General Nutrition Guidelines for Raising Healthy Teenagers

We aren’t just trying to raise great athletes… we’re trying to raise healthy humans. We can do this by making ourselves and our kids more accountable to decisions they make that fuel their health and performance, on and off the mat. Teaching healthy habits during adolescent years where these kids are vulnerable, receptive and moldable, makes it likely they will carry these choices into adulthood. Sports and competition will always be something athletes crave, but once those days are over, the habits that we create early on are the ones we carry with us forever.  Kids need to understand what they're eating. MyPlate does a good job of putting foods into certain categories that are easy to understand like dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. By understanding the different categories of foods, they can then learn how to “craft” their plate on their own for each meal including some of each category. Many kids get very little nutrition based education in school, so doing this at home in younger years may be beneficial.  Kids don’t just need to understand what category of foods they’re consuming, but they need to understand why they’re important, especially as they age and become more involved in sports or activities. And not in a super scientific way, but simply put — protein (meat, dairy, meat alternatives) is important for building muscle, carbohydrates (fruit and grains and vegetables) are important for giving your body energy, and fats (nuts, seeds, oils, some dairy) is important for the brain function and development. From a broader, more scientific standpoint, there are many more functions that these foods do for our bodies, but if they’re young, those are great, simple explanations. Our kids need to understand that vegetables aren't the only thing you need to consume to get “big and strong”. Kids need to be eating every category at each meal. What’s typically lacking in an adult or teenager’s diet, are vegetables and protein, while carbohydrates and fat sources are much easier to fulfill in the typical American diet. When cooking, packing lunches, preparing snacks for the week, or even grocery shopping, try to be conscious of what protein and vegetables sources you are purchasing or packing for yourself and your child. Some easy ways to get in more protein without feeling like it’s all your eating, would be to invest in some high protein milk — Fairlife or some dairy-free milk brands now offer this, greek yogurt, part skim cheese sticks, pasta or rice made with extra protein or vegetables/bean/lentil sources, peanut butter or peanut butter powder added to oatmeal, using bone broth to make rice, quinoa, or soups, and Kodiak brand pancake or waffle mix. Some of the more obvious protein sources would include any type of meat or fish, eggs, egg whites, lentils, and beans.  Canned veggies with low sodium or frozen vegetables are a great way to stock up on nutrient dense vegetables during the quarantine without having to visit the grocery store every week for new, fresh veggies. I’ll even put bags of fresh spinach or kale in the freezer to make it last longer, too. Some creative ways to get more vegetables in would be to add some spinach or kale to smoothies or dips, mixing veggies into your dinner, like a stirfry or shepherd’s pie, cooking with different spices or toppings (a little lemon juice or parmesan cheese can make veggies go a long way), or having some fresh cucumbers, baby carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, etc… cut up and ready for snacking throughout the day. Dipping fresh veggies in hummus, veggie dip, peanut butter, or some of their favorite dressing is another way to get some extra vegetables in their diet.  Here are some sample meals of mine that I’ve photographed during quarantine to use as examples for the athletes I work with. You’ll notice that each meal includes a protein, a vegetable/fruit/grain, and a fat source: Shepherd’s Pie with Green Beans — 

Baked Greek Lemon & Garlic Drumsticks with Broccoli, and Brown Rice & Quinoa Blend — 

2 Eggs Baked Into a Yellow Pepper, Avocado Toast & Greek Yogurt

“Bowl of Stuff” with Lemon Pepper Tuna, Quinoa, Green Beans, Kalamata Olives, Broccoli, and Spices — 

Bruschetta Chicken Thighs, Green Beans & White Rice — 

Homemade Chicken “Fried” Rice (TONS of veggies in here) — 

2 eggs, Sweet Potato “Hash”, Brussel Sprouts & Whole Grain Toast — 

With wrestling specifically, athletes may need to get more specific with their nutrition in order to meet weight class requirements, in which case I’d recommend listening to Clint Wattenberg’s podcast episode here or purchasing his book.  Nutrition doesn’t have to be so specific and intimidating for adults OR for kids. It can be simple. It comes down to healthy habits, a balanced diet, a little understanding of what that means, and some execution. -- Be Well,Taylor Allen Flanick