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What to do if a Teenager is Gaining Weight too Fast

The teenage years are such an important time of growth and development. It is a time of independence and figuring out who you really are. With all of these changes, it is normal for a teenager’s weight to also change.

If a teenager is gaining weight too fast, they should focus on establishing healthy eating and exercise habits, rather than focusing on losing weight. Purposeful attempts at weight loss through restriction can be dangerous for teenagers because it can result in missing out on important nutrients needed for growth and development. Teenagers that diet to lose weight also frequently develop disordered eating behaviors.

Read on for more information about what to do if a teenager is gaining weight too fast and how parents can be involved in helping their teen be the healthiest that they can!

How to Track Growth and Weight in Teens

There has to be a way of tracking growth and weight over time as teenagers continue to develop. What is considered a “healthy” weight changes over time. Healthcare professionals use growth charts for children and teenagers while they are still in this period of growth. 

Understanding growth charts is a great way to be involved in the health and wellbeing of your teenager. Below are the steps for using and interpreting growth charts for your teenager.

  1. Calculate Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated using height and weight and can be done by hand or using this website created by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
  1. There are different growth charts for boys and for girls since gender does affect how teenagers grow and develop. Those charts are shown below. Choose the chart that applies to your teenager.
  1. Plot BMI on the chart as it corresponds to the age of your teenager.
  1. Interpret your point! You will see the percentiles to the right of the growth chart. The growth charts below are color-coded to make it easier to read. The red area (>95%) is classified as obese, yellow (85-95%)  is classified as overweight, green (5-85%) is normal weight, and blue (<5%) is underweight.
  1. Remember that this does not necessarily indicate a teenager’s health status. Growth charts should be used to look at weight trends over time. Health professionals should also take into account clinical lab values, eating and exercise habits, mental health status, and other relevant factors when assessing health status.

Growth Tips 

If you have looked at growth charts or have talked to your teenager’s doctor and determined that they are gaining weight too fast, then what do you do?

The best thing for teenagers to do is establish healthy eating and exercise patterns, get enough sleep, and practice stress management. It is inappropriate for teenagers to be put on a “diet,” regardless of what their weight is. If your doctor or dietitian recommends going on a restrictive diet, I recommend finding another healthcare provider!

We live in a society obsessed with dieting, but it is not a good course of action for teenagers. Since teens are in such an important phase of growth and development, restricting calories or food groups can result in nutrient deficiencies, impaired growth, and disordered eating.

Weight Tips for Teens

Ok, we have talked about the best course of action for teenagers wanting to get to a healthy weight- establishing healthy eating and exercise patterns, getting enough sleep, and controlling stress. But if you need more tips for how to do that, here ya go!

  1. Focus on what you can add to what you are eating, rather than what you need to stop eating.
  1. Try to include a fruit and/or vegetable every time you eat. They will provide tons of vitamins and minerals to help your body function at its best.
  1. Include variety in your eating routine. Try lots of different foods and switch things up frequently. Not only does this keep things interesting, but it also provides a wide variety of nutrients for your body!
  1. Eat an appropriate balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Pair foods together to help you feel more full and satisfied.
  1. Find ways to increase your fiber intake. Fiber helps you feel more full and satisfied, but most people don’t get enough! Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  1. Do not go longer than a few hours without eating. Getting to the point you feel ravenous often leads to overeating. You will feel better and more energized when you eat regularly throughout the day.
  1. Teenagers will benefit from at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Find fun things to do that get you up and moving!
  1. Meditation and talk therapy are great tools teengers can take advantage of to get on top of stress, anxiety, depression, and other challenging mental health struggles.
  1. Try to consistently get enough sleep. Most teenagers need at least 9 hours, but see what feels best for your body. If you have trouble sleeping, try limiting screen usage, having a high protein snack before bed, creating a bedtime routine, or meditating.
  1. Make time for the things that you enjoy like playing with friends, watching a favorite show, reading, playing sports, dancing, or other things. Try finding hobbies that keep you active, help you interact with others, enlighten your mind, and relieve stress!

Should Teenagers Track Calories?

There are many ways of tracking calories nowadays. Tons of apps make it easier than ever to keep track of what you are eating. However, tracking calories is not always a healthy behavior. 

Teenagers should be wary of tracking calories and here is the main reason why: it often leads to listening more to your calorie tracker than to your body! If your calorie tracking app says you only have 100 calories left for the day, but your body needs more fuel than that, I would much rather have you listen to and honor what your body is telling you.

Additionally, calorie needs change on a daily basis. Some days you are more active than others. Or maybe you had a long day mentally, or are going through a growth spurt. Or maybe you didn’t eat enough the day before and your body is trying to make up for that. 

There are tons of things that affect how much energy your body needs, and although we might be able to estimate how many calories your body needs, it will never be perfect.

How Parents Can be Involved

Parents should be careful how they handle situations with their teenagers, especially regarding weight. Although parents usually have good intentions, conversations about weight do not always end well. Here are a few tips for parents who want to help their teens to be at a healthy weight.

  • Avoid commenting on your teen’s weight. Even complimenting your child’s weight can have negative effects. If teens get positive attention at a lower weight, they may associate their worth with their weight and become hyper-focused on achieving a certain weight.
  • Model healthy eating and exercise behaviors. Eat mindfully, try new foods, and eat a variety of foods, both nutrient dense foods and not so nutrient dense ones.
  • Don’t force your teen to eat a certain way. Teenagers like independence and don’t usually respond positively to being told what to do (maybe you have figured that out already).
  • Talk positively about your body and about food. Remember that food has no moral value and that no one is “good” or “bad” for eating certain foods. 
  • Eat meals together as a family whenever possible. Make meal times a positive experience where teens can enjoy their meal along with positive conversation. Avoid argumentative topics and make family meal time something that teens look forward to.
  • Offer treats and less healthy foods frequently. That might sound a little bit counterintuitive, but when children and teens are used to having those “fun” foods available whenever they want, they are less likely to overeat or binge on them later.
  • Plan active things to do as a family. Go for walks together, play outside, have a dance party, go swimming- there are so many fun things to do to get your kids moving!
  • Do not single one child out, making them eat or exercise differently from everyone else because of their weight.


If a teenager is gaining weight at a rapid pace, they should focus on developing healthy habits more than changing weight. The main goal should be to slow the rate of weight gain. Teenagers should always avoid restrictive diets, as they can be dangerous for someone who is still in a phase of growth and development.

Seek help from an intuitive eating dietitian who can encourage healthy habits and a positive relationship with food. If your healthcare professional makes your teenager feel bad about themselves because of their weight, it is probably time to find someone new!

As a parent, the best way to support your teenager in their health is to model healthy habits and be encouraging loving despite their weight. Your teenager should never feel like their worth is dependent on how much they weigh!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Child and Teen BMI. Published March 17, 2021.

Halson SH. Sleep and athletes. Published July 2017. 

What Should a Volleyball Player Eat?

The sport of volleyball involves running, jumping, sliding and more, all of which require energy. The ability to meet these energy demands depends a lot on the nutrition athletes take in. This association may cause athletes wanting to perform well to question, what should a volleyball player eat?

A volleyball player should eat a meal pattern full of nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. They should also drink unsweetened beverages throughout the day such as water and milk. The calorie, fluid and nutrient needs vary widely with each teen and within each day. Due to this variability, athletes should eat in a way that leaves them feeling energized and satisfied throughout the day rather than adhere to certain calorie targets or other food rules.

The following article describes a healthy eating pattern for volleyball players in greater detail. Continue reading to find out more about what these athletes should eat.

What are some important nutrients for a volleyball player to eat? 

A nutrient is a food component that is vitally important to life. This definition means a volleyball player should strive to eat a diet containing all the essential nutrients. Thankfully this eating style comes a lot easier than it may sound.

Eating a balanced and varied diet that includes all the food groups will allow most teens to meet nutrients needs. The Choose My Plate Eating Pattern suggests making half the plate fruits and vegetables with a quarter of the plate protein and another quarter of the plate grains.

On the other hand, any diet that severely restricts calories or food groups will lead to nutrient deficiencies. Those with concerns regarding whether they consume enough of a certain nutrient should reach out to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or registered dietitian.

The three major nutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fat. The current acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) recommendations for teenage athletes are 45-65% carbohydrate, 10-30% protein and 20-35% fat of total daily calories.

A teenager will also want to include all essential vitamins and minerals. Most of these are adequately consumed when teenagers eat balanced meals. However, some are less likely to be consumed in sufficient quantities than others among teenagers.

Vitamins and minerals of concern include iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin D and folate. While a vitamin and mineral supplement may help meet nutrient needs for those with food intolerances, allergies or other dietary restrictions, no supplement can replace eating real, whole foods. 

Nutrient Food Sources
Carbohydrates Fruits, starchy vegetables, milk, yogurt, legumes, grains
Protein Lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products
FatPlant oils, fatty fish, olives, avocado, nuts, seeds
Iron Meat, poultry, eggs, beans, dark leafy greens, cereal, enriched grains 
Calcium Dairy products, beans, almonds, tofu, fortified orange juice, broccoli 
Potassium Fruits, vegetables, dairy, seafood, beans
Vitamin DMilk, UV treated mushrooms, egg yolks, fortified foods
FolateDark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, legumes, enriched grains

What are good foods for a volleyball player to eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner?

No meal benefits from a single type of food. Instead, a volleyball player should try to follow the Choose My Plate pattern at mealtimes. Most foods belong in a healthy diet when consumed within the principles of balance, variety and moderation. Athletes will also want to include fluids like water and milk throughout the day.

Breakfast ideas

  • Whole grain cereal with avocado toast
  • Spinach bean and egg burrito
  • Oatmeal with nut butter and fruit
  • Fish on toasted bagel
  • Green smoothie with cottage cheese
  • Yogurt parfait
  • Vegetable and egg quesadilla 

Lunch ideas 

  • Peanut butter and mashed fruit sandwich 
  • Tuna fish wrap
  • Taco salad
  • Bean burrito
  • Chicken noodle soup with whole wheat roll
  • Turkey avocado sandwich 

Dinner ideas

  • Lasagna with lentils
  • Baked potato with meat and veggies
  • Salmon with roasted veggies and rice
  • Grilled chicken with Quinoa 
  • Homemade vegetable and meat pizza
  • Chili with sweet potato fries

Adding sides of vegetables and fruit make these dishes the perfect balanced meals to fuel the performance of a volleyball player. Of course, there remains countless other dishes a teenager can enjoy for a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

A volleyball player should feel free to practice creativity and try new foods throughout training. Although a player may want to practice caution in the hours prior to a hard workout or game as unfamiliar foods may not work well with the digestive system.

What foods should a volleyball player avoid?

Certain foods can decrease performance when eaten too close to game time. These foods include those high in fiber, fat, sugar and/or sugar alcohols. A volleyball player can certainly enjoy these foods at other times but should limit them 1-2 hours before the game.

Foods high in fiber can cause bloating, gas and other unpleasant gut symptoms during exercise. However, high fiber foods provide many important health benefits and athletes should look to include more of these foods during other eating occasions.

Similarly, high fat foods can cause gut distress due to delayed gastric emptying. An athlete will want to consume lower fat foods closer to game time.

Foods high in sugar may cause an energy crash during an event. The body will rapidly digest and absorb sugar, which causes blood sugar to spike and then drop. 

In an effort to avoid foods high in sugar, teens may turn to sugar free foods. However, manufacturers often replace sugar with sugar alcohols in these foods. Not only do sugar alcohols provide little nutritive benefit, but the body’s poor ability to digest them can cause diarrhea and other unpleasant symptoms.

Furthermore, volleyball players who experience lactose intolerance will also want to avoid lactose containing foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Athletes should look to avoid any other food triggers related to personal medical conditions such as food allergies, intolerance or acid reflux.

Volleyball players should find what foods and snacks work best for them. Trying new foods can be fun. However, before an athletic event, players will want to stick with familiar foods. Trying new foods may lead to unpleasant symptoms.

In their overall diet, athletes should consume more nutrient dense foods. Foods high in sugar, saturated fat and sodium can decrease health and should be enjoyed in smaller quantities.

What are some good game day nutrition tips for volleyball players?

In the days leading up to game day, volleyball players should consume 3 balanced meals with 1-3 snacks throughout the day. Inadequate intake will cause a teenage to fatigue easily and increase the risk for injury.

A good meal or snack will provide long lasting energy and fullness to a volleyball player. In the 1-2 hours before a game, volleyball players should avoid heavy meals in favor of a lighter snack. A high carbohydrate, moderate protein snack works well at this time.

A meal eaten 3-4 hours before a game will have time to digest. This meal can contain carbohydrates, protein and fat. However, athletes may want to avoid foods higher in fiber, fat, sugar and sugar alcohols as these may cause later gut distress when active.

Proper hydration also starts early. Trying to make up for poor fluid intake right before an event will lead to water sloshing, an upset stomach and electrolyte imbalances. Instead, an athlete should drink unsweetened beverages consistently throughout the day. 

Fluid needs will differ per individual and per day. The best indicator of hydration is the color of urine. Athletes should aim for a pale yellow color and drink more fluids with darker urine. Studies show even 2% dehydration will decrease performance ability. Therefore, drinking enough fluids for adequate hydration should remain a priority.

What are some good foods to eat before a game? 

Before a game, volleyball players will want to eat appropriately to fuel their play. Restricting calories or a food group will negatively impact ability to perform.

Snacks 1-2 hours before game/workout 

  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Egg on toast
  • Banana with almond butter
  • Tortilla with lower-fat cheese
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Trail mix and dried fruit
  • Toast with nut butter and berries
  • String cheese and crackers
  • Egg on bagel
  • Pretzels and nut butter
  • Cottage cheese and fruit slices
  • Fruit leather 
  • Dates

Meals 3-4 hours before game/workout 

  • Pasta with chicken and veggies
  • Peanut butter and mashed berry sandwich
  • Greek yogurt parfait 
  • Waffle with nut butter and fruit
  • Fish with rice 
  • Bagel sandwich
  • Tuna with pita bread
  • Rice with curry and veggies
  • Spaghetti with lean ground beef

Keep the time before the event in mind when choosing portions. A Thanksgiving size meal may need to wait until another day. Eat until satisfied, but not uncomfortably full.

What Should Soccer Players Eat for Dinner?

Sitting down for dinner can be the first time a teenage soccer player takes a break during the day. Due to the rush of a busy schedule, these teens may also eat poorly at other meals. While all meals play a role in a healthy diet, dinner provides an important opportunity for teens to increase overall nutrient intake. So, what should soccer players eat for dinner?

A balanced meal will include half a plate of fruits and vegetables, about a quarter of the plate protein and a quarter of the plate grains or starchy vegetables. Soccer players will also want to drink fluids to stay hydrated. The Choose My Plate diagram offers a good outline for what a healthy dinner can look like for a soccer player.

Following this meal pattern at dinner time will help teen soccer players meet their increased needs for calories and nutrients. Continue reading to learn more about what makes a good dinner for a soccer player and why dinner is important.

Why should a soccer player eat dinner?

Dinner is an important time to refuel after a day of training or competitive play. As soccer players run from one activity to the next, the quality of breakfast and lunch meals may take a hit.

Teens may even skip these meals. While these dietary choices are not advised, they make eating a balanced dinner even more important for the health of a soccer player.

Amidst the various and often conflicting family schedules, dinner often marks the only mealtime where the entire family can sit down together. Studies demonstrate the importance of eating meals as a family.  Meals eaten together as a family increase social, mental, physical and emotional health of teens.

Furthermore, muscle synthesis decreases at night. Adequate protein eaten at dinner can help increase muscle synthesis, aiding in recovery. Also, eating a balanced and appropriately sized dinner can help teenagers sleep and eat well the following day.

What are tips for taking advantage of all the benefits of dinner?

  1. Eat mindfully

Mindful eating involves slowing down, listening to hunger and fullness cues and focusing on enjoying the eating experience. Choosing to eat mindfully also means sitting down to eat with others.

The benefits of practicing mindful eating are plentiful. These benefits include healthier food choices, reduced risk of binging, healthy weight maintenance, better digestion and overall increased satisfaction.

  1. Eat throughout the day

When athletes restrict or skip meals entirely, they may struggle to eat a balanced and mindful dinner. 

The rush to meet hunger needs pushes individuals to choose easy to grab foods, which often contain more sugar, sodium and saturated fats. Eating too quickly and with extreme hunger also increases the likelihood of overeating.

  1. Eat as a family 

Studies associate a host of benefits to eating meals together as a family. These benefits include:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Decreased substance abuse and teen pregnancy
  • Decreased risk of depression
  • Lower risk of eating disorders
  • Decreased risk of obesity
  • Improved heart health
  • Healthier dietary choices and behaviors


  1. Put away distractions

Keep those phones, laptop, screens, other electronics and even homework away from the table during dinner. Avoiding distractions while eating helps a teenager eat mindfully and with the family. 

Plus, everyone benefits from a little time away from screens and social media. A distraction free dinner gives a teenager time to unwind and create connections.

  1. Avoid eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime

Going to bed on an empty stomach can disrupt sleep, but certain amounts and types of food can also poorly affect sleep. Too much food right before bed may lead to gastric distress, causing poor sleep. Try to eat earlier or eat a lighter meal when eaten close to bedtime. 

Research links high carbohydrate meals, especially those high in sugar, with decreased sleep quality. For those who experience heart burn, spicy, citrus, high fat and other trigger foods may also create discomfort when trying to sleep. 

Look to create a balanced plate with carbohydrate, protein and fat for best quality sleep. 

  1. Avoid caffeine or at dinner time

The average half-life of caffeine is five hours. This statistic means only half of the caffeine ingested will be eliminated from the body in five hours. As a stimulant, consuming caffeine in the evening will make it harder to fall asleep and decrease the quality of those important sleep hours. 

In general teens should limit caffeine. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 100 mg for adolescents ages 12-18. This amount equals about two caffeinated sodas. If any, caffeine should be consumed earlier in the day to avoid disruption of sleep.

  1. Include more fruits and vegetables

According to the CDC, only 2% of teenagers meet vegetable recommendations and only about 7% meet fruit recommendations. Fruits and vegetables provide countless health benefits with the high content of vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, antioxidants and fiber.

Teens will experience better current and future health through eating the suggested servings of fruits and vegetables. A teenage soccer player will want to strive for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 

  1. Strive for balanced meals

A meal containing a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat gives a soccer player the proper nutrition for continued growth and development. Furthermore, a teenager should not attempt to diet or severely restrict food or food groups in any way.

In fact, enjoying a favorite treat, in moderation, along with a variety of nutrient dense foods creates a more sustainable healthy meal pattern. Completely restricting sugar, fat, carbohydrates, etc. increases the risk of disordered eating and binging. All foods can play a part in a healthy diet.

What nutrients should a soccer player include at dinner?

Nutrients help a soccer player train, perform and recover effectively. The three macro nutrients, those needed in larger amounts, include carbohydrates, protein and fats. Micronutrients, those needed in smaller amounts, include all vitamins and minerals. Eating balanced meals will assist a soccer player to meet these nutrient needs.


This macronutrient should make up 45-65% of daily calories. Carbohydrates break down to glucose, the body’s main source of energy. Inadequate intake causes a soccer player to tire easily, experience brain fog and miss out on many other nutrients associated with foods higher in carbohydrates.

Quality carbohydrate foods 

  • Whole grains
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Legumes
  • Fruit
  • Starchy vegetables


This macronutrient should make up 10-30% of daily calories. Considered the building block of the body, protein plays an essential role in tissue maintenance, building and repair, hormone production, immune system and many other essential functions of the body. Best practice involves eating 15-30g every 3-4 hours.

Quality protein foods

  • Lean meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Tofu
  • Dairy products


This macronutrient should make up 25-35% of daily calories. As an important source of energy and with its ability to assist with nutrient absorption and healthy body cells, fats should not be restricted. 

Unsaturated fats provide more health benefits than saturated fats. Saturated fats should be enjoyed only in moderation and include solid fats found in butter, lard, tropical oils, meat, highly processed foods and desserts. 

Quality unsaturated fats

Plant oils

Fatty fish





Vitamins and minerals

Eating an adequate and varied diet usually ensures a soccer player meets vitamin and mineral needs. Food benefits a soccer player far more than taking a nutrition supplement. 

Supplements are not well regulated and can provide inaccurate amounts and types of nutrients. Studies show that many even contain harmful substances. They also will not provide the beneficial components found in whole foods such as antioxidants, polyphenols, fibers and more. 

Some nutrients of concern for teenage soccer players include iron, calcium, potassium and fiber.

High iron foods: meat, eggs, legumes, dark leafy greens, cereal

High calcium foods: dairy products, almonds, broccoli, leafy greens, beans, soy products, fortified orange juice

High potassium foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy

High fiber foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes

If for any reason a teen athlete must cut out a food group, they should talk to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or registered dietitian about possible need for supplementation.

What are some good dinner ideas for Soccer Players?

Dinner meal ideas are countless. The key to a good dinner comes from variety and balance. Try to include fruits and vegetables with each meal.

On-the-go dinner ideas:

  • Heat up some leftovers
  • Make a sandwich
  • Fill a tortilla with protein and veggies for a quick burrito
  • Blend a fruit smoothie with nut butter, cottage cheese or yogurt
  • Grab some oatmeal
  • Meal prep the day before
  • Boiled eggs make easy to grab protein
  • Low sodium canned foods

With no time restraints, the options are endless. Teens should feel unlimited in their food creativity and should try new things. When teens strive to follow the Choose My Plate pattern, dinners will appropriately fuel and satisfy a teenage soccer player.

What Should Soccer Players Eat for Breakfast? (With Recipes!)

Teenage soccer players put a lot of effort into training and competing well. However, poor eating habits will significantly lower quality of play regardless of time spent working to improve. With the importance of nutrition in mind soccer players may ask, what should soccer players eat for breakfast?

A good breakfast for a soccer player should contain a balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Teenage athletes should prioritize nutrient dense foods over foods higher in sugar, saturated fat and sodium. The following lists suggest just some of many well-balanced breakfasts a soccer player can eat.

  • Oatmeal with nut butter, milk and fruit
  • Omelet with veggies
  • Bean and egg whole grain burrito
  • Greek yogurt parfait with fruit, granola and nuts
  • Whole grain bagel with smoked salmon
  • Avocado toast with whole grain cereal
  • Whole grain pancakes/waffles with nut butter and fruit

Breakfast starts the day, but consistent good nutrition leads to the best results. Continue reading to find out more about what a healthy breakfast looks like for a teenage soccer player.

What makes a balanced breakfast for a soccer player?

A balanced breakfast leaves a soccer player feeling full, satisfied and energized for the demands of the day. This type of breakfast will contain a mix of the macronutrients protein, carbohydrate and fat.


The body uses protein to build, repair and maintain body tissue, including muscle. Protein also helps with blood sugar regulation and feeling satisfied between eating occasions.  

Athletes should look to consume 15-30g every 3-4 hours to best utilize the protein. Starting off with this amount in the morning will be helpful for the rest of the day. Some good protein options include:

  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Lean meats
  • Milk
  • Cheese


A ninety-minute game or two hour practice will burn through a teenager’s energy stores quickly. Teens can best meet these increased energy demands through consuming adequate carbohydrates. As the body’s preferred energy source, limiting carbohydrates can lead to a decrease in performance.

Foods high in carbohydrate also frequently provide B-vitamins essential to energy utilization, and fiber. Soccer players will want to choose carbohydrate foods higher in nutrients over those higher in sugar. Some good carbohydrate options include:

  • Whole grain toast
  • Whole grain tortilla
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain bagels
  • Fruit
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Quinoa

Dietary fat

Teens can look to include, rather than exclude dietary fats. Choosing unsaturated fats will benefit the heart, brain, skin, hair and other important body organs. Dietary fats also aid in nutrient absorption and provide a good source of energy. 

Unsaturated fats such as those found in meat, butter, lard, palm oils and processed foods, should be limited. These types of fats provide less health benefits than the unsaturated fats. The heart healthy unsaturated fats are found in:

  • Plant oils (olive, safflower, peanut, etc.)
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Seeds
  • Fatty fish

What other nutrients should a soccer player look to include at breakfast?

Breakfast offers an important opportunity to help meet a teenage athlete’s increased nutrient needs. Some valuable nutrients to include at breakfast are iron, calcium and potassium.


This mineral helps transport oxygen through the blood. Inadequate intake can lead to fatigue and anemia. Athletes, especially female athletes, are at risk for low iron in the blood. 

Foods high in iron should be prioritized over supplements. Supplements are not well regulated and too much iron can lead to iron toxicity. Iron supplements should only be taken under the direction of a healthcare professional.

Foods high in iron include:

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Cereal
  • Enriched grains
  • Dried fruit


The adolescent years mark an important stage in developing strong bone health. Teens should focus on making choices that allow for best skeletal health as bone growth slows down dramatically after teenage years. Consuming adequate calcium is one of these important choices.

Adequate calcium supports bone health along with being essential to many important body functions. Good sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy products
  • Soy products
  • Fish with bones
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Almonds
  • Legumes
  • Fortified orange juice


Many teens do not consume enough of this heart healthy mineral. As an electrolyte, potassium helps with nerve function and muscle contraction. 

One of the best ways to increase potassium intake comes through simply adding in more fruits and vegetables. Fish, beans, nuts and seeds will also provide good amounts of potassium.

Is it actually important for teens to eat breakfast?

Breakfast plays an important role in helping a teenage soccer player meet nutrient and calorie needs. A skipped breakfast can lead to inadequate intake, over-eating highly processed foods later in the day, energy crashes, fatigue and poor performance.


  • Improved academic performance
  • Increased ability to focus during school and training 
  • Better appetite control 
  • Improved blood sugar control 
  • Healthy body weight
  • Higher energy levels
  • Healthier choices
  • Helps fuel exercise

Eating breakfast is associated with many health benefits. Of course, eating a doughnut at breakfast versus a balanced meal of oatmeal with fruit and nuts makes a difference as well. 

Worst breakfast foods for a soccer player?

Certain breakfast foods contain high amounts of sugar or saturated fat, without the accompanying nutrients. These foods do not provide lasting energy or promote health when eaten for breakfast and should be enjoyed occasionally rather than on a consistent basis.

Breakfast foods to limit:

  • Sugar cereals
  • Doughnuts
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Biscuits
  • Granola bars
  • Sweet cakes or breads
  • Fried foods
  • Instant breakfasts
  • Refined (aka not whole grain) breads, tortillas and bagels
  • Most highly processed breakfast foods 

Again, a teenage athlete can still consume these foods, but in moderation. When choosing to eat these breakfast foods, teenagers can complement them with higher nutrient dense foods. For example, instead of eating a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on refined bread, enjoy a whole wheat bacon, egg and veggie burrito.

Breakfast recipes and ideas

Teenagers can add or change elements to these easy breakfast ideas to make meals best suited to their tastes and needs.

Easy Egg Muffins

This quick recipe takes blended eggs and combines them with a variety of vegetables, spices and herbs. 

Blend eggs with a sprinkle of salt, seasonings and vegetables and pour into greased or lined muffin tin. Bake in preheated oven at 350 F for about 15-20 minutes or until set. These muffins can be kept in the fridge or freezer for quick grab and go breakfasts. 

Pizza egg muffins add-ins: garlic powder, basil, onions, tomato, bell peppers, cheese

Overnight Oatmeal

Overnight oatmeal is a great prep ahead breakfast. Fruit, nut butter, yogurt, cottage cheese and seasonings transform plain oatmeal into a variety of delicious dishes.

For the base combine equal amount oatmeal with milk. Add desired yogurt, cottage cheese or nut butter for additional protein and let sit for a couple hours or overnight. Add in toppings and enjoy! 

Chocolate Banana PB Oats- Mashed banana, peanut butter, cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips

Baked Oats

This cake like recipe makes a great alternative to higher sugar and saturated fat breakfast cakes, pastries and other sweets.

Blend oatmeal into a flour like consistency.   For 1/2 cup oatmeal flour, blend in 1 egg, 1/4-1/2 cup mashed fruit or milk, a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp baking powder, desired sugar (I would suggest no more than 1 Tbsp), along with desired seasonings or add-ins.

Cinnamon apple baked oats-Chopped apples, cinnamon, allspice, walnuts

Breakfast Casserole

This casserole is packed with nutrition and makes a filling start to the day. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix together eggs, cottage cheese, desired chopped vegetables, shredded potatoes, seasonings and top with cheese. Bake covered with tinfoil until eggs are set. Add a layer of whole wheat tortillas on top before baking for additional carbohydrates.

Egg Burrito

This classic breakfast food offers many savory options. Try out some new vegetables with the eggs and cheese to bump up the nutrition.

Fill a whole grain tortilla with scrambled eggs, cooked vegetables, feta, beans, etc., roll up and add a little salsa or ketchup. For some extra texture, heat up the burrito on a frying pan.

Whole Grain Bagel Sandwich

Avocado, protein, veggies and two toasted bagel slices make a great breakfast. Try something new with a grilled pear, ham and cheese bagel sandwich.

Dinner for Breakfast

A balanced breakfast does not need to center around typical breakfast foods of eggs and cereal. Some spaghetti and green beans or the leftovers from a great meal the night before work as breakfast too!

Breakfast Smoothie

This classic on-the-go breakfast offer an easy way to add both fruit and vegetables to the day.

A smoothie base usually consists of milk, frozen fruit and yogurt. Cottage cheese adds great texture and protein as well. In addition to these base ingredients, add in spinach, avocado or carrots for a boost of vitamins and minerals. Incorporating nut butters, flax seeds or hemp hearts will give those heart healthy and satiating benefits to a smoothie. 

Power Packed Waffle/Pancake

Skip the syrup in favor of delicious, yet nutrient dense toppings. This swap will transform a high sugar breakfast to one that can better fuel the daily demands of a soccer player. 

Toppings to try:  Nut butters, nuts, seeds, yogurt and fruit.

Breakfast Trail Mix Cookies

These fun cookies can replace less nutrient dense granola bars on a busy day. Keep several in the freezer and just pop them in the microwave before heading out the door.

– 2 Ripe Bananas (or 1/2 cup applesauce per banana)

– 2 Eggs

– 1/3-1/2 cup nut butter

– 1 Cup White Wheat Flour

– 1 Cup Oatmeal

– 1 tsp baking soda

– 1 to 1 1/2 Cups Trail Mix

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mash Bananas, Beat in eggs and nut butter. Combine dry ingredients (flour, oatmeal and baking soda) together before mowing into wet ingredients. Finally mix in trail mix. Bake until golden on top.


Yogurt parfaits create a light, but still satisfying breakfast option.

Layer a bowl or large cup with yogurt, whole grain cereal, fruit, nuts, seeds and nut butters.

These recipes outline just a few breakfast ideas, but the options remain endless. Soccer players should look to include a nutrient dense breakfast each morning to perform best in both school and the sport.

What Should a Dancer Eat Before Performing?

Dance is a beautiful sport that takes a lot of energy to do well! Dancers should understand the basics of sports nutrition to help them perform at their best.

Dancers should eat mostly carbohydrates the closer they get to a performance. They should focus on foods that make them feel energized and that don’t upset their stomach or lead to discomfort. Dancers should never perform on an empty stomach; eating the right foods can make all the difference.

Coaches or other team members may advise skipping meals, but this is terrible advice. Not only will it reduce your energy levels for your performance, but it can lead to long-term negative consequences.

Read on for more information on what dancers should be eating, meal and snacks ideas, and hydration tips for dancers.

What to Eat to Dance Your Best

In order for dancers to perform at their best, they need to be fueling properly to support what they are doing! Dancers should include all three of the macronutrients in their diet: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each has a different and important role in the body!

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, so they are especially important for dancers. Carbohydrates are found in grains like rice, pasta, bread, tortillas, pretzels, and crackers, but they are also found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. The majority of food you eat in a day should come from carbohydrate sources!

Protein is often called the “building block of the body.” For dancers, getting enough protein is essential to help with muscle recovery, decrease soreness, and prevent injury. Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, milk, greek yogurt, eggs, legumes, soy, and nuts. Choose lean meats, lower-fat dairy, and a variety of plant and animal based protein foods!

Fat is sometimes made out to be the bad guy, but it is actually extremely important for decreasing inflammation, absorbing important vitamins, and meeting energy needs. However, there are fats that are better than others. Limit your intake of saturated fats, and focus mostly on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.

Trans fats have been shown to be very harmful to our health and should be avoided as much as possible. If you see “hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils” on the ingredient list, there might be trans fat in that food, even if the nutrition facts label says zero!

Carbohydrates, protein, and fat from a variety of foods are important for a healthy diet! Dancers should be eating meals and snacks regularly throughout the day and should not be skipping meals or going long periods of time without eating. 

For the most part, snacks should be meals and snacks should have a balance of the macronutrients. One exception to this is right before exercise. The closer you get to a practice or performance, the more you will want to focus on carbohydrates.

Protein and fat slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, which is great, except when you want all of that energy to be available as soon as possible. Having a lot of protein and fat right before you dance might make you feel sluggish, bloated, or uncomfortable. When you start dancing, you want to have lots of available energy for your body to use right away. 

After performing is one of the best times to eat a balanced snack. Carbohydrates will help to replenish your energy stores, while protein and fat aid in recovery. Dancers should eat something within an hour of exercise. If they can’t get a full meal that quickly, they should eat a snack and then follow it up with a meal as soon as they can!

Good Meal Ideas for Dancers

If you have trouble thinking of good meal ideas, here are a few that could work for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Breakfast Ideas

  • Greek yogurt with berries and granola
  • Scrambled eggs with toast and a fruit smoothie
  • Hard boiled eggs with a bagel and an apple
  • Oatmeal with peanut butter, nuts, and berries, and chocolate milk
  • Cereal with milk and a greek yogurt
  • Breakfast burrito with eggs, black beans, salsa, and potatoes. Fruit on the side.
  • Pancakes with eggs, and 100% fruit juice

Lunch Ideas

  • Quesadilla with cheese and chicken. Salsa, lettuce, and cream cheese. Fruit smoothie
  • Leftovers from dinner with fruit
  • Crackers, grapes, cheese, carrots and hummus
  • Sandwich with chips, fruit, and a vegetable
  • Cottage cheese, pita chips, vegetable, dried fruit
  • Wrap with lettuce, tomato, and ham. Fruit on the side

Dinner Ideas

  • Fish, baked potatoes, and asparagus
  • Chicken and rice casserole with broccoli
  • Breakfast for dinner: protein pancakes and a green smoothie
  • Salad with grilled chicken, tomato soup, and a roll
  • Rice bowls with shrimp, lettuce, tomato, cheese, black beans, onion, corn, cilantro
  • Individual pizzas on pita bread with a side salad
  • Macaroni with tuna and a side of green beans
  • Tacos with ground turkey, black beans, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, onion, sour cream and avocado

Healthy Snack Ideas for Dancers

Snacks are a great way to sustain your energy throughout the day. With busy dance schedules, teens might not be able to sit down for meals when they would like to, or they might have to go long periods of time between meals. Healthy, balanced snacks can be a great way to deal with less than ideal eating situations.

Balanced Snack Ideas

  • Cottage cheese with crackers
  • Cheese stick and fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Chocolate milk
  • Protein bar and fruit
  • Jerky and pretzels
  • Fruit and nuts
  • Apple slices and peanut butter
  • Fruit smoothie with greek yogurt
  • Rolls with ham and cheese

High Carbohydrate Snacks for Pre-Exercise

  • Applesauce
  • Dried fruit
  • Fresh fruit
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Toast with jam
  • Sports drinks
  • Juice
  • Fruit snacks
  • Fruit leather

Hydration Tips for Dancers

Below is a table that shows the baseline water recommendations for teenagers. This is generally how much water teenagers need each day to stay well-hydrated. However, keep in mind that this is for teens that are just moderately active, so dancers will need more than this!

Fluid needs are very different person-to-person and depend on the weather, intensity of exercise, the heaviness/breathability of the uniform or costume you have to wear, and more!

There are a few simple methods of estimating fluid needs for dancers and other athletes. 

  1. Pay attention to urine color. I know it sounds kind of gross, but it is honestly one of the best ways to figure out if you are well-hydrated. Urine should be a pale yellow. A darker yellow often means you are dehydrated, while urine that is almost clear often means you are overhydrating.
  1. Estimate your calorie needs and use that number to estimate fluid needs. Each calorie burned means 1 mL of fluid should be consumed. For example, if a dancer burns 3,000 calories, they should drink 3,000 mL of fluid (or 3 L). 
  1. You can actually figure out how much fluid you are losing through sweat by measuring body weight before and after exercise. About 3 cups of fluid should be consumed for every pound of weight lost during exercise.

Dancers should be drinking consistently throughout the day, including during practices and performances. Your body will function much better if you are getting in fluid regularly throughout the day rather than trying to chug all of it at the same time.

Sports drinks can also be a good source of fluids that can also replenish carbohydrate and electrolyte stores. Sports drinks usually are not necessary to drink regularly throughout the day, but if dancers use them appropriately they can be a great tool to improve your performance!

What Foods Should Dancers Avoid

Good news- there aren’t really any foods that dancers should avoid. Yep, you heard me right, all foods can fit in a healthy eating plan! Obviously, some foods will make you feel better than others, or give you more energy than others, but no food is really off limits!

Putting strict restrictions on different foods, especially on foods that you like, will likely result in overindulgence later. It is like if someone tells you not to think about a purple elephant. What do you think about? A purple elephant!

The same goes for foods that you tell yourself you cannot have. If a certain food is “off limits,” it often makes your brain think about those foods even more and create even stronger cravings for them!

A better approach to healthy eating is to focus on what foods you can add, rather than what you need to take out. For example, maybe you can add more fruits and vegetables to your meals, or substituting white bread for a whole wheat bread, or maybe some healthy fats would make your meals more enjoyable and satisfying.

Healthy Tips for Dancers

Here are a few tips for dancers that can help with performance!

  • Get enough sleep! Teenagers usually need at least 9 hours of sleep each night, but many don’t get that much.
  • Eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Include carbohydrates, protein, and fat at each eating occasion.
  • Eat something every few hours. Dancers have higher energy needs and they need that energy regularly throughout the day. 
  • Find ways of managing stress. This might mean meditating, journaling, or talk therapy. 
  • Eat mindfully. Listen to your body cues and eat when you feel hungry! Don’t ignore hunger signals, even if you think you shouldn’t be hungry yet.
  • Don’t focus on your weight. The number on the scale doesn’t tell you anything about your worth as a dancer or as a human being! Develop healthy habits and take care of your body and you will be much happier than fixating on weight.
  • Practice body respect. Recognize how amazing your body is for allowing you to dance! It is ok if you don’t love your body all the time, but you can always respect it and take care of it.


As dancers use nutrition to fuel their bodies, they will feel their best and be able to perform at their best! Remember that other things like sleep, stress control, hydration, and body respect will also affect your ability to perform, so take an inventory of what areas need some improvement!

Your body is amazing and allows you to move and dance. Show gratitude to your body for all it can do and give it the foods it needs to do those things!


Halson SH. Sleep and athletes. Published July 2017. 

Mangieri H. Healthy hydration for young athletes. Published July 2018.

What Should a Teenager Eat for Dinner?

As a teenager, dinner sometimes ends up as a piece of day old pizza or a cold bowl of cereal right before bed. Busy schedules with homework, sports, or extra-curricular activities can make it hard for a teenager to eat a well-balanced dinner. However, a good dinner improves sleep and contributes to overall health. With these benefits in mind, what should a teenager eat for dinner?

A teenager should aim to make a nutrient full dinner with half the plate full of fruit and vegetables and the other half a balance of protein and grains/starchy vegetables. Some good examples of dinners include a taco salad, chili/soup with a whole wheat roll, fish with roasted vegetables and brown rice, or a baked potato with chicken and vegetables.

These are just a couple of possible meals that can provide a nutrient full dinner to a growing teen. Creating a balance of carbohydrate, protein, healthy fats and fiber at dinner will best support a healthy lifestyle as a teen. The following article will provide more information regarding how to create a balanced meal along with other tips to create a healthy dinner experience. 

How to Create a Healthy and Satisfying Dinner for a Teenager

Following the basic structure of the Choose My Plate diagram will help a teenager create a healthy, well balanced dinner. This pattern provides a good mix of carbohydrate, protein, fat and fiber. 

Carbohydrates found in grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and some dairy products provide a teenager with necessary energy.

Protein found in meat, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and dairy products is the building block of the body. Body tissue, hormones, cell communication, nutrient transport and the immune system all require protein.

This nutrient also helps regulate blood sugar, preventing energy crashes throughout the day. Protein also promotes satiety between eating occasions. 

Fats found in foods like fatty fish, nuts, olives, avocados and plant oils are essential to brain, organ, skin and hair health. Like protein, fat also assists with blood sugar control and feeling full.

Fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes increases feelings of fullness, slows the release of sugar in the blood and improves gut health and digestion. Fiber also decreases the risk of chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

All these nutrients combined in appropriate proportions make a satisfying and health promoting dinner. The following graph will provide more information about the food groups that come together for a balanced, nutrient full meal.

Components of Choose My Plate Meal Pattern

Food GroupFruitVegetablesProteinGrains
TipsFruit can provide a sweet finisher to a meal, or be incorporated into the meal through a fun recipe. 
Choose a variety and limit fruit choices with added sugars.
Roast, steam or air fry these nutrient full foods for a satisfying side or use them to add flavor and color to a recipe. 
Don’t be afraid to try new vegetables as they all provide unique benefits. 
Limit vegetables with high sodium and saturated fat content.
Protein doesn’t just have to be meat. In fact, other protein sources will provide benefits that meat does not have. 
Look to include more plant based protein, seafood, dairy and eggs along with meat options.
Whole grains offer far more nutrients than refined grains. They should make up at least half of the grains a teen consumes daily. 
Starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn can also be used to balance out a plate in place of grains. 
Try to limit highly processed versions of these foods with added sodium, saturated fat and sugars.
BenefitsFruits boost health through the high content of nutrients and other healthful components. Fruit provides fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.Just like fruit, vegetables are full of health promoting components. Vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals On top of the obvious benefit of providing protein, the varying protein food sources also boast of unique health benefits. Fatty fish contain omega 3, meat offers iron and zinc, legumes with fiber and antioxidants, eggs contain nutrients for brain health and nuts give heart healthy fats.Grains and starchy vegetables add energizing carbohydrates to the plate along with many other important nutrients. These nutrients include B-vitamins, iron, fiber and more. Whole grains are shown to be an important part of a healthy meal pattern and should not be avoided.
IdeasBanana smoothie, apple slices with peanut butter, fruit salad, grilled pineapple on a burger, chopped apricots instead of jam, heated frozen berries to replace syrups, avocado with sandwichesSteamed broccoli, roasted carrots, air fried Brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash mixed with pasta dish, vegetable toppings on pizzas or sandwiches, black beans mixed with taco meat, garbanzo beans with soups, butternut squash curry, taco salad, salsaBaked salmon, kidney beans with ground beef, cottage or ricotta cheese with pasta dishes, seeds as a salad topper, egg with sandwiches, chicken in soupSpanish brown rice, cooked quinoa, 100% whole grain spaghetti noodles with sauce, whole grain tortilla for burrito, whole grain bread for sandwiches, oatmeal pancakes, overnight oats,  baked potato, sweet potato fries, corn on the cob

Meal Ideas for Teenagers

The cold cereal and pizza mentioned at the beginning of this article can still be a part of a good dinner. Simply use the principles discussed to create a more balanced meal. 

The cold cereal could receive a boost of nutrients, fiber, protein and healthy fats by simply adding slivered almonds and fruit to the bowl.  Additionally, a teen could add an avocado toast with the cereal. 

Replacing the cold cereal with a warm bowl of oatmeal will also transform the meal. Add in some pumpkin purée, Greek yogurt, cinnamon and a couple dark chocolate chips for a pumpkin cookie inspired bowl.

The pizza could be rounded out by adding some of your favorite vegetable toppings with a side of fruit. If cheese pizza is your jam, add a simple side salad with a fruit vinaigrette or a green smoothie.

Take a look at some typical dinners and see how easy adding fruits, vegetables, whole grains or protein can be. These additions will turn a low nutrient meal into a satiating, health promoting dinner to fuel the continued growth and development of a teen.

Other dinner ideas:

  • Bean and chicken taco salad with corn, brown rice, mango salsa, cheese and avocado. 
  • 100% Whole wheat pita with hummus, veggies, cooked pineapple and a chickpea patty
  • Bean and meat chili with baked potato and a side of fruit/favorite vegetables
  • Salmon with roasted vegetables and quinoa along with a small fruit smoothie

On-the-go meals

Sometimes teenagers do not have the time to prepare or sit down and eat dinner. Instead, they may need something easy to grab and eat along the way to their next activity. A little extra thought or preparation at an earlier time can go a long way. 

Leftovers from the night before make a great, fast option. Simply stick the food in a microwaveable container, heat it up until 165 F, and the meal is ready to go in under five minutes.

Sandwiches and wraps also make easy meals. With foreknowledge of a busy evening, a teen can prep these foods the day before. Add a bag of veggies and a piece of fruit and a balanced meal is ready to go.

Another easy prep meal comes in the form of a salad. This salad should be more than greens in order to fuel a teen well. Make sure to add a source of protein such as eggs and cheese along with some carbohydrates like quinoa or whole grain rice. A little bit of dressing or avocado will add some fat to assist with absorption of  all those good nutrients. 

Finally, when cooking meals, make a little extra and place in a freezer safe container. On days when cooking just seems like too much, grab one of these homemade freezer meals. Make sure to heat up food to 165 F and to date containers. 

Best dinner tips for teens

  1. Try to eat dinner with the family. Studies find an association with higher academic performance, less risky behaviors, lowered risk of depression and better health with teenagers who participate in consistent family dinners.
  2. Avoid eating a heavy dinner right before bed. Choose a lighter meal if eating dinner less than an hour before bed,  or make time to eat dinner a few hours earlier in the day. A heavy meal disrupts sleep and can make a teenager feel tired the next day. 
  3. Limit caffeine, high fat and high sugar foods before bed. Just like with a heavy meal, these foods eaten too close to bed time will negatively affect sleep quality.
  4. Along with favorites, try new foods. Variety in the diet provides the most health benefits to a teenager. Teenagers may find themselves liking a previously disliked food due to taste preferences changing. 
  5. Make dinner an enjoyable experience. Turn off distractions and choose to eat mindfully. Pay attention to taste, smell and texture. Slowing down and taking pleasure in the meal experience will increase satisfaction and improve eating habits.

Practicing these tips along with the information regarding how to create a balanced meal will help teenagers enjoy a healthy and satisfying dinner.