Balanced Meal Plans for Young Athletes

Balanced Meal Plans for Young Athletes
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Nutrition Needs of Young Athletes

Everybody requires a healthy diet in order to maintain well-being. Active children and young adults in particular require excellent nutrition to support not only a physically demanding lifestyle, but also a growing body. Eating well and focusing on balanced meals can play an important role in encouraging better athletic performance.

So what do active, growing bodies require? What should healthy meal plans for young adults include? Quality carbohydrates are important for energy production and sustainability during exercise. Carbohydrate stores provide easily accessible energy for the body to use during

Oatmeal and Berries

workouts. Complex carbs, found in whole grain breads, pasta, rice and cereal are important, but so too are simple carbohydrates found in fresh fruit and milk.

Protein is of course essential as well, particularly for the building and repair of tissue. How much is necessary? According to Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, multiplying body weight in pounds by .6 to .9 gives you the number of grams of protein a growing athlete requires. Eating a variety of quality protein sources each day, such as nuts, beans, fish, dairy, whole grains, poultry and some meat, getting enough protein is not difficult.

Some fat is also essential for energy as well as for maintaining well-being. Good sources of fat include nuts, seeds, avocados and minimally-processed vegetable oils.

And of course the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, which can be found in a diet that is rich in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains, is important.

Sample Meal Plans

Trail Mix

Try these sample meal plans for young athletes. Use the substitutions to create a variety of meals — eating a variety of healthy foods is the best way to ensure proper nutrition.

Breakfast Plans

  • 1 cup of fresh orange or apple juice

  • 1 cup of cooked oats, quinoa or amaranth

  • 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries or strawberries or one banana, sliced

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 cup of tomato juice

  • 2 slices of whole wheat toast, spread with butter

  • 2 soft or hard-boiled eggs

  • Half an avocado, sliced

Lunch Plans

  • Turkey or chicken breast sandwich on wheat bread, slice of lettuce and tomato

  • 1/2 cup of grapes, pineapple or one apple

  • 1 cup of pretzels

  • 1 cup of yogurt

  • 1 cup of apple, pear or grape juice

  • 1 cup of rice, cooked

  • 1/2 cup of beans, cooked

  • 1 cup of sliced carrots and celery or cucumber and broccoli with ranch dipping sauce

  • 3 ounces of sliced cheese

  • 1/2 cup crackers or toasted pita triangles

  • 1 cup of apple, pear or grape juice

Dinner Plans

  • 4 to 5 ounces of baked salmon

  • 1 cup of cooked rice, barley or quinoa

  • 1 cup of steamed squash, broccoli or asparagus

  • 2 slices of fresh bread with butter

  • 1 cup of milk

  • 1 cup of sliced peaches

  • 4 to 5 ounces of baked tofu, chicken or meatballs[

    Pasta and Meatballs


  • 2 cups of cooked pasta

  • 3/4 cup of tomato sauce with mushrooms, peppers or olives

  • 2 slices of fresh bread with butter

  • 1 cup of fresh apple or pineapple juice

  • 1 cup of ice cream

  • 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds

Try these meal plans and create your own, always making sure to include plenty of carbohydrates, quality sources of proteins and fats and a variety of fruits and vegetables. When young athletes are hungry in between meals, make sure they have plenty of dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers and yogurt to snack on.


Colorado State University. Nutrition for the Athlete.

Rice University. Protein Requirements for Athletes.

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