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Dave Ellis: Walnuts Top List of Favorite Sports Foods

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MomsTEAM has designated October as Sports Nutrition Month, and invited some old friends and some new ones to share their wisdom about nutrition by responding to a series of questions. We hope their answers will offer the always on-the-go sports parents we know you are some fresh ideas and choices for healthy, easy-to-make breakfasts, lunches, dinners and between-meal snacks for your active children.

Today we hear from USA Hockey sports dietitian Dave Ellis: 

Dave Ellis and family

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

Ellis: A few milestones in '12. Turned 50, celebrated 25 wedding anniversary (father of three) and 30th year of work in athletics (www.daveellisbio.com).  My mom worked in health care and stimulated my interest in exercise and nutrition growing up.

MomsTEAM: What do recommend sports-active kids eat for breakfast?

Ellis: The rate limiting issue at breakfast is consuming enough protein that cereal and milk alone can't supply. An egg with cheese and peanut butter on toast (animal, dairy and vegetable protein) will go a long way to support growing bodies and attention spans at school.  The latest evidence says kids concentrate better eating slow-digesting carbohydrates at breakfast instead of simple sugars.

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


  1. Walnuts
  2. Avocado
  3. Beets
  4. Eggs, and 
  5. Greek yogurt.

MomsTEAM: Do you think youth and high school athletes need supplements? If yes, which ones?

Ellis: NSF Certified For Sport Multi-Vitamin and protein source for smoothies (preferably, a blend of whey, soy and casein).

MomsTEAM: What is the best snack to pack in a sports-active kid's school backpack or gym bag?

Ellis: Trail mix with dried tart cherries and walnuts.

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

Ellis: The best thing to do is come home and find the protein in the crock pot (say, for instance, whole chicken) and ready to serve. Now just pull a carb source (baby red potatoes, which you could already have cooked in the slow cooker) and some fresh produce into the mix and you have a meal!  Add a quick salad or steamed vegetable, and you are in business. Add fresh berries and Greek yogurt for a protein snack/dessert.

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

Ellis: Binge-eating patterns don't support mental or physical performance, recovery or growth!

MomsTEAM: How have you helped a young athlete?

Ellis: As an advisor for USA Hockey Coaching Education on Nutrition, as well as working with USA Hockey's top U17-U18 National Team Development Athletes. 

Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS is a father of three and a veteran sports dietitian and Past President / Ambassador for the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Assn. (www.sportsrd.org).  He and his family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Follow Dave on Twitter: @fuelingtactics