Game Day: Food for Young Athletes

swim gala food pasta salad

My children are competitive swimmers. This means that they spend long days at the pool, especially during swim meets. Weekend races can take all day, but most of the time my favorite swimmers are sitting pool-side snacking while they wait to compete.

Packing the proper foods is important to keep them energized, but not weighed down.

Usually, I pack pasta salad, fruit salad and an assortment of crackers and granola bars. Trying to come up with new things takes me back to when I was a child. We had softball tournaments on the weekend. My mom always packed a cooler full of lunchmeat, carrots and other fruits and veggies. I grew so tired of lunchmeat week after week. So while it’s important for young athletes to eat healthy, it’s also important to add variety into the mix.

It’s also important to get your child’s take on what foods they want to eat.

For example, bananas are good to have on hand, but I haven’t gotten my daughter to eat a banana since she was three. So that’s not going to cut it. However, she does like banana bread. Score! Throw some whole wheat and grain into the mix for a healthy boost.

Packing for big swim meets also has become a fun family activity on Friday nights.

I make the pasta salad for the weekend, while my oldest chops fruit for the fruit salad. For this, she includes the essentials like apples, pears, grapes, and strawberries. Occasionally we have cherries and orange slices to toss in. A splash of lemon, cranberry and orange juice help preserve it for the next couple of days and adds a bit of sweetness. pasta salad gala swim food

For the pasta salad, we use bowtie pasta or rotini boiled in salted water. When the pasta is cooled, we add in things like red/green/yellow bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, chopped tomatoes (fresh or dried), slivered scallions, diced artichoke heart, shredded mozzarella, and cubed feta. We also toss in chicken or pepperoni slices for a bit of protein. Mince some spinach leaves and toss them in for iron. A combination of olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, brown mustard, parsley, oregano and onion powder holds everything together. If you don’t have one or two of these ingredients, that’s OK! This dish can be made many ways and still taste good. 

The most recent swim meet got me to thinking about what new foods I could introduce into our poolside picnic basket. It also got me thinking about breakfast and dinner.

Am I feeding my kids the right things they need to fuel and repair their bodies? What new things could I introduce that I haven’t thought of before?

Competitive swimmers spend many hours in the pool, so a diet that complements their training plan can maximize their performance. A poor diet can ruin their hard work, so nutritious and energy-rich foods need to be planned for in advance.

As if busy moms don’t already have to worry about snacks and dinners, right?!

What do you take along to games, meets and weekend tournaments for your young athletes? Share in the comments below!