Category Archives: Teen Fitness

Bringing Back the Plant Based Diet

We are now well into the post holiday season.  I have a ton of bone broth stored in my fridge and deep freeze, and now I’m on to my next adventure…bring back the plants!!!!🌱

As a diary free family we have a lot to work around during the holidays and I feel like I’m cooking and baking in all of my spare time, just to keep up with the demands of school, family and sports celebrations.  So I tend to let some of our healthier habits slide, simply because I’m too tired (i.e.:lazy) to keep them up.  One of the things I have let slide is the variety of plant based foods and meals.  Typically we try some new vegetable each month, my kids get to help pick it out and help me find recipes.  Some things we like and add into our regular meals and others, well lets just say my family is opinionated and leave it at that!πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‰

During the holidays, I let that tradition go and resort back to frozen peas, corn and standard mixed veggies and keep carrots and cucumbers in stock, but that’s about it.  So, we still get some serving of veggies, but I’m definitely over it by the end of January.  I star counting the hours until I can plant my garden, spend extra time digging through produce to find the freshest one, and even start pulling out my spring time recipes to kill off some of the cabin fever.

You know me, I love me some research!  I scoured my library for a new take on plant based foods and I’m only 2 chapters in but I’m loving The Plant-Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer RD.


She has a great take on adding in plants to a standard American diet, achieving a “plant based omnivore” diet and how to transition on the “Plant-Powered Diet Spectrum.”  I love that she covers all facets of food consumption, allowing it to be okay that you consume meat and animal products, go completely vegan, or find a comfortable place inbetween.  She give healthy alternatives to the processed foods that we have become accustomed to.  I have flipped through the recipes in the back and have 3 on my list for this upcoming week!

She also has a great pantry resource. This was, by far, my favorite thing in the book.  Many people assume that to eat a plant based Diet you have to go to the store multiple time each week to get the freshest ingredients, and who has time for that?!?!  Most of the things on her list are things I make at home or I can buy with my Amazon Pantry account and have them delivered, SCORE!

There is even a 14-Day meal plan for newbies!!

Just to be clear, I’m not an affiliate for this book or author, I just love sharing great resources that I find work well for myself and my family. But I do give credit where is due!  Here’s Sharon’s blog sharonpalmer.com check her out!

  I have always noticed a huge shift in personality with both of my kids when we eat better, and I have found that I can handle their drama better when I have a better diet. Simple things like being a regular bathroom userπŸ’© can actually have an affect on how your brain works!😱. When your body is a toxic waste dump and it can’t get rid of the waste your body begins to reabsorb the toxins! And that’s just one benefit of simply adding more whole plants into your diet, imagine what else will start to fix itself when your body is working properly!!! 

That’s all I have for now!  See you on the other side!

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Teen Athlete Nutrition – Topic 3 – Food Obsessions

So, our perception of food has been skewed for a long time.  It’s been that way since we began making processed foods.

We’ve gone through the Great Depression, where people would eat whatever came their way. We’ve gone through war times when women had to leave the home and begin joining the full time workforce. The 80’s  and 90’s no-fat, low-fat, fake-fat, any-fat-is-bad craze. There’s been Atkins and paleo, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, (insert allergy) free diets. 

It’s hard to figure out what is best for us and for our kids. Every “diet” that is out there, is there because it worked for somebody. For busy people there isn’t a lot of time to trial and error different eating styles to figure out what the best one is. And I can’t help you!  WHAT?!?!  It takes trial and error to figure out what your body needs and each person is different.  There is no cookie cutter one-size-fits-most option.  The best thing that I can steal you towards is clean eating.

What the hell does that mean?  Again, there are many definitions out there, here is mine.  Eat foods that come from the earth with as little processing and chemicals as possible.  If you eat meat, eat an animal that was allowed to do the same.  We are living in a world of plenty, there are snacks and treats and things we know not to eat, but Just. Can’t. Resist! That is OK, food shouldn’t be a battle, but it is also not your lovey blanket either!  I’ve said it in past posts, you eat to live not live to eat.

That brings me to the obsessions that surround food and food consumption (or lack there-of). Being an athlete and working with athletes, certain ideas are seemingly hard-wired into us.  Some are sports specific and others are general.  I would like to clarify that I am not a dietitian, nutritionist, nurse, counselor, or mediator.  I am a coach, which, by default, means I get to take on these roles whether I want to or not.  My athletes have to be healthy enough to perform at their best in practice and performance, so yes, I pay attention.

Eating disorders are a real thing and can cause serious damage.  From Anorexia to Bulimea, Binging, speed weight loss, comfort eating, and even calorie counting/food measuring OCD. There are many different ways to abuse food.  I know good coaches do their best to prevent any of these, but athletes sometimes take matters into their own hands.  With sports like dance, gymnastics, and wrestling depending on specific physical size, weight and uniform look; athletes in these sports should have constant and consistent nutrition training as a part of their regime.  This not only teaches them healthy practices, but allows us as coaches to stay on top of current research and information on foods that will most help or harm our athletes.

We will unfortunately never get away from “skinny” being thought of as healthy and a goal look for teenage girls.  Media has, however, gotten better about the image of healthy, I don’t think the thought process will change, just ebb and flow with the fashion trends of the time.  Keeping this in mind and understanding that many kids do not get to choose what/when they eat; helping parents understand how to keep their athlete healthy has become a priority.  

As a society we are busy, and most households have all adults working to support the family.  We have gotten away from preparing meals from scratch at home.  So, the best bet is to find a compromise and balance. Get the whole family involved with meal planning, preparing and cooking.  Even if you have one night out of the week where you cook several meals for a few dinners and snacks for the week.  This gets everyone involved and delegates the tasks to all people in the house, making the “burden” of cooking more bearable for all.  I’m a full believer that kids should be in the kitchen helping, not sitting around waiting for the meal to be made.  Sometimes easier said than done, but the earlier you start the better.

I mentioned several eating disorders above, and as I said I’m not an expert, just someone who has been in the dance and gymnastics world long enough, so “mention” is all I will do.  If you do suspect someone is abusing food or harming themselves or others in anyway, talk to someone.  A coach, counselor school nurse, parent or teacher can help.  There is a lot of resources online, get help as quickly as you can.

Teen Atheletes Require Good Nutritional Practices

The amount, structure and timing of food intake does have an affect on sports performance. Clean, healthy nutrition practices can help athletes train harder and recover more quickly as well as helping to prevent disease and injury.

Having the right food intake can help athletes:

  • Have higher energy for training
  • Increase stamina
  • Improve recovery time
  • Increase strength
  • Reduce chances of minor injuries
  • Reduce mood swings πŸ˜‰
  • While also helping with the excessive brain and body development that happens at this time of life!

During childhood and teen years, development and growth is quick and constant. This increases the demands for complete nutrition in young athletes due to high energy expense in addition to rapid growth. 

A teen athlete’s diet needs to provide Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and provide energy to fuel their rapid growth, training and recovery. (And, yes, I said carbs and fats! We’ll get to thatπŸ˜‰) But, according to Sports Nutrition for Young Atheletes by Anita Bean, there are no specific values for young athletes. Not enough in depth studies have been done on teen athletes, just adult athletes. My guess is that teen athletes are more difficult to study, and there are a lot of factors that need to be considered outside of food and training; like hormones! 

I will try to give some basic guidelines here, but, as always, consult your pediatrician before changing your child’s diet. Also, consult your CHILD before changing their diet.πŸ˜‰ Involving them in the planning and preparing of a clean diet is more likely to get them to eat it!

Because food is a complicated topic for most people, let alone kids. I’m going to cover some of the things I have found to be integral to a healthy athlete both as a coach and as a mom.  I will break these topic down into 3 topics:

  1. Food catagories – why they are needed.
  2. Food timing – what you eat when can make a difference in healing and recovery
  3. Food obsessions – there are many sports and activities that have an expected body image. This takes its biggest toll on teens who are at the height of body development.

My next post will cover the basic food categories and why your athletes need them.

Till next time!!

Workout and Nutrition Basics for Teen Fitness

This post gives great tips for teens who workout or are looking to start working out.  Just remember that fitness and nutrition go hand in hand for all athletes, but are especially important for teens because they are still growing.  Getting good sources of plant proteins and plant based calcium is crucial for strength and recovery, they are also easier to digest than animal sources.  I’ll put a list of great sources at the end of the article. 

5 Tips for Fitness Minded Teens 

1. Don’t do chest exercises everyday.  Or any single large muscle group exercise everyday for that matter.

2. Learn muscle balance.  Train all muscle groups, this will allow your body to work effectively on and off the field.

3. Focus on breathing.  Breathing on the exertion part of the exercise helps with effective movement.

4. Follow great biomechanics.   POSTURE MATTERS!  Unless you are training with a trainer with a sport specific exercise, use the 90 degree rule.

5. Don’t go super heavy on weights.  Sport specific exercises might require heavier weights, but work with a trainer if you are going to lift heavy. Body work exercises can be very effective training too.

 For a Full article on these 5 tips visit www.activekids.com .  

Some great sources for plant protein are:

  • Lentils
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Chia Seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Hemp seeds
  • Spirulina

There is a great article from Www.NutritionStripped.com giving details on these and more plant based proteins. 

Here are some great Plant based calcium sources:

  • Sesame Seeds
  • Chia Seeds
  • Chickpeas
  • Kale
  • Book Choy
  • Full Fat Coconut Milk
  • Almonds
  • Sea Vegetables
  • Quinoa

Check out the details of these foods from www.youngandraw.com

 I also want to clarify why I talk so much about plant proteins and plant based calcium versus animal proteins and calcium, before anyone has a 😫 hissy fit πŸ˜‰. I assume that, unless you are living a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle you are getting plenty of animal protein/calcium sources.  I believe that as a society we get too many animal products in our diets in general.  (that is coming from someone who eats a fairly “paleo” styled diet) We need to get more plants in anyway so we might as well get in the most nutrient dense ones.  I’m all about getting the most bang for your buck!πŸ€‘

Teen Fitness – Weight Lifting

Being a coach and working with lots of kids and teens I get questions about fitness training for that age group.  There have been beliefs that types of training are unsafe for kids and teens because they are still growing and could do damage to their bodies.  There is some truth to that for all people.  If you train incorrectly you can damage your body, no matter what your age or where you are at in your growth cycle.

More and more studies are showing that it is safe for teens and even young adolecants to lift weights, if done properly and under supervision of someone who knows what they are doing.  Many of us who coach today still use techniques we were taught as we were young athletes, that is unfortunately part of the problem.  As long as we stay up-to-date on training techniques we can help our students, athletes and kids use weightlifting as a safe and effective way to stay healthy and improve body mechanics for the sport they choose to be involved with.

I will go more in depth in future articles with references to research that I have found, so you can make the best decision for your kid as to the best training method.  For now, let’s start with the basics.

Yes, growing teens should be aware that lifting too much weight can do damage.  So Cross Fit is out until you are done growing!  Each kid is different so I’m not going to throw out numbers, but technique needs to be the first priority for all weight lifters.  If you lift wrong you are setting yourself up for failure.  So my suggestion is to always start light and really figure out the proper stance.  Know where your feet should be, where your knees and hips should be, your abs should always be drawn in toward the spine, shoulders are down and rotated backward.  These are fairly generic, but with a few exceptions most exercises have these requirements for each major joint in your body.  By placing the focus on joint placement you allow the body to get the most effective workout, and avoid compensation injuries.

The best way to figure out if you are lifting the right amount of weight is by trial and error.  Generically, you want to be able to do 3 sets of 10-12 reps and struggle on the last set, but be able to complete it.  I’m also a big fan of not taking a rest in between sets, I recommend alternating exercises like doing a bicep set then a quad set and once those sets are done doing triceps and hamstrings.  This way you get a full body workout and by keeping your heart rate up you are also improving your cardiovascular system as well.

Remember to take a rest day, while lifting weights is recommended for teens, it is only recommended 3-4 times per week max.  If you follow a plan like I have stated above you will get a full body workout in each time you lift so there is no need to do it every day.  HOWEVER, that does not mean sit on your butt the other 3-4 days.  Use the time off to stretch and build your flexibility or improve your cardio.  All three aspects are needed if you want to become the best athlete you can be.