by Nicole Darabi on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Nutrition for female teenage athletes


Back in September I had the pleasure of hosting these cutie-pies in my kitchen for a nutrition seminar. We all know teens don’t always show the most enthusiasm towards anything labeled “healthy,” but I must say these girls came with great questions, positive attitudes and a genuine eagerness to learn more about eating a nutritious and balanced diet for their active lifestyles. And by active, I mean dancing anywhere from 10-14 hours per week after school, at school sporting events, and dance competitions. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! With my eyes glazed over after learning the ins and outs of daily dance team life, I reminisced about my own days in high school running track, doing schoolwork, and of course social hour with friends. (Oh my God we must have eaten at Wendy’s every day in my high school career, I’m shocked I didn’t weigh 800 lbs!) If I only would have known how much stronger and faster I would have been if I’d have paid a little more attention to what I was eating! Hopefully I caught this group early enough that they won’t make the same mistakes. (Pssst…yes I do workshops, connect with me if you have a group you would like me to speak to.)

I’ve been out of high school for 18 years now, GULP, but I’m not so old that I can’t remember what it was like. I wanted to approach these girls as a mentor of sorts rather than an authoritarian figure. You can’t scold someone into eating healthier. My number one goal was to get them to understand how much nutrient dense food their active little bodies needed to thrive in their sport. I explained what a normal day of food would look like for them – minus the pizza, Dutch brothers, and fast food. I looked up from my notes and had 12 sets of wide-eyed ladies staring at me in disbelief. Their faces spoke volumes! “Well, you’re not going to run your car on an empty tank of gas so why would you do that with your body?” Ahhhhhhhh, light bulb every time! Now we were getting somewhere!
Because I wanted to keep it very basic, I started with this great handout I found on Pinterest which explains what a Macro is. You hear me say that over and over in my blogs so here it is again: Proteins, carbs, fats. If you don’t how to decipher those three items then you’re not going to know what food is on your plate and how each of those impact your body. (See Macro handout) Next up: pop quiz. I pulled a bunch of food from my fridge and one by one held them up and asked them to yell out what it was, bingo they understood very quickly. We also whipped up a few healthy “on the go snacks” so they could learn to assemble food for themselves at home. (You’re welcome Moms!) 😉 All the while I was attempting to instill in them that any step towards health is a great one; you just have to start, there’s no need to be perfect.

The takeaways:

  • Baby steps are A-Okay! Small progress towards eating well is better than no progress
  • Small behavioral changes lead to big long lasting life changes
  • Start helping out at home a little more with meal planning
  • 4-5 balanced meals/day making sure to choose one item from each column of your macro sheet handout
  • Eat breakfast before you go out the door in the morning…every morning.
  • Complex carbs are our friends!
  • Try to avoid excess sugar – I don’t believe it is the devil and I realize teenagers are teenagers but please be cautious with your consumption
  • Imitation sugar mimics real sugar in your body and will cause you to crave more in the long run.
  • Just say NO to diet sodas.
  • You only get one body so treat it right
  • Think of food as fuel not a reward or a punishment

These girls we absolutely awesome and I hear from coach Jackie that they have already made great progress towards their healthy lifestyle change. Bravo ladies! Know a teenager that might benefit from this article? PLEASE SHARE IT! Know a group of athletes that need some nutrition direction? Let me know.

Remember, it’s YOU vs. YOU!

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