February 23, 2014

Nutrition: Homemade recipes solve snack dilemma

By Julie Nicoletti

Some things are so important that they are worth repeating. Like “Say, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’” and “Treat others as you would want to be treated.”

In my role as a sports nutritionist working with thousands of high school, collegiate and professional athletes — either as individual players or as teams — as well as many families who are motivated to make healthy choices part of their daily lives, there are a few things I say over and over again.

I understand that every athlete is different and their recommendations will be different based on their goals, sport, body composition, schedule and food preferences, as well as allergies, medication and a number of other variables. For example, the recommendations would be different for a baseball player looking to gain lean functional muscle to increase power at the plate or on the mound vs. a player who may need to lean out in order to gain speed.

But the message is the same. When it comes to being a competitive athlete, timing and choices are everything.

On average an athlete makes about 200 food and drink choices throughout the course of the day, yet many are aware of only about 10 percent of them. The goal is to become more aware of those choices and then to have the answers. Here’s what I say over and over again: “If it swims, runs, flies, grows from the ground or falls from a tree and you can still recognize it, it’s a much better choice than something that comes in a shiny wrapper, crinkly bag or cardboard box.”

Adopting that philosophy can be fairly easy when it comes to meals because there are lots of options, but athletes tend to ask many questions about snacks. Many are used to eating snack foods such as chips, crackers, pretzels and cookies.

Ideally, snacks should look like mini meals — a second breakfast midmorning or a second lunch midafternoon. That might work on some days, but for high school and collegiate players, they are going to need something more portable. They may need to have it with them when they leave home at 7 a.m. even though they may not be eating it until 3 p.m., or perhaps the dining hall isn’t open at 2 p.m. or they need to eat something during class.

One solution is a homemade trail mix. This can be made by assembling your favorite nuts, seeds, shaved coconut and dried fruits in whatever proportion you like. Make a big batch and then portion it out for a quick and easy snack that won’t freeze or melt. Homemade trail mix is easy to store since it doesn’t require refrigeration and will stay fresh in lockers, backpacks, dorm rooms and car glove compartments.

Keep in mind that as healthy as all of the ingredients may be, they also are calorically dense. That’s great if a player needs to add calories in order to gain weight, but those who are trying to lean out should not mindlessly munch on this snack.

Another thought would be a homemade granola, one that is flavorful and crunchy and may be eaten alone or mixed in with fruit, berries or Greek yogurt. Try this recipe for a healthy delight. It may be modified for those who are gluten insensitive or allergic to nuts. You also may add ingredients similar to those in the trail mix.

Julie Nicoletti is a nationally recognized sports nutritionist who specializes in coaching student and professional athletes to optimize performance and minimize the risk of injury through nutrition. As the founder of Kinetic Fuel Performance Based Nutrition, Julie combines her professional training as a registered pharmacist with her experience as a certified sports nutritionist to customize plans for athletes and teams enabling them to see transformative results. Learn more at www.kineticfuel.net.

Twitter: @kineticfuel1
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