Nutrition Tips - Sporting KC Youth

December 3, 2018

Soup Weather

When it comes to athletes, proper fueling through food and adequate hydration are top priorities.  A comfort food that is often overlooked but can provide both fuel and hydration is soup. Soup is extremely versatile as well and can be served hot or cold, depending on the weather outside.  It’s not just for winter or cold, rainy nights.


Not all soups are created equally though.  Many of the canned soups you find on grocery store shelves include MSG and other processed ingredients and WAY too much sodium.  Some of the better brands of soup that you can buy include Amy’s Organic Soups and Pacific brand soups.


Speaking of sodium having the proper amount of sodium in your diet is beneficial, especially for soccer players that run and sweat a lot.  Americans tend to take in around 3,400 milligrams of sodium/day most likely due to our S.A.D (Standard American Diet), which includes processed foods and meats.  We technically need around 500 milligrams/day for our bodies to function properly but for athletes, that amount needs to be higher. 2,300 milligrams is a good start (unless you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure) or around one teaspoon/day but that amount could increase with hot weather and excessive sweating.  There is a way to measure fluid and sodium (Na) losses during exercise through sweat testing. All athletes are different so individualizing fluid and electrolyte replenishment is advantageous.


Eating whole foods and salting them with a sea salt or Himalayan salt is the best way to consume sodium through diet.  Therefore, it makes sense that making your own soups at home is the ideal way for consuming soup and a healthy dose of sodium.  With all of the options of bone broths available now, you can also increase the nutritional value of your soup using these types of ingredients.   It’s a simple way to sneak in more veggies as well! Make soup in a crock-pot or Insta-pot for a “fix it and forget it” meal. You can even put soup in a thermos for traveling ease. Some of my favorite soups are “souper” simple to make!  Tomato Bisque using Greek yogurt, Coconut Chicken soup with rice or rice noodles, and Chinese Chicken soup with rice are three of my favorites! Below is a recipe you can try using a rotisserie chicken or any chicken you have on hand, eggs, broth and a few other ingredients.


Chinese Chicken & Rice Soup


  • 4 large eggs  (preferably free range/organic)
  • 2 Tbs. avocado oil (or stir fry type oil)
  • 2 large tomatoes,  halved and thinly slices (can substitute diced canned tomatoes)
  • 4 cups chicken broth/bone broth
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. sesame oil
  • 2 Tsp. liquid aminos (soy sauce alternative)
  • 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken, skin removed
  • 4 cups baby spinach (organic)
  • 1.5 cups cooked rice (brown, white, or wild)
  • Salt & pepper to taste


1).  Whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan over high heat. Add the eggs and cook, undisturbed until bubbles form on the surface and the bottom is set, about 1 minute.

2).  Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring gently to break up the eggs, until the tomatoes begin to soften (2-3 minutes).  Add the chicken broth, 3 cups water, the scallions, sesame oil, liquid aminos, and 1.5 tsp salt. Partially cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

3).  Stir in chicken, spinach, and rice (or leave rice out and scoop in individual bowls) and warm through.  Season the soup with additional salt and pepper if needed.


Serves 4:  Per serving; Calories-417, Fat-22 g, Cholesterol-297 mg, Sodium-1,282 mg, Carbohydrates-27 g, Fiber-3 g, Protein-29 g



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

November 30, 2018

Cereal & Oat Products: What You Don’t Know

Years and years ago, cereal companies started the campaign that breakfast is the most important meal of the day…let us give you inflammatory processed grains that have been stripped of nutrients and fortified or enriched back in, sugar-laden (and probably several different types of sugar), addictive morsels in a bowl, smother it in antibiotic/hormone containing milk and you have a concoction for what could be health problems down the road.  Not to mention a breakfast that doesn’t sustain you because it’s low in healthy fats and protein and is basically simple carbs.  I will be transparent though, I usually keep one box of cereal in the pantry for those moments when you just need something quick and easy.  However, I try to buy higher fiber (at least 3-5 grams), lower sugar (10 grams or less), and typically gluten free.


Many of you have heard of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms); nowadays, we have to worry about whether our cereal (and noodles, crackers, cookies, bars) is from genetically modified foods as well.  Corn and soy are the two most genetically modified crops we have in the U.S.  Basically, these seeds are round-up ready so that when they are sprayed with weed-killer (glyphosate), they can live while the weeds around them die.  Many of these crops are becoming resistant meaning more pesticides are being used.  The problem is we aren’t aware of this unless we are very careful to know where our food comes from nor do we know exactly what this can do to us health wise, although more findings are occurring everyday.


Please take the time to view this article which will inform you on specific products to look out for.


If you want to learn even more, check out the film “Genetic Roulette”

At least watch the trailer if you don’t see the whole movie.  Another good documentary is called “Human Experiment”

We have to start educating ourselves on some of these issues.  If you’re going to buy processed foods, look for the sign below and at least try to buy non-GMO foods.



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

November 19, 2018

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

With the Thanksgiving holiday ALREADY approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to include a couple healthier recipes for the Thanksgiving holiday.  The rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, etc. can be a VERY carb-heavy meal, leaving you bloated, tired, and unmotivated.  However, making a few swaps in the same traditional foods, drinking plenty of water, taking a walk after your meal, and practicing a little portion control can leave you feeling satisfied (I’m not saying deprive yourself, have the pumpkin pie, just not the whole thing) and energized enough to watch a little football without passing out.




  • 1 tsp ghee or grass-fed butter

  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced

  • 1 ½-2 lbs. Green beans, trimmed

  • 1 ½ cups creamy mushroom soup (recipe to follow)

  • ½ cup almond meal or other nut meal (can buy at Trader Joe’s or grind almonds or cashews in a blender or food processor

  • Sea salt & black pepper



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, then cook the shallots until translucent and slightly browned on the edges (about 5 minutes).

  3. Roughly chop the green beans and place them in a 9×13” baking dish.  Pour the creamy mushroom soup over the green beans, then top evenly with the almond meal.  Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper and then evenly distribute the shallots across the top.

  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the sides of the casserole are bubbling.  Serves 4-6.




  • 1 Tbs ghee or grass-fed butter

  • ½ medium onion, diced

  • Sea salt & black pepper

  • 1 dozen sliced medium-sized mushrooms (cremini/shitake or button if you can’t find others)

  • Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme (½ tsp), plus additional for garnish

  • 1 pinch of nutmeg

  • 3 ½ cups bone broth (beef)

  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk (canned)



  1. In a large saucepan or soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat, then cook the onion until translucent and edges begin to brown (5 minutes).  Season lightly with salt & pepper.

  2. Add the mushrooms, thyme leaves, and nutmeg to the pan.  Continue to cook until the mushrooms brown ~10 minutes.

  3. Add the Bone Broth and coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove ½ cup of the mushrooms from pan and set aside.

  5. Transfer the soup to a blender in 3 small batches and start slow blending since the soup will be hot and expand.

  6. After blending in 3 batches, pour the soup into serving bowls and evenly distribute the reserved mushrooms.  Garnish with thyme if desired. Serves 4.

**Make this ahead of time and serve with a salad one night for dinner leading up the Thanksgiving!




  • 3 cups baby spinach (can use mixed greens)

  • ½ cup blueberries & sliced strawberries

  • 2 Tbs chopped walnuts

  • 2 Tbs. dried cherries or cranberries

  • 2 Tbs. crumbled goat cheese

  • 3 slices avocado

  • Optional to add 1-2 Tbs. pumpkin seeds



  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar (can sub any vinegar)

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil or avocado oil

  • Salt & pepper to taste

  • Optional to add 1 tsp dijon mustard for more tangy flavor or squeeze of lemon juice



  1. Combine salad ingredients in a bowl/dish, minus the avocado.  Whisk together oil, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper and any additional ingredients.  Drizzle or toss with dressing.

  2. Makes 1 salad (so make sure you make adjustments for a crowd); add avocado to the top.



Fill half of your plate with salad, ¼ veggies, and the other ¼ turkey or ham before going back for the other stuff like dressing, potatoes, casseroles.  You will have taken in plenty of the good stuff before helping yourself to the not so healthy stuff. Or, you can do like I typically do and just get a tiny portion of each thing.  In that case, I’m stuffed by the time I try everything and can’t make much room for dessert. Regardless, enjoy the day and time with family and friends!



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

October 24, 2018

Know Where Your Food Comes From

Not only is eating lean proteins important, it’s even more imperative where your protein sources come from.  Chicken should be organic and pasture-raised so they can roam and eat their natural diet, fish should be wild caught, and beef should be grass fed.


Speaking of beef, not only do we want cows that weren’t fed a lifetime of inflammatory grains, but were you aware that 80% or more of our antibiotics are used for agriculture, meaning only 20% are being used medically, as they were originally intended.  This is a huge problem because if you are eating these antibiotic-laden meats, you become more resistant to the antibiotics needed during times of illness.  Not to mention the thought of them needing to use these antibiotics for their animals in the first place to keep them from being sick because of the close proximity to each other and standing in feces.  It’s not a pretty picture I know.  I know many of us, and particularly kids, are eating fast food meats…and probably more often than not.  Therefore, I wanted to share a recent article I came across where they graded the top 25 fast food restaurants according to their beef quality.


“Fast food restaurants were ranked by total US sales to get the top 25. The report grades the restaurants in three areas, according to Brook. The first is whether these companies are making pledges or policies to end the routine use of antibiotics, the second is how the companies are implementing the policies, and the third is verifying whether the claims being made by the companies are true.


The report identified Shake Shack and BurgerFi as the only two chains to serve antibiotic-free beef:

Grade A Grade D Grade F
Burger Fi Wendy’s McDonald’s
Shake Shack Burger King
Jack in the Box
Carl’s Jr
Five Guys
White Castle
Freddy’s Fastburgers
The Habit Burger Grill
A&W All American Food
Farmer Boys


For the full article, please see the links below:



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

September 19, 2018

Busy Parents, Quick Meals

For us busy parents, it can be a challenge at times putting a hot meal on the table for our family.  For me, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to use what foods are on hand and creating a meal out of it.  Here are a few simple meal ideas for those busy nights.


Sheet Pan Meal

Drizzle avocado or olive oil and lemon juice on salmon, asparagus and halved yellow potatoes.  Chop fresh dill and place on everything.  Season with salt & pepper.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes and remove the fish. Check the asparagus (if they are small, they may be done).  Keep the fish hot.  Cook 10 more minutes or until potatoes are done and asparagus is crispy.

*Change out the veggies if you don’t have asparagus but make note of cooking time.


15 Minute Pasta Meal

Boil 2 cups of water and add favorite gluten free noodle (the thinner the noodle the better so like spaghetti noodles).  While the pasta cooks, saute about ½ cup frozen broccoli and cauliflower in a pan with a little avocado oil or olive oil, salt & pepper for about 5 minutes.  Add 3 ounces frozen, precooked shrimp to the pan.  Drain pasta, toss in cooked veggies and shrimp and stir in a spoonful of pesto sauce.  Top with parmesan cheese if desired.

*Squeeze a little lemon on for a zesty, bright flavor.


Black Bean Chili

Bring to a simmer 1 can diced tomatoes with juice.  Add 1 can water with 2 teaspoons each of cumin and coriander.  Stir in 1 diced onion and 1 diced bell pepper.  Add ¾ cup corn (non-Gmo) and 1 can drained and rinsed black beans.  Simmer 30 minutes.

*Use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water for more flavor.  Could also sub chili spice mix for the cumin and coriander.  Use white beans versus black for a white bean chili.  Add avocado slices, radishes, and Greek yogurt.




Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

August 22, 2018

Processed Foods

I would like to continue on the conversation from the last two emails in regards to processed foods and which ones to avoid and which ones to include.  No matter how pressed for time you are and how hectic/busy schedules can be, you make time for wellness now or you make time for sickness later.  Same thing goes with money; you pay now for quality foods or you pay later in medical bills.  The unfortunate thing is that we are bombarded with all of these convenience foods, it’s so tempting to fall into that trap.  Take baby steps.  Do what you can for now and try to add to that every month.  I call it semi-homemade (like Sandra Lee if anyone remembers her cooking show).  The more you practice a healthier style of eating, the easier it gets, plus you will most likely feel better mentally and physically for doing so.  Good health starts in the kitchen.  In 1900, 2% of all meals were eaten away from home; now it’s 50%!  Start with a kitchen makeover and toss or donate the bad and re-stock with the good.


Toss These:

  • Sugar (in all forms, except honey and maple syrup)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • All-purpose, refined white flour
  • Any packaged food made with high-fructose corn syrup
  • Anything with sugar among the first five ingredients on the label
  • Anything with ingredients that don’t sound like food, like Maltodextrin
  • Anything made with refined white flour, including pasta, bread, bagels, pretzels, muffins, etc.
  • Anything made with soybean oil, vegetable oil, or hydrogenated oils
  • Soft drinks or any sugar-sweetened beverages including energy drinks, sports drinks, sweetened teas or coffees, etc.
  • Anything made with refined grains, like hot cereal, instant/microwave oatmeal, or anything else not made with whole grains
  • Powdered flavored drinks
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Any food with MSG
  • Any food with soy-based protein
  • Anything deep-fried like potato chips or other kinds (baked vegetable chips are fine)
  • Anything that includes preservatives, flavorings, colorings, or thickeners….a side-note on preservatives…these are added to foods to extend their shelf life so that the food does not go rancid…what do you think they do inside our bodies?  Our digestive systems have a really hard time breaking these things down as well and so they are either stored as body fat (toxin) or create an immune response sometimes.  They are not natural!
  • Any butter or fat replacements
  • Any yogurt containing sugars or fake sweeteners (like sucralose)
  • Any frozen dish containing non-food ingredients
  • Anything white; rice, bread, and even regular potatoes (sweet potatoes are better!).  This excludes white things like onions, cauliflower, radishes, or white fish
  • Skim milk or any non-grass-fed or non-organic dairy


Keep These or Purchase:

  • Canned wild-caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies (don’t be afraid of these!  I eat sardines out of the can with a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • Nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamias, cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts; all raw and unsalted)
  • Nut butters (no added sugar, salt, or oil)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Virgin organic coconut oil
  • Seeds (pumpkin, ground flax, hemp, and chia seeds)
  • Vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, wine, rice)
  • Unsulfured molasses or raw honey
  • Whole grains (quinoa, millet, teff, amaranth, black rice, brown rice)
  • Beans (smaller beans such as lentils, adzuki, and navy beans)
  • Green tea or hibiscus tea
  • Herbs and spices
  • Healthy condiments (more to come on this later)



  • Fresh, organic, seasonal, non-starchy vegetables
  • Fresh, starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and winter squash
  • Fresh, organic, seasonal, low-glycemic fruit
  • Fresh or frozen organic or wild berries
  • Grass-fed beef and lamb
  • Pasture-raised pork and poultry
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Wild-caught salmon, mackerel, and others from the low-mercury list
  • Any kind of shellfish (Lobster can be high in mercury)
  • Grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Whole-milk, grass-fed, unsweetened, organic yogurt or kefir, ideally goats’ or sheeps’
  • Whole-milk cheese made from grass-fed animal milks without preservatives or chemicals


These lists seem pretty strict but know that they are the ultimate goal for clean eating.  It is impossible to be perfect all the time so pick what works for your lifestyle.  Every little swap can add up!



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

August 17, 2018

Healthy Processed Foods

In last month’s nutrition tips, I listed processed foods that should be avoided or limited.  The following are examples of processed foods that are made with whole food and uses traditional methods and therefore, can be a healthy addition to the other REAL food you eat.

  • Tofu; should be organic and if possible from sprouted soybeans.  Soy is heavily genetically modified so you want to make sure it’s organic and non-GMO if possible.

  • Tempeh; should be organic (both tofu and tempeh are great protein sources for vegetarians).

  • Yogurt; as long as there’s no sugar, fruit, or flavoring added.  Try to find organic, whole (full-fat), grass-fed milk, or even goats/sheeps milk if you have trouble with cow’s milk.  Buy plain (Greek yogurt has more protein than regular) and then add maple syrup or honey, cinnamon, nuts, berries, etc. to it.

  • Kefir; same rules apply as yogurt.  If you don’t like the taste of kefir, use it in a smoothie.  It is fermented and has great probiotics for your gut.

  • Cheese; real cheese is made from milk, bacteria, rennet, and salt.  Sometimes, herbs, spices, fruits, nuts are added but anything beyond that is a “cheese-like substance” and should be avoided.  Organic sheep’s cheese and goat’s cheese are probably the best types of cheese for you.

  • Chocolate, yes I said chocolate!  Should be organic if possible and for sure DARK, not milk chocolate.  At least 70% cacao and in moderation.

  • Kimchi; a spicy Korean cabbage that is a great source of probiotics due to the natural fermentation.

  • Sauerkraut; should be fermented naturally without the use of vinegar.

  • Jerky; should be made with meat, poultry, or fish and without sugar or other unnecessary ingredients or preservatives (nitrates/nitrites).  Watch out for gluten and MSG.

  • Hummus; buy organic with minimal ingredients or make your own using chickpeas, tahini, cumin, olive oil, garlic, and lemon.  Blend in a food processor and add salt if necessary.

  • Nut Butters; make sure there is no sugar or palm oil added.  If it’s almond butter, it should be almonds and maybe salt.  Most peanut butters contain high-fructose corn syrup and emulsifiers.  Read the ingredients list!



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

July 26, 2018

Picky Eaters, ”The Dinner Table Battle”


As parents or caretakers, we’ve all had to deal with a picky eater at some point in time. Maybe it was just an episode, maybe it was just a phase, or maybe that phase turned into a lifestyle.  Or, maybe you have been lucky enough to not have picky eaters as kids but you are around others struggling with a picky eater!? Dealing with picky eaters can be a challenge within itself, but when your child is extremely active, it becomes even more stressful because you just want your child to eat and get in the necessary nutrients/calories to support their activity.  If you haven’t already, try someof the tips and tricks below to help you and your picky eater find the nutritious AND fun side of food.


  • Get your kids involved. Helping prepare a meal can make eating more fun and rewarding. Have your kids plan a meal for the family once a week, let the kids help you with the grocery shopping, and then let them assist in the kitchen without worrying about the mess.  Trust me, I know that’s a tough one!  Giving kids the independence in the kitchen can build their confidence, help with hand/eye coordination, teach life skills, and build math skills if following a recipe.  Also, family-style serving where you allow your child to put the food onto their plate allows them to be in control, and sometimes, it is just a control issue in general.  Our kids have rules at school, rules for sports, and rules at home…allowing them to decide what foods go onto their plates and how much can make a big difference in their mindset at the table.


  • Try to introduce healthier components with foods that your child already likes. Finding ways to incorporate different foods can help your child adventure into new flavors while still staying in their comfort zone.  For example, adding blueberries to pancakes, shredded veggies over rice, or smashing an avocado on your child’s sandwich can help add some extra nutrients into their diet. Ever heard of the “The Sneaky Chef”? She has all sorts of new ways to sneak veggies and fruits into meals if you need to start there, although I personally think it’s important for kids to be aware of the fact they are eating veggies. I add spinach to my kids smoothies but I make sure they see me doing it and they are always so surprised that it still tastes so yummy with all of that green in it!


  • Limit the amount of unhealthy foods you buy.  The saying “out of sight, out of mind” can certainly play a role when it comes to food.  No matter what, who controls the grocery shopping and what foods are brought into the home?  If a child has the choice between carrot sticks with hummus or a bag of chips, what do you think they are going to choose?  It’s not necessarily their fault, it’s ours as parents.  It also helps that if these “junk” foods aren’t around, your child will start trying to find food in the pantry or fridge that are better for them.  Be strategic and prep fruits and veggies in glass containers and keep them at their level in the fridge.  Place the snacks that you want them to have at eye level in the pantry.


  • The more colorful your plate is the better! When food lacks lots of color and looks bland, that often means there is a lack of nutrients.  They say to “eat the rainbow” because all of the different colors represent different vitamins and minerals.  The darker the colors, the better as these usually provide the most nutrients/antioxidants.  Make veggies the star of the show instead of the main course.  For example, instead of saying “we are having chicken with broccoli”, say “we are having yummy broccoli and carrots with chicken”.


  • Do not prepare a separate meal just for your picky eater! Being a short order cook is a guaranteed way to encourage picky eaters to continue the habit.  Encourage your child to stay at the dinner table with the meal that you originally prepared.  The key word is ENCOURAGE, not FORCE.  And, if they don’t eat and come back later hungry, offer them their meal they refused. If they are truly physiologically hungry, they may take you up on it.  One way to ensure they are eating something is to always place at least one food on their plates that you know they will eat, even if it’s a piece of fruit. At least they will take in some fiber and nutrients from the fruit.


  • Do not ban sweet treats entirely. This does not mean your child should have a treat every night, but instead, teach them to eat it sparingly.  Trying to take away treats can cause strife and lead them to overindulge at other opportunities.  There have even been parents who allow the treat or dessert to be on the dinner plate and eaten first so that the child isn’t pressured in any way.  Just be careful of the slippery slope this can create when the brain gets addicted to having that little bit of sugar after meals!


  • Promote what you permit. This is one of the most important tips so don’t be a hypocrite. My kids always see me practicing what I’m preaching.  Your child looks up to you, even when it comes to what you eat!  Setting an example with a good diet of a variety of healthy foods will make your child want to follow suit.  Remember, you are your child’s best teacher as they are not going to necessarily learn healthy food choices in school.


  • Make dinner dates with friends whose kids are adventurous eaters. Peer pressure can be a good thing so try scheduling some fun dinner dates where your kids will be positively influenced to try new foods. Or, use social media to your advantage and follow a pro soccer player or athlete who makes healthy food choices a priority and encourage your child to do the same.


Try some of the sample meals below for your picky eater:

  • Quesadillas with chicken (chopped small), cheese, beans (can be smashed in with the chicken or cheese), and spinach (chopped small). Guacamole, salsa, or Greek yogurt for dipping…kids love to dip!
  • Gluten free rotini with roasted broccoli and cauliflower and marinara sauce for dipping.
  • Shrimp with carrots and butter or cocktail sauce for dipping.
  • Turkey burgers with guacamole or avocado and black bean/corn salad.
  • Moroccan chicken with grape tomatoes and either couscous, orzo, or quinoa.
  • Grilled salmon with edamame salad or asparagus
  • Grilled steak with home fries (cut potatoes and sweet potatoes to resemble fries).
  • Spaghetti with meatballs but try using zucchini or spaghetti squash noodles in place of regular noodles. Incorporate shredded veggies into the meatballs.
  • Baked potato buffet; set out toppings/sauces and allow the kids to make their own.
  • Tacos; who doesn’t love a taco!? Again, set out several options and allow the kids to make their own taco combinations.  You can always change tacos up.  Fish tacos, chicken tacos, ground turkey tacos, etc.  I’ve even made lentil tacos that both kids loved!
  • Deconstructed Mediterranean platter; cheese, olives, nuts, crackers, veggies, hummus.


Although some of these tips can seem obvious, they can have a big impact on your child’s diet and overall wellbeing.  Start small, it’s not all or none.  To eat an elephant, you have to take one bite at a time.  Once you begin to incorporate healthier options into their eating patterns, they will notice a difference in their energy levels, how they sleep, how they recover and in general, how their body feels.  Watch the documentary on Netflix “The Magic Pill” that shows one family’s struggle with a picky eater and how they overcame that hurdle.  And lastly, whatever method you try, be consistent and persistent.  Habits take time to make OR change!



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

June 28, 2018


Something that is always of concern during the hot summer months is dehydration.  Elite endurance athletes are at an increased risk for becoming dehydrated due to the nature of the activity and being outdoors often.  The most common signs of dehydration include:


  • Dry Mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Thirst
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Decreased Urination
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Digestive Issues (constipation, diarrhea)


One of the easiest ways to tell is by how often you urinate and what color the urine is.  You should be going to the bathroom at least every 3 hours and your urine should look more like lemonade, not apple juice.



You have to stay on top of your hydration for not only performance but also optimal health.  Typically half of your body weight in ounces is a general rule of thumb, but with extreme temperatures, more fluids are  needed.  This is where using watery fruits and vegetables can help contribute to your hydration status.  Include foods such as watermelon (and other melons), kiwi, pineapple, grapes, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, add lemons/limes to water), cucumber, celery, bell peppers, and carrots.


Besides drinking water alone, other healthy beverages can be beneficial, such as homemade vegetable juices, fruit smoothies (make them with coconut water), homemade popsicles (or ice cubes), herbal teas, sparkling water with fruit slices, warm water with fresh squeezed lemon and local honey, kefir, kombucha, and bone broth (or other vegetable broths).


Keep a stainless steel water bottle with you at all times to refill.  Add frozen fruit or ice to keep drinks cool and boost flavor and nutrition. Drink orange juice or pineapple juice with breakfast to increase electrolytes.  Sip on electrolyte drinks during prolonged physical activity or throughout the day on game days, especially if playing multiple games/day.  Don’t make excuses as cramping and becoming dehydrated is really a lack of planning.


Try these popsicle recipes or simply freeze fruit in coconut water in an ice cube tray.


Orange Mango Coconut Popsicles

  • 4 cups mango , divided
  • 2 cup unsweetened coconut milk , whisked and divided
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons honey


Minty Watermelon Popsicles

  • 3 cups watermelon slices , divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

May 25, 2018


By Guest Support| November 16, 2016 | 0


For many Sports Moms, the most stressful time of the day is DINNERTIME! You know the drill, walking through the door to a cold, dark house (thank you, Time Change) and everyone is starving and wants dinner – NOW.


Having no idea of what’s even in the fridge can escalate our stress to an even higher level. Rewind for a minute. Imagine, walking through the door to the wonderful smell of dinner cooking in the crock pot. Yes, it still may be cold and dark and everyone may still be hungry, but DINNER is READY!  A couple of hours of food preparation on the weekend can be a game changer in helping resolve the What’s for Dinner Stressor!



Steam or bake chicken breasts and store in an airtight container. This can be added to salads, used in casseroles, sandwiches, and burritos.

Prepare a pot of Salsa Chicken: toss a package of boneless chicken tenders into the crock pot and add a jar of salsa. Cook on low for about 5 hours.

Brown a package of lean ground beef or chicken for quick and easy tacos or spaghetti sauce.

Hard-boil a dozen eggs, peel and place in individual baggies for grab and go.

Prepare 2-3 cans of tuna fish for sandwiches and salads.

Make a pot of chicken or veggie soup. Pair with a green salad and you can have dinner ready in 10 minutes.

Make a big pot of brown rice or quinoa and store in airtight containers. This is easy to re-heat and a great source of fiber.

Cook several white or sweet potatoes. These will stay fresh when wrapped in aluminum foil and can easily be re-heated at dinnertime.

Make a big green salad and place a damp paper towel over the container. The salad will stay fresh for several days. (Do not add dressing until you plan to eat)

Chop veggies and fruits and store in containers in the fridge. This is great for snacks, casseroles, and stir-frys.

While cooking the chicken, chop and roast a big tray of veggies. These are delicious on salads and sandwiches.

Portion snacks in small baggies for grab-and-go ease! This is especially helpful for nuts and trail mix, as they can be high in calories.

Try to get into the “Cook Once, Eat Twice” mentality. Leftovers can make or break your week! Whenever possible, double a recipe to have for two nights or even freeze for a later date.

Keep a running GROCERY LIST on the fridge and instruct your family to jot down items as they finish them. This is a huge TIME and MONEY Saver (and who doesn’t need to save a bit of both, right?).\


It’s all the little things we do in advance that take the stress out of that nightly question..”What’s for dinner, Mom?”

Noreen Gallo is a Registered Dietitian. For more tips and motivation contact Noreen at 603 553-1334, noreen@yourforeverdiet.comand be sure to follow her Healthy Living Blog at,



Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

April 16, 2018

Gaining Healthy Weight

After reaching out for suggestions on topics, one in particular came up most frequent and that was “how can I get my kid to gain healthy weight”?


I get this often with soccer players b/c of the amount that they run, it is difficult to maintain any mass, let alone gain mass while in season.  Most people assume they need to eat additional protein and although this may be partially true because you need to eat more food in general, and therefore, would include more overall protein, that’s not all.  The most important thing is to eat often.  I tell players to set an alarm on their phone for every 1.5-2 hours to remind them to eat something.  5-6 meals/day or 3 meals with 2-3 snacks…basically 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners.


Now, the quality of theses calories is extremely important b/c if you are fueling with pizza, burgers & fries, cookies/cakes, and processed foods, you are going to gain unhealthy weight from fat.  Here are some tips below:


  • Hydration is important but try not to drink fluids with your meals (the liquid will fill you up and then you won’t take in as many food calories).  Now, the opposite applies if you want to lose weight!!
  • Add avocado/avocado oil, nuts, nut butter, coconut, coconut oil and grass-fed butter to foods for extra healthy fats and calories.  There are several nut cream cheese options now as well that can add healthy calories to sauces, tacos, and so forth.  Mix salsa, avocado, and nut cream cheese as a dip!  Hummus is a great dip as well.  Don’t be afraid to eat fats!  They are the most energy dense foods and are great for you!
  • Have a high protein bedtime snack such as a protein smoothie (even just almond milk, banana,peanut butter, and protein powder) or make energy balls with oats, almond butter, coconut/coconut oil, flax meal, nuts/seeds, and honey.
  • Add more starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, beans and lentils.  These are better options than pasta noodles, cereal, and other simple carbs.
  • Have salmon/smoked salmon (and other healthy fatty fish such as herring, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel), chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, free range eggs with most meals.
  • When in doubt, eat trail mix; make your own with dried coconut, dark chocolate, a variety of nuts, and dried fruits/banana chips
  • Granola cereals can be very calorie dense so add those to Greek yogurt (more protein in Greek yogurt than regular), oatmeal, and almond/coconut milk.
  • Eggs are a great protein and fat to have at meals or as a snack.  Make egg muffins and freeze to use for whenever (you can add turkey sausage, goat cheese/cheese, veggies, etc.), boiled eggs for snack, frittata for dinner, and if you have some rice already made, throw a fried egg on top and add some green onions, roasted broccoli, and slivered almonds with soy/sriracha.
  • Find a good protein powder and add it to your pancakes/waffles, smoothies, energy balls.
  • Make your own ranch and add that to salads/lettuce wraps or use organic cottage cheese or hummus with salads and wraps.

Just remember, eating often is key, strength training is important, and eating foods that are higher in healthy fats and protein are what satisfies you.  The carbohydrates will help to put weight on, but if you choose unhealthy carbs (sodas, cookies and sweets, breads, etc) you will gain body fat b/c excess sugar leads to excess body fat.  So, choose fruits, all veggies, and quinoa/rice/oats.


The one supplement that could potentially help is creatine but I don’t usually recommend creatine unless you are 18 years of age.  Creatine can be found in foods such as wild game, free-range meats, and wild caught fish.


“A failure to plan is a plan to fail” so always have snacks/bars/trail mix with you in your gym bag or car so there’s no excuse.  Planning ahead helps!

As always, never hesitate to email me if you have specific questions.


Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist

March 26, 2018

Healthy Traveling Tips

Airplane Tips:

  1. Hydration is key so pack an empty stainless steel water bottle to refill.  Kombucha and Coconut water are also good choices.
  2. Wash hands well and often.  Drinking an Emergen-C or Airborne drink before flying is a good idea for the extra Vitamin C.
  3. Pack a snack bag for traveling, especially for long flights and wait times between meals and to avoid buying “junk” in airports.  Foods to include:
  • Beef/Turkey Jerky or Epic Bars
  • Rx Bars, Lara Bars, Kind Bars, Kize Bars
  • Nuts, Seeds, and Trail Mixes
  • Dried fruit, freeze-dried fruit such as apple chips
  • Almond butter/coconut butter individual packets
  • Justin’s Almond Butter w/ dried bananas or pretzels
  • Fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas)
  • Single serving guacamole or hummus
  • Applesauce packets
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Fruit leathers
  • Popcorn (made with coconut oil and sea salt)
  • Pre-made smoothies/juices with no added sugar
  • Veggie sticks (carrots)
  • Ready to make oatmeal (just ask for hot water at a coffee shop

Hotel Tips:

  1. Utilize the mini fridge in hotel rooms.  Store boiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, and any leftovers that can be used for other meals.
  2. When a buffet-style meal is served as a team, take extra fruit and veggies, tea, eggs, etc. back to your room to eat later.
  3. Try some deli meat and lettuce/veggies for a quick wrap as a snack.

Driving Tips:

  1. “A failure to plan is a plan to fail”.  Plan out your week on the Saturday/Sunday before so that you have everything necessary on hand to eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and stay on track.
  2. Keeping a cooler in the car is a must!  Other travel luxuries include warmers you can plug into the cigarette lighter, Bento box style containers, and invest in some good stainless steel thermos’s.
  3. Healthy meal ideas for traveling to keep you from stopping at fast food restaurants every time include:
  • Mason jar salads
  • Overnight oats
  • Quinoa salads
  • Egg muffins (could make a pizza flavor and serve with marinara sauce); check out this site for ideas
  • Fritatta
  • Wraps (add variety by doing buffalo chicken, Caesar, BLT, Greek, etc.)
  • Quesadillas; gluten free tortilla and serve with plain Greek yogurt and black bean/corn salsa
  • Chicken salad (serve w/ lettuce as a wrap, Nut thins crackers, or tortilla)
  • Salmon salad (or tuna or egg salad)
  • Granola (make your own) & Yogurt (add fresh berries for a yogurt parfait)
  • Chili (variety like sweet potato and black bean or mexican style)
  • Soups (make soup and freeze in muffin tins, then thaw only what you need)
  • Burgers (turkey, beef, veggie/black bean, salmon; use 2 patties if possible instead of a bun w/ all of the veggies in the middle)
  • Baked potato and sweet potato (load these up with chicken, beans, cheese, salsas, etc.)
  • Meatballs (chicken, turkey, beef, veggie-change up the sauces for variety or add to skewers with other veggies)
  • Protein pancakes (make almond butter or peanut butter & all-fruit spread or honey sandwiches)
  • Tacos (can be deconstructed)
  • Make a large batch of rice, grilled chicken, and roasted veggies and separate into bento boxes or tupperware containers. Bring a side of sauce for additional flavor
  • Create healthy “bowls” with rice/quinoa or sweet potatoes as your base
  • Try veggie noodles with a protein and sauce (like pesto sauce)
  • Stop at a grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken and bagged salad
  • Hit the grocery store salad bar
  • Make energy balls and freeze; pack only what you need for that trip
  • Make smoothies ahead and freeze individually; let thaw on the trip
  • French toast with gluten-free bread and turkey sausage; serve with nut butter/honey or maple syrup
  • Make your own hummus (serve with veggie sticks, pita, or crackers/pretzels)
  • Yelp some healthy places close to your location so that if you needed to grab food or have it delivered, you’ve already done your research.

Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT
MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist


February 26, 2018

Say No To Energy Drinks

Highly caffeinated energy drinks aren’t safe for children and teens, and should not be marketed to them, a leading sports medicine organization warns.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) on Friday released an official statement about the beverages.

“Energy drinks are extremely popular, and concerns about their consumption are coming from every sector of society, which is why we’ve published these recommendations,” said Dr. John Higgins. He’s an associate professor of medicine at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School in Houston.

Children and teens appear to be at particularly high risk of complications from energy drinks because of their smaller body size, and potentially heavy and frequent use, according to the statement.

The warning applies to beverages like Red Bull and Full Throttle. The fact that they are not meant for children needs to be emphasized and widely publicized, the group stated.

“Our review of the available science showed that excessive levels of caffeine found in energy drinks can have adverse effects on cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, renal and endocrine systems, as well as psychiatric symptoms,” Higgins said in an ACSM news release.

“More needs to be done to protect children and adolescents, as well as adults with cardiovascular or other medical conditions,” he added.

Among the group’s recommendations:

  • Stop marketing to at-risk groups, especially children. This includes marketing energy drinks at sporting events involving children and teens.
  • Do not consume energy drinks before, during or after intense exercise. Some deaths linked with energy drinks occurred when a person consumed energy drinks before and/or after vigorous activity.
  • Educate consumers about the differences between soda, coffee, sports drinks and energy drinks. Energy drink education should be included in school nutrition, health and wellness classes.

Doctors should discuss energy drink use with their patients. And health care providers are also urged to report any harmful side effects to watchdog agencies, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Poison Control Centers.

The statement, which also called for more research into the safety of energy drinks, was published Feb. 9 in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports.

The American College of Sports Medicine is said to be the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on energy drinks.

SOURCE: American College of Sports Medicine, news release, Feb. 9, 2018

If you are consuming lean proteins, healthy fats, plenty of veggies, some fruits, and better carbohydrates (no sugar, refined, and processed foods) with every meal, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water, and exercise, there is no reason why you would need an energy drink.  Use teas or coffee if you need a caffeine boost.  Energy drinks are not only unhealthy for you but can be dangerous too!

Amy Dirks, RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT
MLS Sporting KC Dietitian-Nutritionist