Healthy Lunch Ideas for High School Athletes

What to eat at lunch for optimal performance at practice, come game time and beyond


Truly dedicated high school athletes know that you have to look beyond the field (or court, or pool, or wherever it is you practice and play your sport) in order to find true success.

And part of that involves eating well; fueling your performance with nutritious foods.

Every meal of the day is a chance to provide your bones, muscles, brain and nearly every part of your body with the nutrients it needs to perform your best — at practice, come game time and in pretty much every other area of your life, too.

Lunch, though, is usually on the go. So, if you want to make sure yours packs a powerful nutritional punch, here’s a quick rundown of what it should always include.

Every Lunch Needs: 
• Protein 

• Carbs 

• Fruits

• Veggies

• Dairy 

How much?
• Protein = 25 grams

• Carbs = 50 to 60 grams

• Fruits = 1 to 2 servings

• Veggies = 1 to 2 servings

• Dairy = at least 1 serving

Where can I turn to for 25 grams or protein and why so much?
Well, we all know protein is a staple for athletes. It’s the fuel that builds muscle back up after we break it down. High school athletes are constantly breaking down muscle fibers and lunch time is a perfect opportunity to build it back up. Plus the athletes have a lot of time to digest the proteins being that lunch is usually around 11 a.m. and practices are generally at 3 p.m.

Sources for 25 grams of protein can be:
1 whole wheat pita with turkey

1 Advocare Muscle Gain pouch with 8 ounces water

1 3.5-ounce piece of grilled chicken breast

1 tuna sandwich on wheat bread

1 turkey and cheese sandwich on wheat bread

What about the carbs?
When we digest carbs they turn into glucose.

Glucose is the sugar that your muscles use for fuel. The more fuel the better the practice which leads to optimal performance when it comes game time.

Athletes are not regular people. I work with a lot of adult clients, and yes, I require them to cut back on carbs most of the time. It’s a totally different story for athletes. Ever think of the word carbo“hydrate”?

It’s named that because it’s the only macronutrient we can use without oxygen. Simply put, when you sprint or do anything “all out” you can only rely on carbs for fuel. Don’t neglect the carbs!

Sources of 50-60 grams of carbs: 
• Sweet potatoes

• Cooked oatmeal

• Long grain brown rice

• Quinoa

• 2 medium bananas

• 1 whole wheat bagel


How much fruit and veggies?
This is probably the easiest portion of the lunch. Veggies and fruits require no preparation. Just plop them in the bag and you are good to go. Fruits and veggies are loaded with minerals and vitamins that are crucial for any athlete. Plus these are the “good” carbs and the stuff you need to be elite.

Here are some awesome fruit and veggies to pack: 
• Kiwi (my favorite)

• Apples

• Carrots

• Celery (remember the snack ants on a log? I love those!)

• Strawberries

• Blueberries

• Bananas

• Tomatoes

Yep! You need the dairy for calcium. Milk gets a bad rap these days and I can’t stand it. Kids need milk for strong bones. (I’ll go into that one later…)

A great source of dairy can provide high amounts of not only calcium, but also great carbs and proteins too. For the best results just stick to one serving of dairy at lunch.

Some great sources: 
• 1 carton of chocolate milk

• 1 cup skim milk

• 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

• 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt

• 1 cup low-fat yogurt sprinkled with granola and fruit!

Now, let’s put it all together. Here’s an example of a nutritious lunch for athletes: 
1 whole wheat pita with turkey and cheese

2 cups fat-free plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with granola and strawberries

20 ounces of water

1 cup of chocolate milk

1 handful of carrots

BOOM! Now you are ready to be an elite athlete.

Chase It!
Ben Boudro

More Reading:
5 Energizing Snacks for On-The-Go Athletes
The 10 Best Energy Bars For Athletes (And Everybody Else)
No Meat Athletes: 5 Vegan Protein Sources Perfect for Fueling Your Workouts