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Learn to categorize foods

This is an excerpt from Fueling Young Athletes by Heather Mangieri.

In early chapters you learned why you need to incorporate each of the macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) into your meal plan. Now, you need to make sure you understand which foods fit into each category. I can tell you that most youth athletes - as well as their parents - are surprised to find out which foods are considered sources of carbohydrate. Learning how to categorize foods is the first step to building a meal plan that will properly support growth, development, and sport performance.

Which Foods Are Carbohydrate Sources?

Recall that carbohydrate is divided into complex and simple. In terms of the U.S. government icon MyPlate discussed in chapter 2, all five areas of the plate can provide carbohydrate, although some offer more choices than others. Choices from the grain, fruit, and vegetable sections all have carbohydrate. Milk and yogurt, which fall under the dairy group, are also sources of carbohydrate. From the protein section of the plate, we get carbohydrate from beans and legumes. Foods with added sugar also have carbohydrate. These foods, such as the sugar in a sport drink or candy, may not have a place on the MyPlate icon, but they are foods that youth athletes may consume on occasion. As you learned, some of the engineered sport foods have added sugar on purpose to provide the energy needed for long-distance or high-intensity activity.

Which Foods Are Protein Sources?

Remember that protein contains amino acids, which are used to build and repair body tissues. Protein occurs in most animal-based products such as red meat,poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese as well as some plant-based foods such as soy, beans, and legumes.

Some foods are categorized as containing only protein (e.g., egg whites and boneless, skinless chicken breast that is very lean). Foods considered sources of both protein and fat include chicken thighs and whole eggs. Some foods are categorized as containing both protein and carbohydrate (e.g., beans and legumes).

The protein foods you choose should depend on your needs, goals, and training. You can choose foods that are either complete or incomplete proteins, but most, if not all, of your meals and mini-meals should include a source of protein.

Which Foods Are Fat Sources?

Dietary fat is an important fuel source for youth athletes. In chapter 2 you learned that dietary fat can be categorized as unsaturated fat, saturated fat, or trans fat. Many foods contain naturally occurring fat; many of the protein sources just mentioned fall into that category. Other foods have added fat (e.g., buttery crackers or a slice of birthday cake). Some foods have no or very little carbohydrate or protein and are considered fat sources only. These include oils, butter, nut butters, nuts, seeds, and salad dressings. When filling in your meal skeleton, make sure that all of your fat sources, both naturally occurring fats and all added fats, are included within your total fat servings.

Table 8.1 provides a quick glimpse into how to categorize foods. Remember that many carbohydrate sources are made with fat and fall under both categories, and many protein foods have naturally occurring fat and fall under both categories.



Learn more about Fueling Young Athletes.

More Excerpts From Fueling Young Athletes