It’s Holiday Time: A Nutrition Guide for Youth Soccer Players
The holidays are a wonderful break from the rigors of soccer practice and regardless of whether you are an elite player in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy or a passionate player looking ahead to tryouts, this is usually a time of food indulgence!
How to deal with all the tempting choices and still keep the ratio of body fat down and be ready to perform on the field in January? With childhood obesity rates exceptionally high — 18.4% of children ages 6 to 11 and 20.6% of children ages 12 to 19 are obese according to the latest Childhood Obesity Trends, we wanted advice on how to encourage a healthy holiday season.
We thought everyone, including the most diligent players, could use a few helpful tips from one of our favorite experts, Nutrition Columnist Heather Mangieri.
Youth Soccer News: To be your best, you have to take breaks. And, the holidays are the perfect time to rest up and relax a bit.
The key to enjoying time off without sacrificing your sports performance depends on what you eat.
Soccer players, here are eight tips to keep in mind over the holidays:
Soccer Players: You Can Eat It All, Just Not All At The Same Time
Portion sizes — or the amount of food that you eat in one sitting — is by far the most important consideration when eating over the holidays.
The holidays tend to bring lots of different foods, and you can have them all — you just can’t eat them all at the same time.
To help you stay on track, try to maintain the same meal pattern that you eat during training.
The foods that you eat may be different, but eating at similar times to your regular schedule can help encourage you to make healthy choices and will make your transition back to training easier.
Soccer Players: Don’t Skip Activity Altogether
Letting go of all your healthy habits, all at once is a recipe for disaster.
You don’t have to participate in your typical training schedule, but you shouldn’t ditch activity altogether.
Take walks, go jogging or gather your relatives together for a game of family soccer. Visit the gym and keep stretching — maybe try a yoga class with the family?
Soccer Players: Stay Hydrated & Drink Water
Maintaining your hydration habits over the holidays is one habit you don’t get a break from.
Keep a water bottle with you at all times and keep drinking.
Holidays or not, getting adequate fluids every day is important to feel and be your best.
Soccer Players: Set Reasonable Limits
There tend to be lots of treats and goodies sitting around the house over the holidays and that can make it tempting to keep eating. While it’s important to celebrate, and enjoy some time away from your typical training and meal plan, you don’t want to fall into a trap of unhealthy habits.
Set limits for yourself. Allow yourself to eat whatever you want on the actual holiday, and a few extra treats on the days leading up to it, just don’t let it be every day.
Soccer Players: Don’t Deprive Yourself of Favorites
Depriving yourself of your favorite foods or strict avoidance of foods you view as ‘bad” is setting yourself up for disaster. That’s because, over time, restrictions can lead to over-thinking about food, cravings, and overeating.
If you really want a cookie or a piece of cake, eat it.
Remember, one piece of cake is not the problem. Be mindful of your portions, it will help you return to your post-holiday performance without a glitch.
Soccer Players: Keep Your Post-Holiday Training and Competition Schedule Top of Mind
You’ll likely spend time over the holidays with family and friends that are not familiar with your sports training schedule and typical food choices.
That’s ok, as long as you don’t let another person’s unhealthy choices impact yours.
One way to help you stay on track is to keep your post-holiday training and competition schedule at the top of your mind.
Imagine training with your coach, think about your personal goals or seeing that you have a competition in just a few days can help keep you motivated.
Soccer Players: Eat Smart – Load up on Fruits & Vegetables!
Sweets and treats don’t offer much in the way of nutrition, but fruits and vegetables do.
Not getting your recommended intake of all vitamins and minerals on one day of the holiday won’t hurt you, but missing those key nutrients day after day might.
Vegetables are a great low-calorie way to load up on the nutrients not found in your favorite holiday splurges. That way, you can have your cake, and your nutrients, too
Soccer Players: Have Fun!
Don’t forget fun! The holiday is a perfect excuse to take your mind off of training, sports nutrition and athletic performance.
It’s also a nice break for parents or caregivers that get you to all of those training sessions and prepare your food. While you are enjoying your rest, just keep in mind some of the above tips.
Putting these strategies into practice will show you that you can have some time off and still be a winner.
Related Article: Hydration & Nutrition Advice for Soccer Players
Heather Mangieri, RDN is a food, fitness and nutrition consultant located in Pittsburgh, PA. Her book, FUELING YOUNG ATHLETE is the go-to guide for parents, coaches, and trainers on how to properly fuel and hydrate young athletes.