Nutrition: The Right Fuel for You and Your Softball Player

Eat Smart Play Safe Logo copyWe parents want to provide our darling daughters (DD) with the proper equipment, training and nutrition so that they can run onto the softball field and play their best. No hunger pains. No sugar highs (and crashes). Food — proper nutrition — is a critical component of an athlete’s success at any age. Recently I attended a youth sports and safety panel for the program Eat Smart, Play Safe, which was developed in 2013 by Pop Warner Little Scholars and DSM Nutritional Products. What I learned reinforced what I already know: Proper nutrition is a critical component to the success (or failure) of our softball players. And we parents are the gatekeepers of good nutrition and healthy habits, especially when our DD are young. If we teach them now, they will benefit for a lifetime so let’s get started.

Elizabeth Somer Fettuccine a la Tomato and Basil RecipeWhen you DD gets involved in softball (or any sport) it’s a great time to look at your family’s eating habits. It’s up to you to teach your DD to eat the right foods and in the proper proportions. What? You aren’t sure what that means? Well, you aren’t alone. Here in the United States we eat waay too much meat and carb-rich foods. We need to encourage our young athletes to eat more vegetables and fruits. One of the best ways we can encourage good health is by modeling the behavior we want our kids to adopt. That means we adults need to show our kids how to eat a healthy, varied diet that is in the right amounts to fuel our bodies. Eat proportionally and eat the right foods. Check out Appetite for Health. Food coach, registered dietician and co-founder of the site Katherine Brooking and her team offer up recipes, advice and will answer questions. Check out the tabs “Recipes” and “Healthy Bites” for food ideas.

It’s a two-pronged approach the way I see it: What your DD (and you) eats when she’s with her coaches and teammates and what she eats at home. A  survey done by Eat Smart, Play Safe shows that when it comes to snacking “71% of survey participants regularly provide fruit as the snack of choice for their kids, but on-the-go (pre-prepared) snacks are particularly popular. In fact, more than half of parents (56%) provided chips or crackers as a snack whereas a mere 17% regularly provide vegetables as a snack for their children.”

First, if her coaches (or the snack parents?) aren’t providing healthy snacks at games, that needs to change. Coaches are in charge and they need to set the ground rules for proper nutrition on and near the ball fields. Donuts don’t have a place in the dugout; sugar highs and lows don’t make a focused athlete, or even an ultimately happy and healthy kid. Obesity is out of control in our country, especially among our young. Talk to your DD’s coaches, ask them to set up a meeting with parents, then set guidelines for providing healthy snack options: cut-up fruit, cut-up vegetables with healthy “dips,” yogurt, and water, water, water. Give a list of what is acceptable healthy food for your young athletes. Focus on what is okay, not on what isn’t. Be positive! When you provide healthy snack options your DDs will feel better, play better and learn how to make healthy food choices for life. Lay the groundwork now.

Second, we parents are the gatekeepers of what foods live in our homes. If you don’t buy it, then your DDs (and you!) can’t eat it. Toss the cookies and sugar-filled snacks, juices, Gatorade and sodas; get rid of the salt- and chemical-filled “prefab” snacks and other stuff. Fill your pantry with low-salt, whole grain foods. Fill your freezer with antibiotic free, low-salt meats and veggies for dinner. Load your frig with fresh fruits and veggies. Cut and wash them as soon as you bring them home from the food store. Put them in see-through containers in the front of the frig. Offer those up for snacks. Pack them in everyone’s lunches. Eat them yourself.

One of the side benefits? You and your whole family will likely lose weight and be healthier. You will become fitter along with your DD. There is no such thing as “hiding” a sugar-laden food from your DD so you or your spouse can eat it when “she isn’t around.” You need to woman (or man) up: It’s time for you to get healthy and teach your DD how to live healthy.

Give your DD a daily multivitamin. Because, let’s face it, some kids are pickier eaters than others and some can’t eat enough to get proper nutrition.

And consider an Omega-3 DHA supplement as well. It’s the single most important thing you can do for your DD’s brain health, according to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, brain coach, neurologist and author of the book Boost Your Brain. Brain health is critical and sometimes concussions happen. By eating a well-balanced diet, taking a multivitamin and taking an Omega-3 DHA supplement (they come in chewable for kids) your DD will be ahead of the curve if, God forbid, she suffers a concussion.

Disclosure: I was provided transportation to and from the Youth Sports Nutrition and Safety Panel. No request to share any particular point of view was made. All opinions expressed here are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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