How to Buy Healthy Foods for Young Athletes

Young athletes need both fuel to perform in their sports and overall nutrition for their still-growing bodies. Healthy, simple food will help them perform at their best and stay in top-notch health. It may seem that quality food is expensive or time consuming, but with a little planning, it can be economical and manageable. The most important thing is to avoid over-processed foodstuffs and eat a variety of foods.


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    Determine your young athlete's favorite healthy foods. Keep in mind that they should consume plenty of protein each day, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits and complex carbohydrates. Settle on some of the favorites as staples (i.e. chicken, tuna, broccoli, green beans and rice).
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    When you shop, look for the favorite items in bulk or on sale. Use your freezer to store excess meats, fruits and vegetables. Purchase fruits and vegetables in season and freeze (or even dehydrate) them for later use. Even strawberries, peaches and blueberries can be delicious in smoothies or with yogurt after they are frozen. Also purchase items in larger sizes. A 25-lb bag of rice or pasta can save money per pound and will be used up more quickly than you might think. If you worry about pests, store in a plastic bin. Purchase the most natural, highest quality food you can obtain or afford. If grass-fed meat and butter are not in your budget, go for good quality, natural options. Organic fruits and vegetables are best, but know which ones are most highly contaminated and therefore most important to buy organic.
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    If time is a factor — and it is for most busy sports families — cook several extra portions and freeze in meal-size packets or plan to consume a couple of times over the following few days. A vacuum sealer can be helpful for freezing items.
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    If your athlete drinks milk, consider purchasing whole milk. The extra fat is actually valuable for the developing brain.
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    For snacks on the go, use transportable fruit, granola, trail mix, or meat jerky. Other snacks might include raw carrots with hummus or healthy dairy dip, peanut butter on celery, pretzels or hard-boiled eggs.
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    Keep in mind that the more variety in the diet, the healthier it will be. Do not hesitate to try new things and encourage your athlete to explore different foods. Simple herbs and spices can also add flavor if some things taste bland, and many have health benefits as well.
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    Avoid processed "combination" foods. These usually contain hidden sugars, artificial sweeteners or unnecessary or harmful preservative ingredients. Breakfast cereals are generally over-processed, so if these are a must, look for those with lower sugar content and some portion of whole grains. Granola is simple to make and can be delicious and more nutritious than store-bought cereals.
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    Cook the items your athlete likes simply. You can make enough for several meals at once and freeze or refrigerate extras, which saves on cost as well as time. For example, cook a whole chicken and vary the presentation over several meals to maximize one effort.


  • Avoid sugary drinks. Water should be encouraged as much as your athlete will drink it. Sports drinks can be helpful in moderation, but water (filtered if possible) is your best friend.
  • Do not be tempted to use artificial sweeteners to make the foods appealing. These can be harmful if used in excess.
  • The more healthy foods your athlete eats, the more he or she will appreciate the healthier feeling and better energy. Don't be afraid to try new foods and alter the ratios of different foods if one plan doesn't work. Food is a highly complex and individual aspect of life. Embrace the journey and allow for change.

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Categories: Sports and Fitness