What Should a 14-Year Old Athlete Eat?

Teenage athletes will feel and perform their best when they are eating the right things in the right amounts. There is no such thing as eating “perfectly,” but there are basic nutrition principles of nutrition that are important for teenagers to understand so that their body will have all the nutrients it needs.

A 14-year old athlete should be getting a balanced diet full of whole grains, dairy products, protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Teens should get plenty of variety in the foods that they consume and they should also get a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat each time they eat!

Read on for more information about what a 14-year old should be eating, as well as tons of meal and snack ideas.

What is the Best Diet for a 14-Year Old Athlete?

Teenagers should avoid dieting and restricting foods. When food groups are cut out or calories are limited, it is much easier for a teenager to miss out on essential nutrients for growth and development, as well as for recovery from exercise. Restrictive diets can lead to obsessive thoughts about food, poor body image, and disordered eating.

There is a much easier way of maintaining a healthy weight, feeling good, and improving athletic performance! This way of eating encompasses two main principles.

  1. Listen to your body. Your body is really smart and will tell you what it needs. We are born with the ability to listen to our body cues, but as we grow up we often lose touch with that ability. Becoming a mindful and intuitive eater is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle!
  1. Understand basic nutrition and know how to give your body what it needs, when it needs it. This is especially important for athletes. Learning how to fuel properly and knowing what foods your body needs is essential to building a relationship with your body. 

Here are a few tips for healthy eating that incorporate both of these principles:

  • Remove distractions when eating. This will help you better be able to listen to what your body is telling you.
  • Focus on your five senses while you eat to help you be in a mindful state. What does the food taste like? What does it smell like? What is the texture like on your tongue? What does it look like on your plate? Can you hear a sizzle or crunch as you take a bite?
  • Eat regularly throughout the day. Do not go long periods without eating anything. Eating something is better than eating nothing!
  • You need plenty of carbohydrates to fuel your exercise. This means lots of grains, dairy, fruit, and vegetables! Carbohydrates are needed before exercise and possibly during exercise if you are undergoing a long or intense workout. Getting carbohydrates after a workout also helps to replenish the carb stores that you just burned through.
  • Ask yourself how different foods make your body feel. Do eating certain foods and certain times help you feel more energized for your workout?
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to stay well-hydrated.
  • Eat these foods in moderation: fast food, sugary foods and beverages, fatty foods, processed foods.
  • Space protein intake regularly throughout the day, including as part of a workout recovery.

What Should a 14-Year Old Athlete Eat in a Day?

The USDA has published general recommendations for what foods a teenager should eat in a day. The chart below shows recommendations for each food group. Keep in mind that this is just an average for 14-year olds, but higher energy needs will require more food! 

Amount per dayExamples
Grains8 ouncesChoose nutrient-rich grain sources like whole grain bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, tortillas, oats, and crackers. Half of your daily grains should be whole grains.
Fruit2 cupsFocus mostly on whole fruits, instead of juice. Try and include a variety of colors and forms like dried, fresh, frozen, and canned!
Vegetables3 cupsAim to get lots of colors and variety. Steaming vegetables is one of the best ways to preserve nutrients in cooking.
Protein7 ouncesInclude a variety of protein sources in your meals and snacks like lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, nut butters, seeds, dairy, and eggs.
Dairy3 cupsDairy is a great source of calcium, which is essential for teenage athletes to be getting enough of! Yogurt, milk and cheese are all included in the dairy group. If you can’t eat dairy, or don’t get enough, check out this post for more ideas to still satisfy your nutrient needs! Dairy-Free Teens post 

Healthy Breakfast Ideas for a 14-Year Old Athlete

You have probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That really isn’t an exaggeration! Think about it, you are waking up after not eating for a long time and then asking your body to function at its very best without any fuel to work with! Here are some of the benefits of eating breakfast.

  • Mood regulation
  • Increased focus and attention
  • Increased energy levels
  • Appetite regulation 
  • Blood sugar stability

Choosing a protein, starch, and fruit is a good framework for making a healthy breakfast. There are so many different options for healthy breakfasts, so try and include a variety to keep breakfast exciting!

  • Egg and cheese sandwich with strawberries
  • Protein pancakes with milk and a banana
  • Toast with peanut butter and jam with chocolate milk
  • Smoothie made with greek yogurt, frozen fruit, milk, and chia seeds
  • Cereal and milk with a fried egg and an apple
  • Avocado toast with fried egg, berries, and milk
  • Oatmeal made with milk and peanut butter, with strawberries

Healthy Lunch Ideas for a 14-Year Old Athlete

Lunch is an important meal for teen athletes. Fueling regularly throughout the day will keep their energy levels up and help them feel more prepared for practice or competition. 

A good method for making a healthy lunch is to include a grain, protein, fruit, and vegetable. Lunch is a great time to include some fun foods too! Here are some lunch ideas that you might enjoy trying.

  • Ham and cheese sandwich, apple, carrots and ranch dressing
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a banana, celery and hummus, cookie
  • Crackers, deli meat, cheese, grapes, peppers, potato chips
  • Quesadilla with cheese, beans, and chicken, with salsa and sour cream and a fruit smoothie
  • Grilled cheese sandwich with milk, pineapple, and salad
  • Chef’s salad with corn, chicken, tomatoes, black beans, egg, cheese and a roll
  • Pretzels, peanuts, dark chocolate, blackberries, pita chips, carrots and hummus

Healthy Dinner Ideas for a 14-Year Old Athlete

Dinner should be a balanced meal with a starch, a protein, and a vegetable. Depending on when you eat dinner, you may need to make some adjustments. If you eat dinner before a workout, for example, you may need to increase the carbohydrate portion and cut back on protein and fat. You could always get more protein and fat in a snack after your workout.

Here are some balanced healthy dinner ideas:

  • Fish, oven-roasted potatoes, asparagus
  • Orange chicken with rice and broccoli
  • Stir fry with chicken, mushrooms, and peppers served over rice
  • Scrambled eggs with an english muffin and a green smoothie
  • Chicken noodle soup with a side salad
  • Pasta with meatballs and green beans
  • Shrimp burrito bowls with black beans, corn, rice, lettuce, salsa, avocado, and cheese
  • Burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion 
  • Chicken alfredo with brussel sprouts

Healthy Snack Ideas for a 14-Year Old Athlete

Snacks are so important for athletes with high energy needs. With crazy sports schedules, snacks are also a great way to make sure teens always have enough energy to exercise. Here are a few healthy, balanced snack ideas to keep your energy levels up throughout the day!

  • Greek yogurt
  • String cheese and strawberries
  • Pretzels and peanut butter
  • Smoothie with fruit, greek yogurt, and milk
  • Protein bar and a banana
  • Apple slices with almond butter
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Trail mix

Here are a few high carbohydrate snacks that teens could eat right before practice or a game for a quick energy boost:

  • Applesauce
  • Dried fruit, whole fruit, 100% fruit juice
  • Crackers
  • Fruit smoothie (without extra protein)
  • Fruit leathers, fruit snacks
  • Toast with jam

Should Teenagers Take Supplements?

Supplement intake is not always necessary for teenagers. If you are eating an adequate diet with plenty of variety, you are likely getting all of the nutrients you need! 

However, some athletes may benefit from supplementation. Teens should never start a supplement without first consulting their doctor. If there is a concern about specific nutrients, there can be extra lab work done to determine if a supplement is necessary. 

The supplement industry is highly unregulated and some products could actually contain illegal and harmful substances, such as steroids, which is especially alarming for teenagers who are still growing and developing. 

Remember that protein drinks and powders are supplements as well! Teens often forget that not all protein powder is necessarily safe to be using.

Work with your healthcare provider to determine if a supplement is appropriate for you and which ones are safe and effective.


A 14-year old athlete can enjoy their food and still obtain all of the nutrients their body needs. Practice eating mindfully and treating your body with respect and love. As you build a better relationship with your body, you will be able to perform better in your sport!


Coleman E. Dangers of Protein Supplements for Teenagers. Healthyeating.sfgate.com Updated December 27, 2018. 

US Department of Agriculture. My Plate. Myplate.gov. Based on Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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