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The Best Foods for Active Kids

As parents, ensuring that our children have the energy and nutrition they need to thrive is paramount, especially for those engaged in physical activities and sports. Proper nutrition not only supports their growth and development but also fuels their performance and recovery. Here’s a roundup of some of the best foods to incorporate into the diets of active kids:

Complex Carbohydrates: 

Whole grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, and quinoa are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates that provide a steady release of energy. These foods are ideal for fueling kids before practices, games, or other physical activities.

Fruits and Vegetables: 

Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and immune function. Encourage your kids to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as berries, oranges, apples, carrots, bell peppers, and leafy greens to fuel their bodies with essential nutrients.

Lean Proteins: 

Lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, tofu, and legumes are essential for muscle growth, repair, and recovery. Incorporate these foods into your child’s meals and snacks to provide the building blocks their bodies need to support their active lifestyles.

Healthy Fats: 

Healthy fats are an important source of energy for active kids and support brain health and hormone regulation. Include foods rich in healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil in your child’s diet to keep them feeling full and satisfied.

Dairy or Dairy Alternatives: 

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and protein, which are essential for bone health and muscle function. If your child is lactose intolerant or follows a dairy-free diet, opt for fortified dairy alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, or coconut yogurt.

Nutrient-Dense Snacks: 

Snacks play a crucial role in providing energy and nutrients to active kids throughout the day. Opt for nutrient-dense snacks such as yogurt with fruit, trail mix, whole grain crackers with cheese, hummus with veggie sticks, or a piece of fruit with nut butter to keep them fueled and satisfied between meals.


Staying hydrated is essential for supporting optimal performance and preventing dehydration, especially during physical activities and sports. Encourage your kids to drink water throughout the day and provide them with a reusable water bottle to take with them to practices and games.

Pre-Workout Fuel: 

Before engaging in physical activities, it’s important for kids to consume a balanced meal or snack that provides a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Examples of pre-workout snacks include a banana with peanut butter, Greek yogurt with granola, or a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread.

Post-Workout Recovery: 

After exercising, kids should refuel with a combination of carbohydrates and proteins to replenish glycogen stores and support muscle repair and recovery. Offer post-workout snacks such as chocolate milk, a turkey and cheese wrap, or a smoothie made with fruit and protein powder to help them recover and refuel after a tough workout.

Limit Processed Foods and Sugary Drinks: 

While occasional treats are okay, it’s important to limit the consumption of processed foods and sugary drinks in your child’s diet. These foods are often high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and empty calories, which can negatively impact their health and performance.

In conclusion, providing your active kids with a balanced and nutrient-rich diet is essential for supporting their growth, development, and performance. By incorporating a variety of whole foods such as complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats into their meals and snacks, you can help them stay energized, hydrated, and ready to tackle any physical activity or sport that comes their way.

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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. Before coaching, she was a collegiate field hockey player for Lock Haven University. In her spare time (lol), she is head of marketing for iSport360 and the co-editor of the Youth Sports Survival Guide. The Youth Sports Survival Guide is the largest youth sports newsletter in the world. 

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May 30, 2024

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