Keeping Youth Tennis Players Healthy: Pre-Match Meals

If you’re the parent of a tennis player, keeping your child healthy for competition is of the utmost concern. But let’s face it, parents: Kids love sugary food. Especially during the summer there’s no shortage of ice cream, popsicles and other cold treats. Yet with the USTA junior tournament circuit in full swing, your child needs nutritional food to keep his or her energy up during those long matches in the July heat. So how do you make sure your tennis player is ready to go when the racquet spins?

The fact is, it’s best to eat 3-4 hours before playing. That being said, depending on your child’s draws and whether they win or lose, match times will vary making pre-match meal timing tricky. The important thing to keep in mind is eating foods high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat. You want to make sure to eat foods you know you like and those you can digest easily. So be careful not to make the mistake of preparing your child a pre-match meal that may be healthy, yet is made up of foods he or she isn’t familiar with. Any abnormality in your kid’s routine can negatively impact his or her performance.

What’s a healthy carb? Examples include whole wheat bread, brown rice and oats or barley. (And yes, you do want to avoid white bread and pastas at all costs!) Good carbs can also be found in vegetables that have starch in them like potatoes, peas and corn.


It goes without saying that vegetables in general are an important source of nutrients. Leafy veggies like spinach and lettuce are easy to put into a pre-match meal, and healthy, too!


In fruit you’ll find plenty of vitamins from Vitamin C in citrus fruits to antioxidants in berries. So don’t hesitate to peel an orange or slice up some strawberries before hitting the court. Don’t forget a tennis player’s best friend, the banana: the ultimate athlete’s fruit that contains potassium, which plays a role in muscle function, and manganese, which helps your body access energy.


Finally, ensure your player ingests some healthy protein through lean meats like chicken (preferably grilled) and turkey.

To get you started here’s three pre-match meals you can easily make at home or take on the go.

Turkey and Veggie Sandwich from


You need: two tablespoons of hummus, two slices of whole-wheat bread, two ounces of turkey (sliced), 1/4 green bell pepper (thinly sliced) one pickled cherry pepper (sliced), two tablespoons of red onion (thinly sliced), one tablespoon of grated parmesan, 1/4 cup of pea shoots.


Pomegranate Berry Smoothie from


You need: two cups of frozen mixed berries, one cup of pomegranate juice, one medium banana, 1/2 cup of nonfat cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of water.

PBJ Protein Oats from


You need: 1/3 cup of old-fashioned oats, 2/3 cup of water, one serving of vanilla protein powder, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract, one tablespoon of natural peanut butter, one tablespoon of natural jam or jelly


Directions: Mix in vanilla protein powder and vanilla bean paste or extract with oatmeal. Top with peanut butter and jelly.


Remember: Kids do deserve a treat after playing a hard-fought tennis match. But save the sugary food for later. They’ll stay happier on the court if you keep them healthier.


I grew up in a tennis family with three younger sisters as doubles partners. If you enjoyed a blog post of mine or want to know more, feel free to email me at Thanks for reading and staying connected with MyTennisLessons!
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