We are excited to have a new feature this year thanks to Family Fare.  Each week Stephanie Edson, MS, RDN, LD, LMNT and Nathan Stock will be providing nutritional tips to help athletes reach their full potential.

Click on the Family Fare logo below for more information.

March Madness Tip 3

Food is only nutritious if it’s safe to eat! Be sure to wash your hands before eating and follow food safety practices such as keeping cold foods cold and cooking foods to the correct temperature. Only accept or purchase foods and beverages from sources you trust.  Catching a cold or getting foodborne illness is preventable with handwashing and proper food safety practices.  To learn more about food safety, please visit https://www.shopfamilyfare.com/content/food-safety

March Madness Tip 2

While sports beverages can be beneficial for athletes who are active for 60 minutes or longer, too much of a sports beverage can be unhealthy.  Limit sports beverages to 20 ounces or less after each hour or longer practice or game.  Instead of relying on sports beverages for replenishment and nutrition, choose balanced meals and snacks to replace lost nutrients and keep you fueled!

March Madness Tip 1

It’s March Madness!  Not only is March a great month for sports, it’s also National Nutrition Month!  The theme for National Nutrition Month 2020 is ‘Bite by Bite’ and reminds us every little bit (or bite!) of nutrition is a step in the right direction. Small goals and changes can have cumulative healthful effects and nutrition doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  Choose one or two small goals such as choosing whole grains over refined grains or 100% juice instead of soda to achieve better nutrition during March and all year round.

Tip 25

Potassium is an important nutrient that plays important roles in fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signaling.  When trying to eat more potassium, most people choose bananas.  While bananas are a source of potassium, potatoes are a better source!  Potatoes are a healthy food, we just tend to serve them in less nutritious ways such as fried.  Try enjoying a baked potato or casserole dish made with fresh potatoes for potassium to support health.


Tip 24

Did you know foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus, tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, and strawberries help your body absorb the iron in plant-based foods such as in fortified breakfast cereals, spinach and kale, beans and lentils, and dried fruits like raisins and apricots!?!  When choosing plant-based sources of iron, add a fruit or veggie that is also high in vitamin C for better absorption and nutrition!


Tip 23

Whether managing a health condition, following a food lifestyle, or just wanting to make healthier choices, the Nutrition Pathways at Family Fare will help guide you in the right direction and make it easier for you to make a healthier choice. For example, February is Heart Health Month, so look for the Heart Healthy Nutrition Pathway next to heart healthy food choices.  To learn more about Nutrition Pathways at Family Fare, please visit:  https://www.shopfamilyfare.com/nutrition-pathways  Shop online at https://shopthefastlane.com 


Tip 22

Food is only nutritious if it is safe to eat!  Remember to keep fresh foods such as produce away from meats and other foods that will need to be cooked and keep a thermometer handy to ensure foods are cooked to the right temperatures!  Don’t forget ‘4 day throwaway’ – try to eat leftovers within 4 days of preparation or throw them away!

Tip 21

Don’t eat the recommended servings of fruits and veggies?  Wanting a better-for-you smoothie or shake?  When making smoothies and shakes in a blender, try using frozen fruit, and even veggies, in place of ice. Frozen berries and carrots are examples of excellent options.  The frozen fruits and/or veggies will still create a cold, blended drink, but will also boost the overall nutrition!


Tip 20

Is pasta a healthy choice for a team dinner the night before a game?  Pasta, specially refined, white pasta, is one food that is rich in carbohydrates.  Potatoes, bread, corn, peas, beans, and fruits are also carbohydrate rich foods.  Most carbohydrates are easy for our bodies to breakdown and are stored in our bodies as glycogen; when we are active in general exercise, a practice, or a game, our bodies use the stored glycogen for energy.  
The thought of eating a large plate of pasta the night before a game is to make sure your glycogen stores are full, so you will have energy to play harder, longer.  This practice is often referred to as ‘carb loading’.  Quite honestly, just eating a plate full of pasta the night before will allow your body to store glycogen, but not extra glycogen.  To get the best effects from ‘carb loading’, an athlete typically needs to start eating a high carbohydrate, low fat diet 7 days before the event.   Spaghetti with red sauce is a higher carb, low fat meal and is why it is a common pre-game meal.  
In addition to the higher carb diet, athletes need to reduce their physical activities beginning 4 days prior to the event.  Being active during this period will use up the glycogen so it is important to make sure your body is able to store the carbs you are eating.  
Carb loading can be beneficial for those who are active for 90 minutes or longer; however, on average our bodies already store enough carbs to keep up fueled for 60 to 90 minutes.  Carb loading can be an option especially for those with long practices and back-to-back games, but a marathon runner, swimmer, cyclist, or someone who is all three, is the type of athlete who generally benefits from carb loading, since their activities are vigorous and often lasting 90+ minutes.
Carb loading is not effective for everyone and the success can depend on many factors including hydration and individual metabolism.  
You can try to increase the amount of carbs you eat and see how you feel.  If you feel it makes a difference, your body may be responding to carb loading.  If not, consuming a healthy, balanced diet will still keep your body fueled for practice and games.  


Tip 19

Happy New Year!  One of the most common New Year resolutions is to improve our health in one way or another.  One food to highlight that supports almost all health and wellness goals is oatmeal.  Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate that is an excellent source of energy and contains fiber which helps keep blood sugar steady, reduces the bad, LDL cholesterol, and aids in satiety/feeling fuller longer.  Oats can be enjoyed warm as a bowl of sweet or savory oatmeal or as an ingredient in a variety of dishes.  A simple way to incorporate oats is to use oats in place of breadcrumbs in recipes such as meatloaf or veggie tots.  Oats can also be incorporated into desserts such as in pie crust or cookies.  In desserts, try substituting half of the flour with oatmeal for a healthier treat.  Shop Family Fare for an excellent selection of Our Family and Full Circle Oats!

Tip 18

When choosing peanut butter, choose the regular over the reduced-fat varieties.  When they reduce the fat in peanut butter, they actually take out the healthier fats, so you still have about the same amount of saturated fat in both the regular and reduced-fat option.  Most individuals are better off eating regular peanut butter than the reduced-fat.  If you are looking for a lower calorie peanut butter option, choose the peanut powder and add water until it reaches the desired consistency!


Tip 17

Did you know white and brown eggs contain the same nutrients!?  The nutrition of an egg depends on the hen’s diet.  If you are looking for a healthier egg, choose eggs that come from hens who were fed fish, such as Egglands Best brand.  The hens pass off the healthy fats from the fish into their eggs!  If you don’t like fish, definitely choose eggs from hens who were fed fish.  Eating an egg each day can be part of a healthy diet and is a good source of protein.  Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or hard boiled and for a snack, eggs are a healthy food to include in your meal plan

Tip 16

When looking for salad dressings, marinades, and sauces, choose those made with canola oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil.  Vegetable oil may sound healthy since it has the word ‘vegetable’ in it, but vegetable oil is simply another name for soybean oil.  Vegetable/soybean oil is not the healthiest oil since it is higher in Omega-6 fats which may cause inflammation if consumed in excess.  Choosing products made with healthier fats is one way to eat better while still enjoying processed/prepared options!



Tip 15

Certain nutrients including vitamins A, E, D, and K are fat soluble meaning they are best absorbed when eaten with a fat such as oil or butter. Also since absorbed with fat, these vitamins can be stored in the body. While carrots with ranch is a traditional snack, try carrots with hummus for a healthier option that includes healthy fat plus protein too!

Other nutrients, including the B vitamins, are water-soluble and are not well stored in the body. It is important to make sure we get our B vitamins on a daily basis for the best nutrition, especially since B vitamins play important roles in helping us turn the food we eat into energy.  Fortified breakfast cereals such as Our Family Toasted Oats, Our Family Peanut Butter or Full Circle Almond Butter, and Our Family Dairy Milk are healthy foods that contain B vitamins!

Tip 14

When it comes to nutrition, while the MyPlate and general nutrition recommendations are appropriate for most of the population, nutrition is becoming more personalized, so find what works best for your body.  Our genetics, environment, and lifestyle all interact to make who we are and with so many variations, what works for one person may not be best for another.  As you figure out your path for optional nutrition,  do not be afraid to try different ways to eat such as one meal vs more frequent smaller meals or lower carbohydrate vs higher carbohydrate diet to see what works best for your body.  If you have any nutrition questions, do not hesitate to reach out by emailing your questions to:  LivingWell@spartannash.com

Remember your training and athletic goals and that our bodies will perform at their best when well nourished. One final tip for this series is that organic foods are not more nutritious compared to conventionally grown foods.  An organic cookie is still a cookie.  Choose nutritious, healthy foods majority of the time and stay hydrated for your best health and performance.

Tip 13

If watching your weight and still wanting to train, research has shown High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to be effective at burning calories while not increasing hunger.  Try this:  30 seconds vigorous/high intensity activity followed by 4 minutes light/rest activity and repeat 7 times or for desired duration.  Vigorous/high intensity could be sprinting/high knee run, burpees, or squat-jumping jacks and the light/rest activity could be casual walking or stretching. By burning more calories without increased hunger, you can achieve weight loss since you will be less likely to ‘eat back’ the calories burned.  While this method of HIIT has proven effective, depending on your individual body and nutrition prior to exercising, results may vary.

A good snack if trying to watch your weight is a handful of Our Family Toasted Oats cereal. With fiber, vitamins, and minerals, the Our Family Toasted Oats are not too heavy, but will give your body nutrients needed until after your match.  Be sure to follow the previous nutrition and hydration recommendations and nourish your body so it can perform at its best! 

Tip 12

When looking for athletic supplements, always proceed with caution.  On foods, you will see the standard ‘Nutrition Facts’ label; on supplements, you will see a ‘Supplements Facts’ label.  If a food or supplement, such as a protein powder, has a Nutrition Facts label, the product has been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration; if the product has a Supplements Facts label, it has not.  The FDA has very loose regulation surrounding products considered supplements and takes a reactive, not proactive approach.  The FDA has not reviewed products with Supplements Facts labels and will only respond to these if there are incidences of harm.

While the FDA will not guarantee supplements, there are unbiased organizations that will review supplements so you know that what is claimed on the Supplement Facts is what you are getting and nothing else, or less.  Options to look for include: NSF – Certified for Sport and USP Verification.  Choosing supplements with NSF or USP logos will help ensure you have a higher quality supplement that will not become an issue as you train, practice, and play.

Regarding actual types of supplements such as preworkouts and performance enhancing products, again look for NSF or USP logos on the product, and before reaching for these products, make sure you are consuming a nutritious, balanced diet.  When eating well, many supplements are not needed.  Coffee or teas that contain caffeine can have the same effect as a preworkout and consuming beets/beet juice can help improve performance naturally through the nitrates that beets contain!  Remember, your body will absorb more nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, when consumed in food compared to a pill AND if a supplement product or claim sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

There are many more supplements to talk about, than time we have here.  If you have specific questions on athletic supplements, we are happy to help!  Please email us at LivingWell@spartannash.com

Tip 11

The fluids we drink are just as important as the foods we eat.  In order for our bodies to function and be at their best, we must have adequate hydration.  Hydration is especially important for athletes – before, during, and after practices and games.  Water is the best source of hydration, but tea, coffee, milk, and even high water content foods such watermelon and broth based soups provide our bodies with fluid.
Before – Try to drink two cups/16 ounces of water two to three hours before your practice or game.  Right before, especially if outside in temperatures greater than 75 degrees Fahrenheit, be sure to drink an additional one cup/8 ounces of water 10 to 30 minutes before your practice or game.  
During – When active for longer than one hour, drink one cup/8 ounces of water every 15 minutes after the first hour. When active for longer than one hour, sports beverages can be appropriate since they contain carbohydrates to refuel and electrolytes to replenish your body.  
After – Drink at least 2 cups/16 ounces of water after your practice or game.  Again, for activities lasting longer than one hour, reach for a sports beverage, especially if you will not be eating a meal within a couple hours!
In addition to helping our bodies function, hydration helps our bodies to recover after practices and games.  Remember:  always drink water, whether thirsty or not and reach for a sports beverage if needed!  
Tip 10
A popular ‘diet’ today is Keto.  Keto is the short term for ketogenic and is a diet that is higher in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates/carbs.  When someone does not eat carbohydrates, their body goes into ‘ketosis’ which is when the body is using only fat for energy and as a result produces ketones – hence the term ‘keto’.  A true keto diet is actually used in the hospital to reduce seizures in select patients!  However, today’s popular Keto diet is simply a low carb, fad diet that is very similar to the Atkins diet, which was popular decades ago; fad diets commonly repeat over the years.  Unfortunately, many who follow the keto diet do not do it correctly and it may actually lead to worse health.  
When someone follows a keto or low carb diet, they often cut out veggies, fruits, and whole grains which are a source of fiber and healthy for our hearts.  Dairy is often avoided as well which means many people are not consuming the calcium they need for growing and maintaining strong bones. While calcium can come from other sources, dairy is an easy way to get many essential nutrients that the body needs in a small, tasty, and affordable portion.  Following a keto/low carb diet long term is not recommended since it may lead to nutrient deficiencies and increase the risk for chronic disease later in life. 
As mentioned last week, each body is different.  Some individuals can do well on a low carb diet, but other individuals do not.  Following a keto/low carb diet is not for everyone, so do not feel pressured into following it.  As you choose your foods, do not get caught up in fad diets and instead think of the MyPlate and fill half of your plates with fruits and veggies, one quarter with lean proteins, one quarter with whole grains, and incorporate dairy either as a glass of milk or cheese or yogurt on the plate for the best nutrition!  Many people can achieve better health by simply eating more fruits and veggies, so that is the best place to start if wanting to eat healthier!

Tip 9

There is much debate between which is best: eating six smaller meals each day, eating three meals each day, eating one large meal per day, or eating only during a certain time frame during the day.  ‘Intermittent Fasting’ is the term used to describe eating only one meal each day or eating only during a certain time frame, such as between 10 and 4pm or 4pm and 8pm. 

 Since each body is different, there is not a one-size fits all recommendation on when someone should eat.  There are benefits to eating breakfast in the morning, but there are also benefits to short-term (8 to 16 hour) fasting. 

 Breakfast is important especially for young kids since their school schedule is more structured and cannot have breakfast when they want.  As we grow and once in high school, students have a little more freedom with regard to eating.  If you do not get hungry until mid-morning and are allowed to eat at your will at school, eating then is best.  If you are unable to eat at any time and you do get hungry mid-morning, you should eat breakfast prior to school to prevent hunger mid-morning which can be distracting from your schoolwork.  Students perform better in school and on the field when well nourished and not hungry!

 In the evening, we should stop eating about 1 to 2 hours before bed so our stomachs have time to empty.  When we sleep, some of our body processes including digestion slow down so going to sleep on a full stomach may cause discomfort and reduced sleep quality.    While sleeping, our bodies are automatically fasting for the 12 hours or so between your last meal/snack of the day and your first meal/snack for the next day.  This fasting period allows our bodies to regenerate and focus on crucial tasks to keep us well instead of digesting food. 

 When it comes to our body composition (fat mass vs muscle mass), eating six smaller meals each day, eating three meals each day, eating one large meal per day, and eating only during a certain time frame during the day can lead to the desired results as long as your calorie and protein consumption is appropriate based on your level of physical activity.  If you have specific questions, we are happy to help!  Please email us at LivingWell@spartannash.com

Tip 8

‘Rethink your drink’ and choose calorie free beverages such as water, unless you have been active for 60 minutes or longer and need a sports beverage.  Sodas contain concentrated sugar and excessive consumption is bad for our health.  Drinking one soda a week is okay, but we want to avoid drinking soda every day. Sweet teas and sweetened coffee beverages are similar to soda.

Choose to drink water, milk, unsweetened coffee or tea, or watered down 100% juice (half water, half 100% juice) instead of soda for better nutrition!  Of note, white milk contains natural sugar which is different than added sugar.  Chocolate milk does contain added sugar, but the overall nutrition of the milk (protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium) outweighs the added sugar, especially for teens and athletes.  Choosing healthier beverages can help you stay healthy now and into adulthood.


Tip 7

When it comes to salty snacks and sweet treats, these foods can still be part of a balanced diet as long as we consume appropriate portion sizes and in moderation.  In nutrition, moderation is best defined with the 80/20 rule.  80% of the time choose healthy, nutritious foods and the other 20% of the time, you can enjoy foods that are not so healthy such as chips, cookies, and ice cream.  Be sure to look at the Nutrition Facts Panel on the food item and eat the recommended ‘serving size’.

For athletes, during their seasons, following a stricter, more nutritious diet can help achieve goals and improve performance. Following more of a 90/10 rule can be appropriate for many athletes.  (90/10 Rule:  90% of the time, choose nutrient dense foods; 10% of the time, less nutrient dense foods are okay to enjoy)  Deprivation leads to temptation, so still allowing a small amount of salty snacks and sweet treats is better than restricting, which often leads to overeating.   During off-seasons, remember moderation and the 80/20 rule so all foods can be enjoyed while still maintaining overall health.

Tip 6

Half of our plates should be filled with fruits and veggies, a quarter should be filled with grains, and the last quarter should be filled with protein.  Common protein foods include beef, pork, chicken and turkey, and fish; but don’t forget about plant-based sources of protein including nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes such as lentils!  Plant-based proteins not only contain protein, but also fiber which supports overall health!  One serving of protein should be about the size of the palm of your hand.  There is a limit to how much protein your body can absorb so more is not always better!  

Dairy foods also double as a protein!  Milk, yogurt, and cheese are their own ‘dairy’ group since they contain calcium which is an important nutrient since many do not consume the recommended amounts. 

Protein is important for everyone at every age, but is especially important for young athletes.  Always include a protein food with each meal and snack.  Athletes also want to consume protein within an hour or so after strenuous or strength training activities.  Chocolate milk has the preferred ratio of carbs to protein that promotes muscle recovery; if you need a quick protein option after a game or practice, think: chocolate milk.  

Tip 5

While half of our plates should be filled with fruits and veggies, one quarter should be filled with grains.  When it comes to choosing grains, there are two kinds – refined grains and whole grains.  Refined grains are highly processed and include white bread, traditional pastas, and white rice.  Whole grains include whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, and oats.  When selecting grains, the only way to know if something is a whole grain is to look at the ingredient list.  If a product is whole grain, the first ingredient will be ‘100% whole —‘ or ‘whole —‘. 

Half of the grains we eat should be whole grains.  Whole grains are less processed and contain more fiber which is important for overall health including heart health, gut health, and weight management.   For athletes, whole grains also provide complex carbohydrates which provides lasting energy for practices and games.  Most likely, the grains served at school are whole grain.  A good approach is to enjoy whole grains at home and refined grains when dining out since whole grains are not commonly served in restaurants. 

Tip 4

When planning your meals and snacks, remember to ‘Have a Plant’ by including fruits and veggies!  Fruits and veggies come in a variety of rich colors and contain:  vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates to help fuel our bodies during practice and games. We want to choose a wide variety of colored fruits and veggies for the best health.  If you had peaches at breakfast, choose broccoli or cauliflower and strawberries or blueberries at lunch.  Fruits and vegetables help us to maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of diet related chronic diseases, and even puts us in better moods.  Be sure to fill half of your plates with fruits and veggies now and throughout the year to be at your best! 

Tip 3

September is Family Meals Month and celebrates sharing meals with others.  Numerous studies show that enjoying meals with others, including family and friends, nourishes the spirit, brain and health of everyone.  Specifically for teens and children, regular meals with parents and/or guardians are linked to higher grades in school, increased self-esteem, healthier eating habits, and lower engagement in risky behaviors such as drug use.   Despite how busy the season may be, make it a priority to enjoy at least one or two family meals each week.

Tip 2

Whether you are looking for post workout nourishment or a quick meal, a protein shake or bar can be an excellent option.  When choosing a shake or bar, 20 to 30 grams of protein is perfect.  There is actually a limit to how much protein the body can absorb in one setting, so options with greater than 30 grams are not necessarily better for you.  Conveniently, many protein shakes and bars contain 20 grams of protein, which is perfect, especially if you consume regular meals and snacks!  If you are using the protein shake or bar as a meal replacement, look for an option that is fortified with vitamins and minerals such as Muscle Milk ready-to-drink protein shakes and Muscle Milk protein powder or Clif Builder’s Bar or Met RX bar, all available at your local Family Fare!

Tip 1

To feel your best while being physically active, avoid eating high fat and/or higher fiber foods prior to workouts, practice, or games.  Fat and fiber take longer to digest which may lead to stomach aches during physical activity if consumed right before the activity.  If you are looking for a snack before your activity, opt for a higher carbohydrate containing food such as fresh fruit, Our Family canned fruit, or Our Family frozen fruit.  If you need a little more nutrition to help keep you fueled, a lean protein such as Our Family string cheese or Our Family deli meat are good options.