Monday, 27 May 2024

Six Tips for Effective Sports Nutrition Conversations


Talking about nutrition, especially with young athletes, can be challenging. The words we choose have a significant impact, and even casual conversations can leave lasting impressions. To help guide these discussions, Stephanie Miezin, a registered dietitian and sports nutrition specialist, shares some advice on what to avoid when talking about sports nutrition, weight, and health with young athletes.

The Pitfalls of “Clean Eating” and “Clean Foods”

In recent years, the phrases “clean eating” and “clean foods” have gained popularity as ways to describe healthy choices. However, Stephanie Miezin raises concerns about the lack of a specific definition for “clean,” which can lead to confusion and misleading information.

Instead of using the term “clean,” it’s better to focus on the specific benefits of a food item for athletes. Not all foods that fuel an athlete’s performance are labeled as “clean.” Emphasize the functionality and timing of different foods for optimal nutrition.

The Problem with “Good Foods” and “Bad Foods”

Using language that categorizes foods as “good” or “bad” can be detrimental, especially for young athletes. The constant shifting of what’s considered “good” can contribute to disordered eating patterns.

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Shift the focus from subjective labels to objective nutritional data. Instead of using adjectives like “good” or “bad,” describe foods as balanced, nutritious, healthful, nourishing, energizing, or delicious. This approach helps improve an athlete’s relationship with food.

Rethinking “Guilty Pleasures” and “Cheat Meals”

Our perceptions of food play a crucial role in our overall relationship with nutrition. Associating food with guilt can have unintended consequences, leading to disordered eating behaviors.

Encourage athletes to ask themselves, “How much is this meal supporting my health?” This mindset reframes the notion of a “cheat meal” to one that provides essential nutrients for a future workout or training session.

The Impact of the Word “Calories”

While calories are a measure of energy, discussing them can trigger anxiety, particularly for athletes with a history of disordered eating.

Replace the term “calories” with “energy” to provide a more positive association. Energy is a concept that resonates better with people and emphasizes the importance of fueling the body appropriately.

Beyond the Word “Diet”

The term “diet” has become loaded with connotations, especially when it comes to athletes struggling with disordered eating patterns. It’s essential to create a healthy relationship with food and avoid negative associations.

Instead of using the word “diet,” refer to it as a “meal plan” or describe it as “how an athlete eats.” This shift in language can promote a healthier mindset around nutrition.

Shifting the Focus from Body Appearance

Language that emphasizes body shape, weight, or appearance can be harmful. As coaches and parents, it’s crucial to prioritize athletes’ health and performance, recognizing that weight and body shape don’t determine their overall well-being.

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Shift the conversation to focus on how athletes feel. Ask questions about energy levels, strength, fatigue, and overall well-being. These metrics provide more pertinent information without focusing solely on appearance.


Q: How can I discuss nutrition with young athletes without overwhelming them?
A: Start by highlighting the benefits of specific foods and their impact on performance. Provide practical examples and emphasize the importance of timing and functionality.

Q: How do I encourage healthy eating habits without using judgmental language?
A: Focus on the overall dietary pattern rather than labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” Use positive adjectives such as balanced, nutritious, healthful, nourishing, energizing, and delicious.

Q: How can I address athletes’ concerns about calories without causing anxiety?
A: Swap the term “calories” with “energy” to create a more positive association. Help athletes understand that calories are essential for fueling their bodies.


The way we discuss food and nutrition with young athletes can significantly impact their attitudes and behaviors. By avoiding subjective terms and focusing on objective data and how food makes athletes feel, we can develop a more positive and nuanced understanding of nutrition. Let’s prioritize their health, performance, and overall well-being.

For more expert guidance on sports nutrition and positive youth development through sports, visit Alpinetgheep.