The term “soccer mom” is a stereotype you have probably heard or may have even been called. It refers to a suburban woman who spends much of her day transporting her children to various sporting events. As with many stereotypes, a partial truth can lie within. If you’ve ever hurried your kids from school to homework to their Little League game and passed through the nearest fast-food place on the way, you are not alone. This, however, is not the best way to get your child a nutritious meal before a game.
Avoid Proteins and Fats Before a Game
Proteins and fats can be an energy drain and can make your child feel lethargic, according to Dr. Henry A. Stiene, team physician for Xavier University in Cincinnati. It takes a lot of metabolic energy to digest meals that are high in protein and fat, energy that could be used for exercising the muscles. Athletes will tire more easily after eating too much fat, says Stiene. Start-and-stop activities, such as football, basketball, volleyball and soccer, will be more difficult to perform after a diet heavy in fats. It’s best to save burgers, fries or chicken strips until after the game.
Carbohydrates Are Good
Carbohydrates fuel the muscles and are good to eat about one to three hours before a game or practice, says Stiene. Good foods to eat before a game include breads, cereals, pasta, fruits, grains, juices, yogurt, milk and sports drinks. Before a game, your child should eat mainly carbs. Even something simple such as a bagel with peanut butter and jelly on it can get your athlete though the game. The small amount of peanut butter is not enough to affect your child’s energy level, says Stiene. For a quick snack before a game or during tournaments with concession stand foods, popcorn, pretzels and sports drinks are better choices than nachos, hot dogs and candy.
Not Hungry Before a Game
Some kids don’t like to eat right before a game or practice. In that case, Stiene recommends that you provide a bigger breakfast and lunch on game days. Your child can bring a sports drink to the game and eat after the game.
Calcium and Iron
Kids who are athletes need to have enough calcium and iron in their diet to keep their bones strong, according to the Kids Health website. They can get calcium in green, leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified orange juice, milk, cheese and yogurt. They can get iron from meat, fortified cereals and dried beans.
What Not to Eat
Some kids think that because sugar gives them an energy boost, it is good to eat before a game. Energy from eating candy bars or drinking sodas right before a game or practice will fade probably before the game or practice is over, making your child feel lethargic and drained, according to the Kids Health website.
If you purchase a packaged snack for your child to eat before or during the game, it is best to buy one that has fewer than 250 calories per package, according to Dr. Christine Wood, a pediatrician and author of “How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It.” Also, look for snacks that have no trans fats.