By Paige Green, Hy-Vee Dietitian on Monday, March 18, 2019

'Starting Five': On and off the court

March is not only every basketball fan’s favorite time of the year, it’s also National Nutrition Month. Of course, proper nutrition is important to athletes in every sport, but this fast-paced game and the food you eat share another thing in common: There are five players on each team just like there are five food groups you need to fuel yourself throughout the day. 

RELATED: How to celebrate National Nutrition Month

Without one player on the court, or an entire food group nixed from the diet, performance suffers. So this month, while you’re working on your brackets, why not update your game plan in regards to winning meal ideas, strategic ways to increase more veggies, and defensive plays to overcome the munchies?

Your nutrition coach's starting five:

Dunk it with dairy

Disclaimer: Consuming dairy will not magically give you the ability to dunk a basketball. What’s impressive, though, is dairy products include a nutrition label that scores a three-point play: calcium, vitamin D and protein. Calcium and vitamin D plays a vital role in bone health and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. 

  • Game plan: For men and women (ages 18-50), aim for 1000 mg of calcium per day, or three servings of dairy! (Ex: 1 glass of milk, 1 container of yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese all count as one serving).


Play hard with protein

In a protein obsessed world, it’s tricky to know how much of this nutrient you really need. Most Americans receive enough protein daily without really trying. The most notable role protein plays is in the maintenance and repair of muscles. Like mentioned, dairy contains a good source of protein, as does meat, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Keep in mind, protein is best absorbed if spread out over the course of the day.

  • Game plan: The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. (Ex: 56 g of protein/day for the average sedentary man and 46 g of protein/day for the average sedentary woman).  For those trying to gain muscle, shoot for 1g of protein per pound of body weight.

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Guard your carbs

Don’t let the low-carb craze fool you. Carbohydrates are necessary to fuel your body and keep you feeling energized. They should make up 45-65% of your daily caloric needs, according to the Dietary Guidelines of Americans. Opt for whole grains instead of their white counterparts for extra fiber, which has shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. 

  • Game plan: Don’t fear carbs. The minute you restrict carbohydrates from the diet, the worse the cravings for those foods become. Keep portion sizes in mind, and bring carbs back into the game.

RELATED: 'Skinny' spinach artichoke dip recipe

Fans go wild with fruit

Naturally lower in fat, sodium, and calories, fruit is the best form of defense for a sweet tooth craving. By pairing a fruit with a protein for a mid-morning or afternoon snack, it’s the perfect pick-me-up rather than any chocolate bar (or worse, an energy drink).

  • Game plan: Aim for at least two servings of fruit a day. Get creative by adding to a smoothie or on top of oatmeal or yogurt for a quick and satisfying breakfast.

RELATED: Try one of these fruit and veggie swaps

A vegetable victory!

We saved the best for last – the champion amongst all food groups, to say the least! Vegetables should give you a boost of color every at every meal, just like the player that helps with the fast breaks and alley-oops. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber – fill up without feeling guilty.

  • Game plan: If you’re sick of plain ol’ broccoli or cauliflower, try their riced alternatives or even veggie tots for a new play at mealtime.

paigePaige Green received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management at the University of Northern Iowa in 2012. She pursued her passion for nutrition at Iowa State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics during the spring of 2015. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Paige truly sets out to educate individuals on finding a healthy balance in life and her passion for people and nutrition inspires clients of all ages. You can find Paige at the Ames Hy-Vee on Lincoln Way.