Home » Blog » October Sports Nutrition Month » Martha McKittrick: Kids Are Like Cars - They Can't Run On Empty!

MomsTEAM may be in the final 10 days of October is Sports Nutrition Month, but the great advice from nutrition experts just keeps on coming! 

Today, we here from registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, Martha McKittrick: 

Martha McKittrick

MomsTEAM:Tell us a little about yourself and why you wanted to get into sports nutrition? 

McKittrick: I've been an RD (registered dietitian) for over 20 years, both in a hospital and private practice setting. I grew up in Massachusetts and did my dietetic internship in NYC, and never left! The most rewarding - and challenging - part of my job is helping people make changes in their eating and exercise habits. I love to see the positive impact it has on their health, energy levels and overall general well-being. I grew up in a family that was very active (my brother has done several Ironman triathlon competitions) and so that helped me to become a huge proponent of keeping adults and kids active. I got interested in sports nutrition about 10 years ago when I started to pursue cycling. After bonking a few times (for those not familiar with the term, "bonking" is the term used in endurance sports such as cycling and running to describe hitting the wall, a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy), I quickly learned the importance of sports nutrition.

MomsTEAM: What are your top five foods for sports nutrition?


  1. Greek yogurt. It's loaded with protein. Add some fruit and you have a winning combo.
  2. Whole wheat pasta. A healthy way to get in carbs pre or post workout. You can add a variety of sauces for versatility. 
  3. Bananas. A great source of carbs and potassium.
  4. Chocolate milk. A perfect combo of carbs and protein that both kids and adults love
  5. Sweet potatoes. A great source of lower glycemic carbs, loaded with nutrients 
From a personal standpoint, I need to add in chocolate-flavored sports gel (not sure if you call that a food, but I love it and it has saved me many times from bonking. It's also convenient and takes up minimal space in my cycline)

MomsTEAM: What are some healthy snacks for kids before or after exercise?

McKittrick: Now that school is back in full swlng and many kids are involved in sports, it's time to take a closer look at what they are putting in their bodies as fuel. I like to compare pre- and post-workout fuel to the gas you put in a car. You can't run a car on an empty tank! So let's take a closer look at what your kids are using for fuel before and after their workouts. While carbs are the major source of energy during exercise, protein is also very important to help muscles repair after workouts. In addition, adding a little protein to a pre-workout snack helps to give them more sustained energy levels.

    Chocolate milk pouring from bottle to glass

With this in mind, here are some ideas for snacks that contain carbs as well as protein.

  • Yogurt. It's portable and naturally contains carbs and protein
  • Cheese stick and apple slices
  • Peanut butter (natural is best) or almond butter on whole grain crackers
  • Nut butter and jam roll up on a tortilla
  • Homemade trail mix with nuts and seeds and dried fruit
  • Mini cheese (I like the Bonbel and individual Cabot cheeses) and handful of grapes
  • Turkey roll up. Roll up a few slices of turkey with lettuce, tomato and a little hummus or flavored mustard on a tortilla
  • Chocolate milk
  • Hummus and pita
  • Fruit roll up and a handful of nuts
  • Smoothie made with fruit and milk or yogurt
  • English muffin pizza. Melt a slice of cheese on an English muffin. Add a little tomato sauce

MomsTEAM: What is a quick and easy dinner to make for a family meal after an afternoon practice or game?

McKittrick: I'm a big fan of pasta - whole wheat if possible. Add some veggies, sauce (tomato, oil and garlic or pesto) and a protein source (ground turkey or lean beef, tofu, beans, seafood or cheese) and you've got a complete meal. It's a quick, tasty and inexpensive meal that will help to replete glycogen stores and repair muscles post workout.

MomsTEAM: What is the most important thing about nutrition that every sports parent should know? Any tips?

McKittrick: One area that may be overlooked is that your child may be eating less at lunch than you think. This will affect his/her energy levels for the rest of the day, as well as at practice/games. I've had quite a few kids tell me they dislike the lunches served at school, and barely eat anything. To make matters worse, some kids have lunch periods at 11 am or earlier! How are they supposed to function for the rest of the day, let alone have enough energy for a 2-hour practice after school? I also find that some of my teen female clients aren't eating much at lunch due to peer pressure and the dieting mentality. So make sure you know when and what is being consumed at lunch.

Martha McKittrick at cycling race

Martha McKittrick, RD, CDE, CDN is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She specializes in weight control, cardiovascular health, polycystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes, sports nutrition, women's health and preventive nutrition. A staff dietitian at The New York Presbyterian Hospital for over 20 years, she also has a private practice in NYC and is a consultant to physicians, health clubs, and corporations.

Martha has appeared on numerous television and radio programs and webcasts. She has been interviewed and written for publications including The Journal of The American Dietetic Association, Dietitian's Edge, Nutrition Today, Allure, Self, Family Circle, New York Newsday, and Cooking Light.  She also lectures on a a regular basis to corporations as well to health professionals, including the Long Island Dietetic Association, the Florida State Dietetic Association, the Greater New York Dietetic Association and the New York State Dietetic Association. In addition, she has been a spokesperson for several major companies.

Martha is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the following dietetic practice groups: Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists, Nutrition Entrepreneurs and Diabetes Care & Education. She was a health expert on WebMD's Diet and Nutrition Message Board for 7 years. She currently writes a blog called City Girl Bites,  where she provides nutrition information for people on the go. As a busy New Yorker, nutritionist and avid cyclist, Martha believes in giving realistic, practical dietary advice that will help people "eat right to fuel their busy life".

You can email Martha (martha@citygirlbites.com), follow her on twitter (www.twitter.com/citygirlbites), and like her on facebook (www.facebook.com/citygirlbites).