention to carbohydrates and water. Soccer requires energy for controlled bursts of activity, stamina for long games and energy to wait between games or practice sessions without growing lethargic. A healthy diet, including plenty of snacks to keep energy up, is what your child needs most.
Never let your soccer player skip breakfast. Instead, provide a meal with carbohydrates, protein and calcium. Scrambled eggs with lean ground beef and spinach mixed in, seasoned with ketchup, salsa or dry ranch seasoning mix if your child prefers, make a hearty breakfast with plenty of iron. You can use egg whites only to control cholesterol. You can wrap the scramble in a whole-wheat tortilla for a breakfast burrito, or substitute black beans or lentils and brown rice for the meat if your child is a vegetarian. For a lighter, calcium-rich alternative, stir whole-grain cereal and sliced bananas or berries into your child's favorite yogurt flavor. Whole-grain fortified cereals also provide plenty of nutrients and energy for the day ahead. Serve any of these breakfasts with 100-percent juice to add vitamins. Orange or grapefruit juice can help your child absorb iron, as well.
Lunches and Snacks
Keep your child's energy up with a lunch that contains lean meat, reduced fat cheese, whole-grain bread and a piece of whole fruit. Use pretzels instead of potato or corn chips for a better energy boost with less fat. Raw green beans, baby carrots or sugar snap peas can also give your child lunchtime or snack time vitamins and minerals, and have a naturally sweet taste that can overcome many children's urges to avoid healthy foods. Pack extras of these in your soccer player's lunch so she can snack on them after school or before practice. For alternatives to sandwich lunches, pack tuna salad spread into the hollow of celery sticks, or layer strips of lean lunch meat and dark leaf lettuce around cherry or grape tomatoes, fastened with toothpicks. These can serve as snacks or lunches, depending on how much you provide. A baggie of dry cereal also works well as a snack, especially when mixed with dried fruits such as apricots or raisins.
Whole-grain pasta or brown rice, whether eaten a few hours before a game or afterward, provides the carbohydrates your soccer player needs to keep going, plus other nutrients that refined pastas don't have. Top the pasta or rice with vegetables stir-fried, steamed or sauteed in olive or sesame oil and your kids' favorite spices. Add a lean meat for protein, or use beans, chickpeas, nuts or seeds. Fish is also a good protein for young athletes, especially fish high in essential fatty acids such as salmon.
During and After-Game Nutrition
Provide enough water for your child so he can drink a small amount every 15 to 20 minutes throughout the game. This, plus regular drinks of water throughout the day and avoiding caffeinated beverages, will keep him hydrated despite the loss of water from sweat that occurs naturally during the game. After a heavy practice or game, don't let your child fill up on greasy, fatty foods. At this point, the muscles are ready to process nutrients to replenish the loss from activity, and junk food won't give your child's body what it needs. Instead of taking the team out for pizza and sodas to celebrate a good game, opt for a backyard barbecue with lean burgers and whole fruits, if possible. If not, go out for pasta instead of pizza and make sure salads and water are provided for the team.