Youth Sport Performance and Optimal Health Nutrition: What Should Our Kids Eat?

| Laura Jones

Editor’s note: Hi readers! Today I’m proud to share with you a guest post written by nutritionist Kim Shackleford. Kim is an expert in kids nutrition and is kind enough to give us a run-through of basic foods to optimize our young hockey stars’ performance. Take it away, Kim!

As a Nutritional therapy practitioner, Certified GAPS, and Restorative Wellness Practitioner, I want to share my passion, contribute to the The Hockey Mommy Blog and possibly throw out a spark, that may dramatically create a shift for your families to feel awesome!

I can give you starter tips to make feeling good a more sustainable part of your life. Additionally, I can make radical changes through life-enhancing nutrition protocols that, by maintaining consistent patterns, eventually will feel effortless even when there is no “immediate payoff.”

When it comes to proper nutrition, there is no exact template or formula that each person can follow, as we are all unique. Taking a foundational approach by linking the key principles of nutrition to your family’s routine helps maximize the benefits of your athlete’s training while encouraging optimal health and longevity in a particular sport.

I have worked with athletes for over 16 years. I design individual protocols, including high-performance foods and supplements to fuel their life. I reinforce structured progress through education, an assessment of personal details and information of your biochemistry. This, in turn, results in increased sports performance, with the added side effects of weight loss, healing chronic conditions, and improved vitality.

If you are struggling with any of the following, I want to be your most powerful asset in:

  • Gaining lean muscle.
  • Building strength.
  • Creating more long-burning endurance.
  • Being a weekend warrior.
  • Learning what foods to travel with and how to implement it into your diet.
  • Eliminating symptoms of overtraining, including inflammation.
  • Finding the right foods for your increased energy demands.

As a nutritionist, I like to think of myself as your personal health detective and lifestyle food strategist. My goal is to empower and sustainably drive you in creating a sort of paradigm shift, rediscovering your spark and rebuilding a vibrant life.

Proper nutrition for active kids

Kids are a lot like adults in that there is so much information out there that can be extremely confusing. How do you know if a particular plan is right for you or if it will take you down the wrong path?

Our kids’ bodies need healthy carbs to function. But too many carbohydrates and sugars are not the best choices when it comes to fueling an active brain and body. Ultimately, your focus should be on burning fat as fuel instead of glucose. Once you’ve mastered this delicate balancing act, you’ve found the ‘Eureka!’ strategy for increased performance.

Healthy fats are essential building blocks of young brains and bodies. Toxins are bad, and we should eliminate or cut back on sugar and insulin-spiking carbohydrates. Now that we know the basics of a healthier diet, it’s time to put a plan into action.

These desirable fats can be found in a variety of foods such as coconut or MCT oils, grass-fed butter, and grass-fed meats. They benefit the body in the following ways:

  • First, fats help bones absorb calcium to build a stronger skeleton.
  • Second, essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA are important for normal brain and nerve function. (A diet low in these fats robs the brain from building blocks that are critical for brain development, repair, and function.)
  • Third, saturated fats like the ones found in coconut or MCT oil boost the immune system.
  • Most important healthy fatty acids are the main source of building blocks for every single hormone in your body and hormones control almost every aspect of your overall health.

Food quality is the important message when it comes to dietary fats. Pastured eggs and organic pastured bacon make a great breakfast. Make sure not to overcook the eggs – you want the yolk still runny or else you risk supplying your child with oxidized cholesterol which is bad for them. Eggs provide choline and sulfur for optimal nervous system function.

Bring grass-fed butter or grass-fed raw cheese to spread on gluten-free crackers (I use Mary’s Organic Crackers). These items travel well in a small cooler.

All of these foods help hydration, recovery, and muscle-building while increasing your overall energy levels. Use coconut oil in your cooking at home, and coconut milk in your smoothies to help your body burn fat for energy. 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds each day provides a solid boost of energy.

To see a noticeable increase in athletic performance, you need a high-quality grass-fed whey protein. Anti-oxidant rich berries absolutely help with cellular regeneration and healing muscular tissue and recovery after exercise. Instead of Gatorade, have kids drink pure 100% Coconut water is packed with potassium and electrolytes. I typically encourage families to avoid sports drinks at all costs unless you are losing more than a quart of water in sweat in 30-45 minutes.

Fresh-pressed juices and Omega-3s to the rescue!

As delicious as they are, most store-bought fruit juices are best eliminated. If you do use any type of juice, it needs to fresh pressed and mixed with mostly vegetable juice, preferably in a smoothie blended with proteins and fats. If you absolutely must drink bottled fruit juices, use organic, fresh juices containing no added sweeteners, and dilute 50% with water. For your kiddos, limit to two 6oz. glasses of 50% water, 50% juice per day.

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. A daily supply of organic essential fatty acids, like super high-quality omega-3s, are perfect additions to your shakes. Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Fish oil supplements-make sure these are from a very high-quality company (do not add to shake).
  • Ground organic flaxseed.
  • Chia seeds.

Stay completely away from canola, soy, and corn oil of any kind. These oils are oxidized and full of trans-fats which distort your body functioning. This is what you are getting when you eat out! Instead, load up on anti-inflammatory fats coconut oil, extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, avocados, wild-caught salmon, and sprouted nuts.

Health through nutrients, alkalization through vegetables

Vegetables can help alkalize your body, which ultimately supports recovery. A little chlorophyll goes a long way, also. Cruciferous vegetables, like kale and collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts meet that quota and are also extremely high in vitamins and minerals. They reduce acid levels in your body and improve your overall recovery time by balancing blood sugar and reducing inflammation.

The goal is always the same: enhancing performance and optimal health of our children is key, however, the emphasis is no longer on carbohydrate loading and the chemical conveniences, how we get there is through the most nourishing foods, beverages, and supplements to fuel your body with vibrant energy.

Sport-Specific Nutrition and Supplementation is somehow seen by many as a separate regimen. If you are an ice hockey player, bodybuilder, iron man athlete, cyclist, or soccer player the foundational building blocks are a requirement for support from a cellular level. The specialty information changes somewhat dependent on the goal, bio-individuality deficiencies, type of output of the particular sport, food timing needs etc.

There is an art to electrolyte and mineral management. It has many variables dependent on the duration and intensity of a particular sport. Once you’ve mastered that art, your kids will hit the rink feeling refreshed and full of vibrant energy.

Maximum benefit through proper nutrition

The key to optimizing your family’s dietary plan is to give them nutrients in their whole form whenever possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed full of nutrients that benefit young athletes. The goal here is to accomplish the following:

  • Increase Performance and Endurance-Speed-Power
  • Optimize & Support thru growth-Recovery-Repair. Healing injury and decreasing inflammation.
  • Maintain balanced hydration: Pre & Post dietary needs, Food Timing, Minerals, Amino Acids, Fatty Acids, Carbohydrates.
  • Link nutrients to support the principles and longevity of a particular sport.
  • Remove all stressors creating inflammation, which impedes performance.

Don’t always trust the quick fix! The vast majority of energy bars and powders only add hazardous toxins, chemicals, and useless calories to your diet, the worst of which are the non-natural chemicals and fructose.

This is why I encourage parents to keep their kids from drinking sports drinks. The truth is that drinking pure filtered water and eating whole, organic, biodynamic foods is the most essential and beneficial way to reinforce what your body needs. That translates to better performance.

Most supplements geared toward fitness and performance are very limited in their actual impact. They are also full of chemicals and are ultimately unhealthy. Sports drinks are a very poor source of minerals and while you do achieve an unbalanced immediate source hydration by stimulating thirst with sodium, you’re going to pay for it with artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives.

The marketing for isolated whey protein from whey, eggs, and soy are completely imbalanced. Isolated Whey Protein is not really a food – it goes through a tremendous amount of processing which leads to denatured amino acids.

Here’s the bottom line: drinking and eating mutant adulterated placebo type foods is not serving you in any way. They are everywhere, and the chemicals used are not properly studied before they are consumed by our children. Synthetic nutrients do not have the same effect on the body. The processing of certain foods can change the compound entirely, meaning what once may have been healthy becomes toxic.

What I recommend for young athletes 

Coconut Oil

The first food you should add to your diet to increase athletic performance is coconut, especially coconut oil. One of coconut oil’s many uses is to help produce energy for performance. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which your body can actually burn fat for energy, instead of glucose (sugar, carbohydrates).

Many triathletes and marathon runners are starting to consume more coconut oil, and this is why. I encourage you to start using coconut oil in your cooking and 100 % whole coconut milk in your smoothies. Coconut oil and MCT oil are good for endurance and long-burning energy!

Chia seeds

The second superfood that can increase athletic performance is chia seeds. Chia seeds are high in antioxidants, high in vitamins and minerals, have ALA omega-3 fatty acids as well as dietary fiber. This results in boosted energy and metabolism and is why chia seeds rank as one of the top plant-based proteins.

Nuts and seeds (preferably organic and raw)

I add Celtic sea salt, and super dark chocolate chips sometimes to create a delicious and healthy blend for my son. The best nuts are pecans and macadamia nuts for ketones.

Beneficial sources of protein include:

  • Collagen and bone broth powder: I sell bone broth powder because it is high in amino acids, a staple for myself and my son. It is a great source of protein and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • High-quality Whey protein: This is something I sell for many companies with the highest standards of quality control for whole organic food supplements. It is equally important that they are cold processed so not to denature the molecular structure of the nutrient. Most companies use artificial additives along with cheap ingredients and processing methods that result in more harm than good.
  • Organic pastured chicken (dark meat for protein nutritional types).
  • Organic pastured free-range eggs.
  • Grass-fed red meat. The iron and vitamin B12 improve athletic performance.
  • Grass-fed organic Whey protein.

Beneficial sources of carbohydrates

I noted above that vegetables can help alkalize your body, which ultimately supports detoxification and recovery. In addition to kale and collard greens, dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or Swiss chard are excellent sources of healthy carbs. Low fructose fruits like lemon, limes, raspberries Berries.

Equally important to increased athletic performance are high-antioxidant foods – specifically, antioxidant-rich berries. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries have the highest levels of antioxidants among fruits, aiding the process of cellular regeneration while healing muscular tissue and recovery after exercise.

Hydration is pure filtered water + minerals in balance

It takes a synergistic union of these two to actually be hydrated. Water alone is not enough. Both major and trace minerals are vital for our bodies – without them, we would not be able to build new tissue, flex, contract or relax muscles, transmit nerve impulses, clot blood, maintain a neutral pH, or keep your heart beating.

100% Pure Coconut Water for balanced electrolytes

Another superfood to increase athletic performance is coconut water. It is good for you because it’s packed with potassium and electrolytes. It’s actually known as “nature’s Gatorade.” So if you want to recover faster and increase athletic performance, add in some of nature’s Gatorade by drinking more coconut water — do not buy it from concentrate and the less it is pasteurized the better.


Homemade Beef Jerky


  • 3 lbs meat (roast, sliced) (buy grass-fed organic meat)
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey or Grade B maple syrup
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (buy organic herbs)
  • 1/4 cup Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar with the mother
  • 1/4 cup organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

For ease of slicing, place thawed roast in freezer for 45-60 minutes; a slightly frozen roast is easier to slice. Set a timer so you don’t forget- a solidly frozen roast is not easy to slice ;)

Use a sharp knife to slice roast into thin strips (1/4 inch thick or less if you can) and place strips into a freezer bag or bowl. Cover with remaining jerky ingredients and toss to coat meat evenly. Place in the fridge for 12-24 hours (covered if using a bowl), stirring or flipping the bag once halfway through to evenly distribute marinade.

After marinating, place strips of meat on dehydrator tray- they can be touching but not overlapping. Dry on the highest setting your dehydrator has for 7 hours. Store in the fridge or freezer. This is a good dehydrator: Excalibur 3500 B 5 tray Deluxe Black Dehydrator

Lemonade Energy Mineral Drink to Replace Gatorade


  • ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan Sea salt
  • 32 Ounces of pure filtered water
  • Body Ecology Liquid Stevia natural sugar – sweeten to desired taste
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons of liquid mineral supplement with high quality extracting

Squeeze or Blend 2 sliced lemon wedges and add to drink 1-2 Tbsp. Liquid multi-mineral (I sell a high-quality product that tastes great). This can be added for additional electrolytes during summer workouts or sports activities year-round.


Contact Information:
Kim Shackleford Nutrition, LLC
Raleigh, North Carolina 27612
Telephone: 919.427.5946


Have a great weekend everyone!

Laura Jones
Founder of The Hockey Mommy

Note: All information on The Hockey Mommy is for education purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, please consult your doctor.

Reference:, Pinterest

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