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Proper Nutrition: Top 10 Best Foods for Young Athletes

Proper nutrition is a key component of athletic performance, and for young athletes participating in sports, it is crucial to fuel their bodies with the right foods. The best nutrition supports growth, provides energy, and aids in recovery. Let’s explore the top 10 best foods for youth sports athletes, ensuring they have the necessary nutrients to excel on and off the field.

Nutrition is so important for athletes. As coaches, we encourage athletes to practice and become better at their craft. What about when they leave practice? Coaches want their athletes to feel their best, and that doesn’t end with practice. Here are some of the best foods to eat to maintain high levels of training.

Lean Protein

Lean protein sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, and tofu are essential for muscle development and repair. Protein also aids in recovery after intense workouts or competitions. Including protein in each meal and snack helps young athletes build and maintain strong muscles.  Meats, such as lean beef, pork, and poultry, are rich in iron, a mineral that carries oxygen to muscles. Iron plays a crucial role in preventing fatigue and optimizing athletic performance. Including lean meats in the diet ensures an adequate intake of iron.

Whole Grains

Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal provide sustained energy due to their complex carbohydrate content. These carbohydrates are an important fuel source for young athletes, providing energy for training sessions and enhancing endurance during games.

Fruits and Vegetables

Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and recovery. They provide essential nutrients, hydration, and aid in proper digestion. Encouraging a variety of fruits and vegetables in the diet ensures a wide range of beneficial nutrients.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein and calcium. It also contains probiotics that support a healthy digestive system. Including Greek yogurt in snacks or smoothies provides a quick and easy way to replenish protein stores and support bone health.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, are nutrient-dense foods that provide healthy fats, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. These snacks offer sustained energy, promote satiety, and aid in recovery due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Nut Butter

Natural nut butters, like peanut butter or almond butter, are excellent sources of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They provide sustained energy and can be paired with whole grain bread, fruits, or added to smoothies for a nutritious and delicious boost.

Hydrating Beverages

Staying properly hydrated is essential for young athletes. Water should be the primary source of hydration, but sports drinks or coconut water can be beneficial during intense exercise, as they replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Limiting sugary drinks and opting for hydrating beverages is crucial for optimal performance.


Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse, providing high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They can be enjoyed in various ways, such as scrambled, boiled, or incorporated into omelets. Eggs also contain choline, which supports brain health and cognitive function.

Low-Fat Dairy Products

Low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are excellent sources of calcium, which is crucial for bone health and strength. Calcium also supports proper muscle function and contraction. Opting for low-fat varieties helps reduce saturated fat intake while still obtaining the necessary nutrients.

The right nutrition is vital for young athletes to perform at their best and support their overall growth and development. By incorporating lean protein, whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods into their diet, youth sports athletes can ensure they have the energy, stamina, and nutrients necessary for success. Encouraging a well-balanced approach will help provide a more holistic-centered athlete. 

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About the author: 

Amy Masters is a sports mom, coach and club administrator. She has been coaching youth sports for more than 10 years. She started Jr Lions Field Hockey, the youth recreation program for the Hunterdon County community growing it from 40 players in year 1 to 150 players by year 3. A few years later, she saw the love and competitiveness grow then started Omega Field Hockey Club serving NJ and PA players. Prior to coaching, she was a collegiate field hockey player for Lock Haven University. In her spare time (lol), she is head of marketing for iSport360, where she brings her love of sports to a bigger audience. 

Learn more or request a demo of our youth sports software that is helping teams improve communication, organization and player development.

July 9, 2023

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