Nutrition for Young Athletes – Tips from Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller
Shannon Miller Aug 01, 2019
Family playing in the park

Summer break? More like, summer burnout. As the summer heat rolls in, so do the swim meets, little league practices, and summer camps. Sure, you’ve got your fun and free time, but that just means it’s more important than ever to avoid the exhaustion. Sports and outdoor activities become routine, making it a little more important to hydrate and eat properly.

I learned the importance of nutrition early in life. I had to. I was ten 10 years old and the pickiest eater of my siblings. I also spent over half my week in a gym; I burned every calorie I consumed; and I pushed my body to its limit. My coach and parents teamed up to correct my nutrition, so that’s how Juice Plus+ became a part of my training regimen.

Now I’m seeing the struggle come full circle as I try to get my kids to eat healthy while they’re moving a mile a minute. I truly believe in starting from the beginning; had I not been taught about nutrition when I was young, practicing floor routines in the backyard, I wouldn’t have carried that mindfulness through defining moments of my athletic career and beyond.

I find myself taking extra steps to make sure my little ones are wearing sunscreen, drinking enough water, and eating healthy snacks. And because I know the struggle, I’ve learned ways to flip it into #parentingwins along the way.

Staying Hydrated

An orange Gatorade cooler is iconic for any summer camp or outdoor sports event. BUT, inside it awaits an inevitable sugar crash. Instead of those super-sugary sports drinks, get your kids excited to reach for water. The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us that kids need at least 6 cups of water per day when they’re maintaining an active lifestyle. And add an extra few refills if they’re spending time outside to make up for the water they lose through sweat. So since it’s summer break, I’ll just leave this math right here—that adds up to at least an extra 48 ounces every day.

One thing my kids have taught me— never underestimate the power of a cool water bottle. I put 1 Captain America sticker on my son’s water bottle, and he hasn’t let go of it since. Encourage your kids to pick out water bottles they’re excited to take to camp, or grab some cheap, generic bottles and let them decorate with stickers and permanent markers. If the bottle is big enough, draw smiley faces down the side of the bottle to give them a visual goal of how much water to drink. The farther down the water line goes, the bigger the smile gets.

Pro Tip: Velcro a dry erase marker to the side of a reusable plastic or glass water bottle and encourage your kids to tally their refills on the bottle itself. The marker will wash off, but the habit might just stick.

Getting Healthy Sun

Sunscreen is the bane of my kids’ existences. Swim shirts, coverups, and sunscreen aren’t fun, but they’re necessary to prevent sun damage that can lead to skin cancer. Did you know that even on a cloudy day, your skin is still exposed to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays?

Invest in hats. They’re underrated as far as sun protection goes. A hat protects the scalp, face, ears, and neck, during outdoor play. Again, try making it fun with crafts; tie-dye your swimsuit coverups, add fun pins to your hats.

Pro Tip: If preparing for full-sun fun, set a timer on your kids’ watch or phone that reminds them to re-apply sunscreen (American Academy of Dermatologists recommends reapplying every 2 hours).

Fueling Properly

And of course, beware the summer camp staples: popsicles, s’mores, and every other type of junk food ever invented. Counter the temptations by pre-packaging easy-to-eat fruits and veggies. Make your healthy snacks more accessible than the packaged snack foods, so they’re the first thing your kids see when they open the fridge or pantry.

Pro Tip: Add some extra nutrition by tossing Juice Plus+ Chewables in their lunchbox for a sweet treat. My kids eat those like they’re candy.

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