What is the Best Meal Plan for Teenage Athletes?

It is not an easy task to be the best athlete from a teenager. It is their time to build their body and shape for their selected sports. Most teen athletes failed to do this because they can’t find any specific food routine for them. It’s a hard task to find and create a balanced meal plan for a growing, hungry teenager, especially for an active teenage athlete. This Free meal plan for teenage athletes can help you start and give your body the fuel they need to compete and train at their utmost potential.

A teen athlete’s diet must consist of a balance of foods from the different food groups. The diet must include healthy grains, vegetables, various fruits, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats. Some foods like sugary and fatty foods and beverages need to be limited in an athlete’s diet. You can learn and create your diet plan after reading this article.

What is the Best Diet for Teenage Athletes?

We all know that maintaining physical and mental health and well-being and eating a proper healthy diet accompanied by regular exercise is very important. But for teenagers, this is a different scenario.  A restrictive diet is not for them, especially young athletes shouldn’t be on a hard diet because this is the perfect time for their growth, maturation, and development. For proper growth, a lot of energy is needed to fuel up their body and mind. Nothing is more important for a teen Athlete than appropriate nutrition.

Teenage time is for building healthy habits and a positive body image. At this time, they shouldn’t focus on how many calories they have gained or lost, but instead, focus on fulfilling their body’s need and hunger for food. They have to choose nutritious food items for their meals. It’s better to listen to their body needs than other people’s judgment on how much they should eat.

Here are some important habits for teen athletes:

  • Create an eating plan that focuses on fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and lean protein foods.
  • Never skip meals.
  • Focus on carbohydrates to gain energy. It is not the time to look and worry about low-carb diets.
  • Eat something before exercising(within 30 minutes to 3 hours before).
  • Stay hydrated with water. It’s better to keep sports drinks for training or sports that last for more than an hour with heavy sweating.
“(Young athletes) Not only do need optimal nutrition for fueling and recovery from training, but they also must meet energy demands of growth and maturation†  - Jill Castle, MS, RDN and childhood nutrition expert

What Athlete Should Eat in Everyday

Mainly it depends on the age, gender, body size, and activity level of a teenage athlete how many calories they need to have in a day. Approximately about 3,000 calories are perfect for athletes of a young age according to the above attributes.

An athlete can divide these 3,000 calories into three meals and 2-3 snacks in a day. Every meal should have 800 calories and 200-300 calories gained by having snacks.

The best way to have all the important nutrients needed to fuel and support growth, development, and exercise is by balancing and having various foods. Making a food group chart can massively help a teen athlete. They can look at a balance of nutrients. A teen can follow the chart below and maintain 3,000 calories per day.

 Serving Recommendations:Examples:
Grains10 ounces per dayChoose healthy grains such as whole grain bread, tortillas, pasta, crackers, cereal, rice, quinoa, oats.
Dairy Products3 cups per dayChoose low-fat products such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, etc. Dairy-free products can be a great choice as well for teenagers.
Fruit2 1/2 cups per dayChoose a variety of colors, textures, and forms such as fresh, frozen, dried, canned, cooked.
Vegetables4 cups per dayChoose a variety of colors and forms such as fresh, frozen, canned, dried, cooked, juice.
Protein foods7 ounces per dayChoose a variety of lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs.
Athlete Should Eat

Foods to Limit: Athletes should focus on fueling their bodies with nutrient-rich foods and take less where sodium, saturated fat, or sugar are at a higher rate.

Here’s where to find exact serving sizes for each food group: FruitVegetablesGrainsProteinDairy (on MyPlate.gov).

Meal Plan for Teenage Athletes

What is the Best Meal Plan for Teenage Athletes?
Meal Plan for Teenage Athletes

In my meal plans are written for males and females at 3,000 calories per day. It may need to be adjusted based on personal recommendations for or fewer calories.

This meal plan contains 3 meals at about 800 calories each and 3 snacks between 200-300 calories. Use this meal plan for ideas, then experiment to find what works best for your personal style, tolerance, and exercise goals.

I hope you find this helpful! It would be a very good place for high school athletes. I like to include a variety of favorite foods with healthier spins in an appropriate balance. You don’t need to “diet” during your sports season, eat smarter, and have a nutrition plan.

The email will be used only to send you information about our newsletter and fuel teen activities. You have the option to use the unsubscribe link included in each newsletter.

What Should Teen Athlete Eat?

In my plan, I have covered a week of meals. You have to gain more knowledge to find a proper meal plan for yourself. Here I will describe some more of my favorite food for each meal and snack. The list is not specific because all athletes don’t need to have 3,000 calories per day with 800 calories per meal.

What is a Good Breakfast for Teenage Athlete?

A teenager is not permitted to skip breakfast due to any reason. One athlete can help prepare something the night before that is grab-and-go if needed.

Teenager athletes need to fuel up on breakfasts that focus on healthy carbohydrates, protein, and other nutrient-rich foods. Some of my favorite breakfasts can be simple, quick, and perfect for a teenager to prepare and grab on the go.

Here are some great breakfast examples:

  • Greek yogurt, granola, and berries or bananas
  • Protein smoothie, banana, and toast
  • Overnight oatmeal with peanut butter, seeds, and fruit
  • Green smoothie and a hard-boiled egg and toast
  • Whole-grain cereal with milk, fruit, and a yogurt
  • Eggs, toast, fruit, and milk
  • Avocado toast with eggs and fruit
  • Whole wheat pancakes/waffles, nut butter, milk, or 100% fruit juice
  • Omelet with veggies, cheese, and toast
  • Whole wheat muffin, a slice of ham, fruit
  • Whole wheat bagel breakfast sandwich with eggs and ham
  • Peanut butter toast, banana, and a glass of milk.

What is a Good Lunch for Teenage Athlete?

An athlete needs to focus on a lunch that focuses on healthy carbohydrates, lean protein, vegetables, and some healthy fats will adequately fuel a teen athlete. It is better to take lunch from home to school.

School lunch is an option but does not provide enough calories or other nutrients for high school athletes. If school lunch is the best choice for a teenager, revisit the menu ahead of time and choose non-fried foods. You may need to add school lunch with extra meals and snacks.

Here are my favorite lunch ideas:

  • Meatballs and pasta with sauce, mixed veggies
  • Pita with hummus and veggies
  • Pasta with meatballs, bread, veggies
  • Bean and beef burrito with tomatoes and avocado, veggies
  • Veggie pizza, celery, carrots, fruit.
  • Sandwich with deli meat, fruit, pretzels, celery
  • Chicken and veggie tortilla wrap, fruit
  • Grilled chicken sandwich with coleslaw and cucumbers
  • Salad with chicken, feta cheese, veggies, dressing, apples, crackers
  • Rice bowl with lean beef, beans, mixed veggies.

What is a Good Dinner for Teenage Athlete?

Athletes normally have their dinner after workouts or competition. So, it needs to refuel the teen with carbohydrates, protein, fluid, and other important vitamins and minerals. Again I recommend dinner should be prepared by the parents with help from the athlete.

Dinner ideas for teen athletes:

  • Chicken, sweet potato, and black bean skillet
  • Turkey burger and steamed mixed veggies
  • Homemade fish tacos and fruit
  • Chicken and veggie pizza with a side salad
  • Pitas with chicken, pesto or hummus, and veggies
  • Whole wheat pasta with meat sauce, veggies, Italian bread
  • Taco salad with lots of veggies
  • Fish, brown rice, broccoli
  • Wraps with shredded meat, beans, salsa, and veggies
  • Vegetable and potato soup with breadsticks
  • Shredded chicken or pork burritos
  • Turkey meatballs, sweet potato mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, snap peas

What are Healthy Snacks for an Athlete?

Depending on the individual, some athletes do better than others with certain foods right before exercise. Athletes should bring their Snacks to school and eat during class breaks and before practice. Normally snacks should be chosen by the athletes themselves according to what makes them feel best before exercise.

Here are some favorite snack ideas:

  • Peanut Butter & Jam Sandwich
  • Turkey sandwich
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Cold cereal and milk
  • Hummus with whole wheat crackers and veggies (hummus and veggies could bother some individuals during a workout)
  • Chocolate milk or low-fat milk
  • Banana and a handful of trail mix
  • Protein bar
  • Almonds and fruit
  • Banana, celery, or apples with peanut butter
  • String cheese and an apple or crackers
  • Cheese and whole-wheat crackers
  • Dried fruit and trail mix
  • Fruit puree pouches and Fig bars
  • Pretzels or crackers and peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt with granola or fruit
  • Energy bar (look for brands low in added sugar and saturated fat)
  • A protein shake or smoothie

It’s hard to choose the best Snacks for sports. It’s a common question for Athletes; What are Good Snacks for Sports? Athletes need to find the best snacks for sports that focus on healthy carbohydrates, some protein, and fluid. Too much fiber can cause stomach discomfort during a game. So, they have to be conscious about not taking too much fiber.

How Many Snacks Should Teen Athletes Eat Per Day?

It’s hard to maintain the same kind of energy and physical fitness as a teen athlete. They need extra calories and nutrients each day to support physical activity. That’s why it’s important to have good snacks at a certain period. Like to fit in, this extra fuel is during 1-3 snacks per day. Usually, mid-morning, afternoon/pre-workout and post-workout snacks are a great time to fit.

Teens need to have 100-300 calories of snacks per day. The maximum number of teens tend to take snacks from highly processed foods from school, vending machines, or restaurants. These aren’t usually the best options for snacks. The best choice is to bring some good options to school that are ready to go.

What Foods Should Athletes Avoid?

Fatty foods, sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and energy drinks are the food item that teen athletes should avoid to keep their fitness in good condition. They mustn’t have these foods, especially during their season.

The time of competitions is the most important when they have to take more care of their food. Teen athletes should avoid spicy foods, high fiber foods, carbonated beverages, gassy foods like beans, broccoli, or cauliflower. Sometimes dairy products need to be avoided also because they can be sensitive for some individuals.

These food items can cause stomach discomfort during exercise. That’s why these foods are needed to avoid. Teen athletes should make their best pre-workout meals and snacks by knowing their limits by practicing throughout the season.

What are the Best Fruits for Teen Athletes?

Fruit is another food that gives many important nutrients to fuel physical activity and provides major performance benefits. Fiber, vitamins B, magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and more micronutrients are obtained from the fruits. These nutrients are important for doing massive physical activity and for the proper growth of a teen athlete. Fruits like berries, watermelon, bananas, oranges, tart cherries, and dried fruits are the best fruits for teens. But any fruit can be beneficial for teen athletes.

It’s better to have about 2-3 servings of fruit per day. Great ways to fit in fruit during the day are fruit smoothies, cut-up fruit for snacks, whole fruit, canned fruit in juice, dried fruit, etc.

What are the Best Vegetables for Teen Athletes?

Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C. Spinach, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, celery, and sweet potatoes are the best vegetables for teen athletes. They can also choose from beans and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans as vegetables.

What are the Best Supplements for Teen Athletes?

It’s not good to have supplements as high schoolers because it is their time to grow and develop their fitness. It can harm their body as a side effect. But if teen athletes need to have extra supplements to grow faster than regular ones, there are many product choices. The most common supplements for teen athletes are whey protein, creatine, and caffeine.

Teen athletes need a professional trainer or doctor to supervise them to have extra supplements. Besides that, it is highly advised not to take any supplements. It can create more problems than their benefits. They can read more articles about when, why, and what supplements teen athletes can take.

Related Question:

Do Athletes Need More Sugar?

Of course, An athlete needs more carbohydrate sugar than non-athletes! About 24,000 calories are needed for an average teenager; 45 to 65% (about 270 -390 grams)of it comes from carbohydrates known as sugar. 

Again, if we calculate the necessity of carbohydrates, athletes need more energy and nutrients per day, at about 3,000 or more calories. That would equal about 338-488 grams per day or 1350-1950 calories per day coming from carbohydrates.

The source of these extra sugars is many, such as whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, and starchy vegetables. An athlete needs to take easily digestible sugars. It is needed most during a long, intense competition, and this may come from carbohydrate drinks or bars of simple sugars.

There are limitations for the teenager to take added sugar. The recommendation for all teenagers is no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, equal to 6 teaspoons. Normally a teen athlete doesn’t measure that and gets too much-added sugar.

What are the Best Foods for Teenager to Eat?

Foods like lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables are the best foods for teenagers to keep into their diets plan. There are also other varieties of these foods a teen athlete can take.

A teen athlete has to focus on not taking many packaged, highly processed foods. They need more focus on the whole, plant foods with some meat that is more beneficial for a teenager.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “8 Gameday Nutrition Tips for Young Athletesâ€. – Written by Jill Castle, MS, RDN. Published October 25, 2017.
Accessed at: https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/tips-for-athletes/gameday-nutrition-tips-for-young-athletes

-our editorial board has reviewed this article and has been approved for publication according to our editorial policy.

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