#126: How To Get Your Athlete To Prioritize Nutrition Without Being Pushy with Sports Dietician Amy Dirks

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Do you find yourself trying to prioritize nutrition for your athlete daughter, but you’re struggling to know where to start? Does the topic of nutrition overwhelm you, so you throw in the towel before you even get started?

Today, we’re talking about how to get your athlete to prioritize nutrition without being pushy. We had the pleasure of talking with sports dietician, Amy Dirks, who is a fellow sports mom herself. We talk about how food is medicine, how good nutrition can help your athlete’s performance, and some simple first steps you can take to move towards better choices.

Amy’s Backstory

Amy’s passion for sports nutrition started when she was playing as a D1 athlete herself in college. Amy loved to play volleyball, but she struggled with a handful of health issues throughout her time competing. At the time, she didn’t know that her struggles were related to poor nutrition and lifestyle choices. She thought that her health issues were just a result of the “grind” of her sport. 

After she made several lifestyle and nutrition changes, she eventually saw her health problems improve entirely. When she realized how powerful nutrition is, she decided she wanted to help other people realize this for themselves, too. This newfound passion led her down her career path to help others on their own health and wellness journeys.

Two Things Amy Wants Moms To Know

First, Amy wants moms to know that you’re doing a great job. Being a mom is challenging, and being a sports mom is a challenge on another level. After all, it’s a full-time job being a mom! 

It’s important to try to thrive as a sports mom, and not just survive. Be sure to take care of yourself, and make yourself a priority. Modeling self-care is important for your kids to see, because if they see you taking care of yourself, they’ll follow suit.

The second thing Amy wants moms to know is that it’s okay if you have to push the “easy button” sometimes. As a mom, you’re always going to be your own worst critic. 

To avoid having to press the easy button, Amy finds it helpful to plan ahead as much as you can. She is able to find confidence in planning ahead because she can go into each week feeling prepared for the busy schedule in front of her.

How To Handle The Athlete Who Can “Get Away With Anything”

As moms, we know nutrition is important for our athletes. But doesn’t it seem like our kids can just get away with anything? Logically, we know this isn’t true, but Amy explains why.

It’s true, kids can recover quickly, but what’s happening inside of them is something they don’t realize is affecting them below the surface. Eventually, poor nutrition will catch up with them and add up.

It’s important to remember that food is medicine, and good food can heal your body as much as bad food can harm your body. As moms, we can help our athletes understand how their bodies are being affected by good food and bad food by helping them understand the differences they feel when it comes to their performance and recovery. When they make good choices and feel better while they perform and recover, we can point this out to them and guide them to make the connection. When our athletes understand this connection, they are more likely to make good nutrition a priority.

It’s important to surround our athletes with the message of why good nutrition is important at home, because they likely aren’t being taught these things in school or maybe even through their coach. 

Overall, teaching our athletes about the importance of good nutrition can be a challenge. You can start small by focusing on 1-2 changes, focus on taking in the good and don’t worry about taking away the bad, and help them understand the outcomes of both good and bad nutrition. If they notice a difference, they’ll start to listen and prioritize it on their own! 

One Change To Start With

It might be more simple than you think to help our athletes start prioritizing nutrition. Amy shares that she made one major change that turned everything around for her as an athlete on her nutrition journey. She focused on eating whole foods. 

Processed foods made with chemicals that we don’t even cook with in our own kitchens can be harmful to our overall health, especially over time. Next time you take a trip to the grocery store, take a moment to examine the ingredient labels of items you’re adding to your cart. Is the list of ingredients a mile long? Are there several ingredients that you’ve never heard of, or you can’t pronounce? 

This change itself is simple, but it certainly can be a challenge to change the types of foods you’re eating all at once! So take it easy and start small by trying to swap a few things at a time. Slowly make more changes over time, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Move towards filling your cart with more fresh, whole foods and finding recipes and rhythms to cook with these foods. 

Find what works for you and your family, and gradually make better choices. And don’t forget to pause and take inventory of how everyone feels! This will help you and your athlete both prioritize these updates to the foods you eat.

How To Fit This In

As moms, we want our kids to eat nutritious foods that will fuel their body to help them perform their best. But then, we have to face the reality of busy schedules and trying to balance everything. How can we fit it in?

It’s challenging, but it’s possible. Amy shares her “semi-homemade” mindset, which means that sometimes, you have to add in some convenience to help yourself out. It’s okay to add some convenience foods with the homemade foods! And it’s certainly okay to work with the many convenience options we have in today’s world. Between grocery delivery, meal delivery kits, online recipes and meal planning options, there are so many ways to achieve healthy eating these days! Don’t be afraid to utilize the tools you need to use to make it happen for your family. 

The best thing you can do is to just start somewhere. If you try out one method and it doesn’t work for you, switch it up and try something else! Even if you start with one meal a week that you make at home, that’s a great start. Over time, small steps can make a big difference. 

It’s also important to remember that prioritizing nutrition looks different for every family, and it can even look different in different seasons of life. You really have to look at your own life and what’s practical for you to do. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing! 


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