Child and teen athletes are not just “little adults” that can follow the hot new trending diet out there. They have one critical requirement to consider – growth. As a pediatric practitioner, it concerns me to see so many kids arbitrarily following diets and/or taking unregulated supplements without the guidance of an expert.
Enter Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, CSSD. Heather is a registered dietitian nutritionist that is Board Certified as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition who has been helping kids of all ages up in the Pittsburgh, PA area for years. She has a newly released book, Fueling Young Athletes, that finally provides parents both accurate information and practically guides them on how to feed their child athlete. I had a chance to read through the book, and Heather did a phenomenal job sectioning off information into chapters for fast access. I don’t know of any other book that provides all the critical information to know plus guids you through personalizing a plan and then ends with tasty, kid-friendly foods that are easy to plug into their self-guided nutrition prescription. It’s as close to getting one-on-one guidance with the same type of qualified professional if you cannot afford a personalized session or your insurance doesn’t cover a visit. I love having this book on our clinic shelf for easy reference for my practitioners and families. It’s great for parents, but an excellent reference for medical professionals and fitness experts to use as a resource.
Recently, I had a chance to chat with Heather and this is what she said.
Q: Why do you think families need a book like this to help them with their teen athletes?
The reasons are endless! First, parents and athletes are bombarded with information on nutrition and not all of that information is accurate. I am regularly amazed by some of the myths that I need to bust in my office. So much of the information on the internet is simply wrong. This book is meant as a one-stop shop for all things to help a young athletes eat right for growth, development and athletic performance.
Also, I get a lot of the same questions over and over again on what to feed athletes before, during and after they compete. Those are all great questions that I answer in the book, but being the best athlete in the long term goes way beyond that. One goal in writing this book was to bring attention to the importance of day-to-day nutrition and the significance it has on health, growth, development and performance. A healthy, injury free athlete needs to have the right nutrients day-to-day, not just game day.
Lastly, all the knowledge in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t figure out how to put a plan into practice. Families need help with ideas and implementation, not just knowledge. I devoted an entire chapter to sharing barriers that I have heard and providing solutions to overcome them.
Q: You are a mom to 3 amazing children. How do you juggle your busy private practice, spokesperson work, book promotions, consulting at Carnegie Melon University all at the same time? Specifically, I'd love to know some of your best tips on how you keep the meals flowing throughout the week.
Ha, juggling is the perfect word to describe my life! Simply put, I stay flexible and I plan ahead.
I set aside 3-4 hours on a day that I have time to shop, chop and prepare healthy meals. Usually Sunday evening. I try to prepare 5-6 meals for the week during this time. I also clean fruits and vegetables and have them cut and ready-to-eat ahead of time. If you open my refrigerator on a Monday morning you would think I am ready to feed an army. By Friday, it’s empty. It’s important for kids to see nourishing foods when they open the refrigerator or pantry. I use all glass containers to store food. Most kids and busy teens won’t take the time to open a container to see what’s inside, so using see-through storage containers makes it easy. Teach kids how to assemble health meals as well. My toaster oven is my favorite appliance because the kids can use it to assemble a quick meal- mini pizzas, tuna melts, chicken soft tacos, hot turkey sandwiches- these are all healthy options that can be assembled in a few minutes.
Q: What are some of your favorite parts of the book that you think families will especially enjoy having as a reference?
This book includes the most up-to-date information on all things sports nutrition, from the latest research on protein balance and timing to the latest trends in dietary supplements in ergogenic aids to everything in between. But all that knowledge, including a perfectly calculated sports nutrition plan, doesn’t do an athlete any good if they can’t figure out how to implement it.
I think parents and coaches will find the chapter on “how to” put the nutrition plan into practice the most useful. It addresses the issues that families and athletes most often face, such as late-night practices, inconvenient school lunch times, demanding schedules and eating on the go, lack of sleep and expense of feeding multiple high school athletes. I share over thirty common barriers and provide concrete solutions on how to make it work for the family or team.
The other very useful part of this book is that I provide specific meal plan examples for different calorie amounts, using recipes included in the book. Figuring out how much based on individual needs takes time; I did the work for the reader.
Q: Can you share a recipe that's featured in your book here? Please include full recipe and photo of the recipe.
The recipes are broken down into liquid fuel and solid fuel, and are meant to be simple but balanced so that young athletes can make them by themselves. This basic blueberry smoothie on page 187 is a perfect example. Nothing fancy but a great breakfast, lunch, dinner or between meal nourishment for a busy young athlete on the go.
*3/4 cup blueberries, frozen
*6 oz. (180 g) vanilla Greek yogurt
2 oz. nonfat or low fat milk
Blend all ingredients until smooth.
Nutrition: 1 smoothie= 190 calories, 29 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 19 g protein, 1 g fat (Exchanges: 2 CHO + 3 PRO + 0 FAT)
Heather Mangieri is a registered dietitian nutritionist who works one-on-one with clients at her nutrition practice, Nutrition CheckUp, headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA. Her areas of expertise include sports nutrition, weight management and disordered eating. She is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and works as a consultant to the Carnegie Melon University Athletic Department and Student Health Services. Heather enjoys a very active and fulfilling life in Pittsburgh with her three children. As a parent of boys with special needs and early health and development disorders, she knows firsthand how challenging it can be to stay positive, healthy and active while managing a family. She enjoys traveling, running, CrossFit and new adventures. Order Heather's book on Amazon or visit her website at Nutrition CheckUp.