Teenage athletes need to pay particular attention to their caloric intake and meal planning. This is true not only in terms of the number of calories, but also in terms of composition, meaning where they get their calories and from what foods. Recent evidence suggests that the best diet for a young athlete is based in whole-grain carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and topped with healthy fats for sustaining energy.
A young athlete needs carbs for fuel, calcium for protection against stress fractures and bone strength, and iron to restore red blood cells and the iron that's depleted from sweat. It's a myth that an athlete needs extra protein; there is plenty in the regular diet. But the source of this protein should be lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, soy and peanut butter.
Also, it's important to drink fluids, especially when you're working out. Drink consistently throughout the day to get your eight cups of water, and then add fluids according to the intensity of your workout. Water is best, but sports drinks, skim milk and even a bit of 100 percent juice work well, too.
Working out requires fuel, as does a growing body. Good fuel equals good results in terms of muscles formation and sustainable energy. When you are on the go, you might need a snack or something you can eat quickly. The fast foods in a teen athlete's diet should be string cheese, yogurt, mixed nuts, dips and veggies, whole-grain bagels with low-fat cream cheese, or a whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter and banana or all-fruit spread.
If you have a bit more time, a smoothie is a great snack. Use one cup frozen fruit, one cup almond/soy/rice/ or low-fat milk, a dash of sea salt and cinnamon and blend. Almond milk is unique in that it is low in fat, rich in nutrients and naturally sweet.
Ideally, three different foods in each meal should cover the variety of vitamins and minerals necessary to maintain health, performance and growth. Here is a good example of a meal plan for a teenage athlete:
Breakfast: breakfast burrito (large whole-grain tortilla filled with two scrambled eggs, 1/3 cup of cheese and 1/4 cup salsa); a smoothie; and green tea or water
Snack: two sticks of string cheese; 20 whole-grain crackers; one cup of water; one cup of carrot juice
Lunch: chicken salad (romaine lettuce, one tomato, one carrot, 1/2 cucumber, 1/4 avocado, 6 oz. sliced chicken breast); 20 corn chips or a whole-grain roll; one cup skim milk; one cup water
Snack: 1/2 cup humus; one to two cups assorted cut veggies; one cup sparkling water; one cup pomegranate juice
Dinner: stir fry (6 oz. meat of choice, two cups veggies of choice, three tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce, two tbsp. olive oil); two cups brown rice; two cups sparkling water
Snack or dessert: 1 1/2 cup sliced fruit; three tbsp. whipped cream; 12 almonds; two squares dark chocolate