• By Jessica DeGore
  • In Uncategorized
  • July 24, 2019

Being an At Home Nutrition Coach: Creating Your Personal Performance Eating Destination

By: Leslie Bonci

As a sports dietitian working with professional athletes as well as having raised two athletes, I am all about strategies that help one to eat well, play well, stay well. Summer is a particular challenge since it is hot, exercise is more likely to occur outdoors, and preseason training makes for long hard days. As parents we have to be the nutrition coaches for our kids to keep them safe and in the game, not on the bench, the dugout, or in the stands watching rather than participating. Here are my top sports nutrition strategies for parents and young athletes.



No matter the sport: tennis, soccer, running, football, swimming, or cycling they need to drink enough. But plain water can be boring. So to take fluid to the next level, consider infused waters – adding flavor with cut up fruits and herbs such as orange/mint or lemon/ginger or watermelon/basil. Slushees made with crushed ice and sports drink, or crushed ice and a little bit of juice concentrate are refreshing and hydrating. Herbal tea that is chilled and flavored with a little bit of fruit juice is low in calories but high on the taste scale. Make fruit juice cubes, cropsicles with leftover fruits/veggies, and make sure your athletes show up at every practice with their fluid bottle.


Produce ( fruits and vegetables) is essential for health and performance. If you have a student athlete with a picky palate, mealtime can be a chore. Here are some suggestions on how to help them score with their plate. Vegetables can be added to meat loaf, meat balls, spaghetti sauce, tacos, stir fries, smoothies and even sweets ( carrot or zucchini muffins) The spiral is more than the way the football is thrown, it is also spiralized noodles made from zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes and even beets. Smoothies made with beets, rhubarb, spinach and pineapple provide the produce and the anti-inflammatory punch as well as hydration. Freezer pops made with banana, pineapple, mango and coconut water or watermelon, strawberries, and orange juice help to beat the heat, and they are a nutritious portable treat.


Who doesn’t enjoy a snack? An after dinner snack can be seen as a treat, but can also provide foods to eat that help athletes restore and replete. You can get protein and produce into a snack: think popsicles made with yogurt, milk and frozen fruit, or banana ice cream with dark chocolate peanut butter. For crunch- how about popcorn with nuts, roasted chick peas, seeds or freeze dried fruit? Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese, or taco topping are quite popular and a smoothie made with yogurt, milk, fruits and vegetables can help curb those late night hunger pangs. A well chosen snack can top off produce, optimize protein intake and maximize fluid intake


How to customize the meal for an athlete


Here is a performance plate designed to help maintain.. Notice that the amount of grains and protein take up ½ of the plate and the fruits/vegetables about 1/2 of the plate. Why? The produce ( fruits and vegetables) not only provides fiber and fluid, but also contain substances that help combat inflammation. Protein at every meal helps you maintain muscle and the grains and carbs play a role in muscle protein synthesis as well as energy pre workouts and recovery post workouts. Ideally your breakfast, lunch and dinner plates would look like this.


So have on hand:

Baked potatoes- they can be microwaved fast

Ready Rice- cooks in 90 seconds

Rolls/ bread


Corn or whole wheat tortillas


And consider making once and having several meals:

Pot of stew, chili,

Make ground meat to use for tacos, sloppy Joes, Spanish rice

Lasagna can be frozen in smaller pieces

Make French toast or pancakes in advance and freeze

Sandwiches can also be made in advance as long as mayo is not added and then frozen

Cook pasta once and the leftover can be pasta salad

Rice can be used for rice pudding or as a filler added to a chicken and bean burrito 

( Chipotle does this)

Healthy training table meal:

-Stir fry of chicken and vegetables over rice noodles  Add ons: Pineapple, peanuts

-Fajitas: Flank steak, grilled, cut into thin strips, Tortillas, Rice, Salsa, Shredded cheese, Peppers, Onions

If you have young athletes who need to gain mass, here is what the plate should look like.. Notice that the amount of grains and protein take up at least 2/3 of the plate and the fruits/vegetables about 1/3 of the plate. This gives you the most calories without so much volume that you feel too full. Ideally breakfast, lunch and dinner would look like this.


Eat before and after practice and workouts! 


Three meals plus 2-3 snacks EVERY DAY! 

Keep food around:

  • Trail mix: cereal, nuts, raisins, chocolate chips or M&M’s
  • Granola bars, Peanut butter crackers, Sports bars
  • Apple or banana with peanut butter
  • Tuna salad and crackers or cheese and crackers

Increase portions at each meal/ snack. Eat a few more bites at each meal by adding one of the following:

    • Another piece of meat
    • An extra scoop of potatoes, rice or pasta
    • Another slice of bread
    • Some extra cereal
    • 2 glasses of milk instead of one
    • 2 sandwiches instead of one


Healthy at home snacks to boost calories:

Muffins with a large glass of milk

Peanut butter/honey/banana on a cinnamon raisin bagel

Cereal- but half regular cereal and half granola to boost calories

Smoothie made with yogurt, milk, added non fat dry milk powder, juice and frozen fruit

Baked tortilla chips with shredded chicken, shredded cheese, salsa, beans

*Keep high calorie foods out and visible: Nuts, Nut butters, Trail mix



Oatmeal is easy and can be made the night before- then just heat in the microwave and top with:

Brown sugar, honey or syrup


Dried fruit

Banana or apple

*Make with milk to add more protein

Veggie sausage patty with cheese on an English muffin

Wrap of scrambled eggs, ham in a burrito

Cornbread  or muffins with ham and shredded cheese added

Pull French toast or pancakes from the freezer- heat, and spread with peanut butter or Nutella, they can be eaten in the car on the way out the door

Make smoothies the night before and put in a container that can be shaken to mix again in the morning


If you have young athletes who need to lean up, the trick is to provide foods that fill them up, not out! Here is a performance plate designed to help your athletes los excess body fat but maintain muscle. Notice that the produce( fruits and vegetables takes up 50% of the plate, why? These foods contain fiber and fluid to fill you up, not out. And they are lower in calories. Protein is a little more than 1/3 of the plate at every meal- so you don’t lose muscle! Grains are about ¼ of the plate at every meal. 


Regular meals- NO MEAL SKIPPING: Eat every 3-4 hours, not just one meal a day

Pay attention to portions ( never eat anything bigger than your head!)

Using a smaller glass for beverages, or put a little less food on the plate!

The chew factor- you will feel more satisfied if you chew than drink your meal- add vegetables, fruit

Protein as part of every meal: low fat dairy, skinless poultry, fish, eggs, lean beef or pork loin

Add flavor without calories: hot sauce, red pepper flakes, red or black pepper 

Eating a few bites less at every meal

Cutting down on the extra calories:

Juice/fruit drinks

Flavored syrups in coffee drinks

Syrup, honey, jam, jelly


Sweet tea

Sports drinks



Ranch dressing


Sweets (candy, dessert)

Knowing what one eats. Not eating in front of the TV, computer, or while playing a video game

When snacking, put some chips in the bowl instead of sitting down with the bag!


As the nutrition coach, it is your job to make sure there are foods around that your athletes will eat and that help them achieve their goals:

Fresh fruit

Cut up fruit

Individual containers of yogurt


Wraps made with shredded veggies and turkey or ham

Hard boiled eggs

Tuna, egg or chicken salad with ½ mayo/1/2 Greek yogurt

Snack size bags of popcorn/chips

Roasted chick peas

Bean chips with bean dips

Chickpea puffs

Cropsicles made with fruit

Cut up veggies with a Greek yogurt dip



Create an in home performance eating destination through activation- have foods available, implementation- set a schedule, and continuation to make healthy habits and healthy choices part of your family’s eating routine. If you resist, they may never reach their full potential, if you insist they will optimize health and fitness, and if you persist they will realize long term benefits in body composition, decreased injury and performance. 


Leslie Bonci, MPH,RDN,CSSD,LDN

Sports Dietitian, Kansas City Chiefs

Owner- Active Eating Advice by Leslie

Co-founder- Performance365