December 15th, 2017

Cooking skills for the busy athlete

By Ryan McCracken on October 7, 2017.

At Alberta Sport Development Center (ASDC), we help emerging athletes reach the next level of competition. Nutrition is a key element as part of an athlete’s training and competition plan. My role as the ASDC Dietitian is to support athletes to meet their nutrition goals. This includes educating our young athletes, parents, and coaches about sports nutrition and how nutrition can improve their athletic performance. But it also includes developing food skills such as menu planning, reading food labels, grocery shopping and learning how to cook. These practical skills are important for young athletes to support their training but also a life skill for as they get older.

Young athletes often struggle with good nutrition practices as they face many challenges with the type of schedules they maintain. Our athletes often have busy training schedules and will be up early before school to train or will train after school and into the evening. This can make it difficult to eat regular meals at home, as they are at their training centers, and leaves little time for meal preparation for in between school and events. Athletes often travel away from home for competitions and may have reduced access to good food choices on the road or at the venues where they compete. So part of our goal at ASDC is to work with athletes to provide practical strategies and develop food skills to help them build on good nutrition practices that they can take with them into their adult years.

The cooking sessions I do with the athletes in our athlete enhancement program is always a favorite. We focus on some basic meal planning and the athletes learn how to make some quick snacks and meals that they can eat at home or on the go. They always enjoy making snacks such as cereal trail mix, yogurt parfaits, and smoothies. They also learn that they can make their own quick meals such as pasta salads and skillets that can be packed up to eat on the go or to serve to their parents as a thank you for driving them around everywhere! Not everything turns out perfect but learning from their mistakes is part of skill development (like reading the recipe closely when it says one quarter of a teaspoon of chili peppers and not one quarter cup). Cooking skills such as reading a recipe, washing dishes, cutting and sautéing vegetables, measuring liquids and dry ingredients and browning meats are just a few of the skills we focus on.

We will also tour a grocery store to practice other food skills such as how to read food labels, grocery shop and budget for meals. Through hands on discussion and some competitive activities (they are athletes after all) athletes build their confidence and knowledge about making informed healthy food choices. It is a lot of fun and they learn practical food skills that they will rely on as they get older as well. To learn more about our Athlete Enhancement Program with ASDC check out our website at http://www.mhc.ab.ca/Services/HealthandWellness/ASDC.

Kimberlee Brooks, RD, MSc, is a sport dietitian with the Alberta Sport Development Centre and can be reached at asdc@m .ab.ca.

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