You might not be a professional athlete just yet, but you can start eating like one. Healthy food expert Heidi Skolnik meets weekly with the New York Giants, the 2008 and 2012 Super Bowl champs.
Her message: Good nutrition helps players play well, time after time. The Giants use her nutrition advice to fuel their performance on the field. Would you believe Justin Tuck, a defensive powerhouse, likes to eat grilled asparagus?
Years ago, even professional athletes didn't think much about what they ate. It's a very different picture today, Skolnik said. She gives food and nutrition advice to the New York Giants all year long — in training camp, during the season, and in the off-season. They follow her suggestions. Why? Because it means better performance on the field, she said.
"Players want consistency in their play," Skolnik said. "They want to play as well as they can, as long as they can, and as consistently as they can."
What does consistency mean? A good athlete knows he or she can play well. But they want to play well every time, not have big highs and lows.
"Nutrition is a key part of that strategy," Skolnik said.
Two Key Tips
What you eat — or don't eat — can affect your mood, how much energy you will have, and how much endurance you will have. Skolnik offers these two guidelines for the players, and said younger athletes can follow them too:
- Know what to eat when. Always eat breakfast. Eat a light snack an hour or two before practice or a game (trail mix, apple and string cheese, or a low-fat granola bar). After a practice or game, eat another healthy snack (milk and pretzels, yogurt and fresh fruit, banana and peanut butter).
- Start a pattern of healthy eating. Patterns are important if you want to succeed at sports or anything else. When you always do your best at practice, that's a good pattern. A regular pattern of studying and doing your homework will help you do your best at school. And a regular pattern of healthy meals and snacks will help you both at school and on the playing field.
Justin Tuck Eats Right
There's no one magic food, Skolnik said, but eating healthy is an important way to get ready for game day. Tuck, a defensive end, obviously agrees.
Here's what he had to say about eating right:
Food Q&A With Defensive End Justin Tuck
- What's your favorite healthy food?
My favorite healthy food would probably have to be grilled asparagus.
- What is your favorite pre-game meal or snack?
Any kind of pasta and grilled chicken.
- What's your favorite post-game meal or snack?
A steak; a rib eye.
- What's your favorite junk food and do you limit how much you eat?
Anything Little Debbie makes. I don't really eat a lot of it.
- Have your eating habits changed since you were a kid or teen athlete?
Just eating more healthy now because I realize that in this game you have to protect your body. So I don't eat as much fried foods as I did when I was growing up.
- Any food advice for kids and teens who are practicing and playing hard?
Drink a lot of milk.
Want to Try Grilled Asparagus?
We offer this recipe in honor of Justin Tuck, a pro football player who knows how to eat his veggies!
What You Need
- Bunch of asparagus (choose a bunch with thinner stalks)
- Canola or olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Equipment and Utensils
- Grill or oven
- Grill pan or cookie sheet
- Two large bowls or pots
What to Do
- With an adult's help, preheat the oven to 425º F or warm up the grill.
- Dunk the stalks in a big bowl or pot of water to rinse them. Pat dry.
- Snap off the ends by bending the stalks in the middle until they break. Discard bottom pieces.
- Place the spears in a large bowl and toss with some olive oil or canola oil. Use just enough to coat them.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- With an adult's help, place on a grill pan on the heated grill or on a cookie sheet in the preheated oven.
- Heat until the stalks are bright green and tender-crisp.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2012
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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