Game Day – When A Candy Bar and Soda Just Don’t Measure Up!



Game day! Time to make sure the kids are fed properly in order to replace all of the calories they are about to burn! However, there is one small issue – the game is at 7am in Westchester, a little more than an hour away. When it comes to my child’s nutrition, I would call myself aware, but let’s not kid ourselves. Sometimes it just comes down to what’s in the pantry so we can hurry up.

I have tried the “It’s too early for him to eat so we’ll feed him after the game” method. That has resulted in him staring at me in the stands from the ice by the third period, mimicking lifting food to his mouth and then giving me the hands up like, “Well, you forgot to feed me Mom!” So, scratch that idea.

How about the idea “Let’s get up a few hours before the game and eat a healthy breakfast.” Eggs, bacon and maybe a bagel or English muffin. I guess that works when a game is at two in the afternoon. But when the game is so absurdly early that wake-up time is 4:30am, I have my husband telling me to let the kid sleep fighting against my anxiety about letting him play on an empty stomach. This method slowly came to a halt when by the third period he was skating like he had four hundred pounds of bacon floating around his stomach and I saw him run from the bench to the bathroom. Scratch that idea too.

Or we could always go with the husband’s idea of “Let’s stop somewhere fast along the way, like Dunkin’ Donuts and grab him a bagel or a croissant.”  Sometimes I cave to this – don’t judge! It’s five in the morning and I am lucky I remembered to put MYSELF in the car, much less all the equipment, water bottles, snacks and the kids too. Can’t forget the kids.

But, if you are anything like me, that little thing called guilt creeps around and stabs you in the stomach mid-game, or mid-drive, or just midday. It makes me feel like I am not feeding my kids right. And with my daughter being a picky and impossible eater, I am already sometimes at wits’ end trying to keep her nutrition in check. 

If I feed my daughter too soon before a track meet, her stomach starts to ache from acid reflux. Yes, at eleven years old, she already deals with reflux issues. If I feed her too close to meet time, she can barely run. It’s a no-win situation.  And with my daughter, she always runs to foods with empty calories, like sugary carbs.

So, it’s my quest to try to make my kids have all of the nutrients they need to be strong, healthy, and active kids. I finally turned to my Pediatrician, who knows me all too well from my middle-of-the-night texts and constant questions (and also because he happens to be my brother). He knows my kids, their active, daily routines, and all my craziness mixed in with that.

Dr. John Donati, Pediatrician at Comprehensive Pediatrics in both Staten Island and Brooklyn, has been Ava and Anthony’s doctor since the beginning.  He also has little ones at home so he knows how well the day-to-day rigor can take a toll on eating healthy.

Dr. Donati suggests that the day before the game (especially those super early ones) fill your kids up on carbs for energy and stamina. Also, give them protein, fruits, and plenty of fluids so their minds and muscles have proper energy.  Lean meats like chicken and beef are important to incorporate the day before as well. Four to six ounces should be the ideal amount.

Most importantly, stay away from empty calories like junk foods, and limit soda and caffeine-based products, which are dehydrating in nature. If you have to get up early, one to two hours in advance for a good meal is the best bet.  

If games and practices are later in the morning, afternoon or evening, half a small sandwich or oatmeal with a sausage patty, chicken and/or banana are a good idea. Ideal for high-level activities would be a bagel with cheese, eggs, and/or ham. But heavy foods need a longer digestive time so give at least two to three hours before playing time. Oatmeal with honey and fruit is also a great idea, providing hydration and protein.

It is always important to keep a balance between foods high in protein and foods high in carbohydrates. Bagels alone are not sufficient enough because of the rate of burning muscle in sports. So, add the eggs, or cheese and ham.

Some great snacks to take along are apple slices with peanut butter, celery, and oranges. All are great for protein. Celery, watermelon, and berries are also great for hydration.

After a game, it is very important to keep hydrating for twenty-four hours after. In general, it’s always important to stay hydrated for your skin and well-being, but athletes are very prone to dehydration. So, water and non-caffeine beverages are simple ways for your kids to hydrate after a game. Sports drinks (non-caffeinated) are also good for replenishing, but be careful of the high sugar content. Protein shakes with water are acceptable as well, but make sure they are non-mass building. Mass-building shakes are not for young athletes.

As my son’s hockey season is winding to an end, I sort of kicked myself for not asking the doctor sooner, but I am so happy that I know how to proceed now. Going into track season, I am assured that at least I know my daughter likes apples and carbs, so it’s going to be a matter of juggling who likes what and when to give it.  Nothing about parenting is easy, especially parenting an athlete, but we are all amazing in our own right and making our kids healthy is just how we roll!

With warm bagel thoughts and protein on my mind… until next time!


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Melissa Pizirusso is a full time working mom and Kindergarten teacher. Life in beTween is about her journey in raising healthy, happy children, students and athletes that are approaching their tween years. From travel sports to multiple tests per week, her family is the busy family you may relate to. Visit Melissa’s website at

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