Professional athletes are health conscious. Part of being a professional, and making it through the long season--healthfully and successfully--is good nutrition. This is equally true for serious young athletes, and particularly important for developing positive, lifelong habits.
If you struggle to consume the recommended two to three servings of vegetables per day, the following tips may help you to enhance your vegetable intake--and your health.
Below are some tips on consuming vegetables, a vital part of a healthy sports diet, from Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes from the Pros.
- Eat more of the best vegetables, less of the rest. In general, colorful dark green, deep yellow, orange, and red vegetables have far more nutrients than pale ones. Hence, if you dislike pale zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers, don't work hard to acquire a taste for them. Instead, put your efforts into having more broccoli, spinach, and winter squash--the richly colored, more nutrient-dense choices.
- Include lettuce, tomato and green or red peppers on your sandwiches and wraps.
- Keep baby carrots and cherry tomatoes handy in the front of the refrigerator for easy snacking.
- Bring a baggie of cut-up veggies to practices, games, and tournaments. In an environment with hungry, thirsty young players, you'll be surprised how popular veggies are, and how quickly they get eaten--particularly if you include a low-fat ranch dressing for a dip!
- Eat colorful salads filled with tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, spinach, and dark lettuces. Pale salads with white lettuce, cucumbers, onions, celery, and other pale veggies offer little more than crunch. When smothered with dressing, this crunch becomes highly caloric. Alternatives to a pale restaurant salad include tomato juice, vegetable soup, a steamed veggie or, when you get home, a handful of raw baby carrots for a bedtime snack.
- Fortify spaghetti sauce with a box of frozen chopped broccoli or green peppers. Cook the veggies alongside the spaghetti (in a steamer over the pasta water) before you add them to the tomato sauce.
- Use a blender to finely chop veggies to include in meatloaf, soup, and stews.
- When all else fails, eat fruit to help compensate for lack of vegetables. The best alternatives include bananas, oranges, grapefruit, melon, strawberries, blueberries and kiwi. These choices are rich in many of the same nutrients found in vegetables.
Read more tips like these in "Food Guide for Soccer--Tips & Recipes From the Pros" by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark, RD. The book addresses nutrition questions and concerns of soccer athletes of all ages, and offers almost 50 recipes from players in Women's Professional Soccer. Find the book at NancyClarkRD.com or at Amazon.com.