Top Sports Dietitian Picks for National Nutrition Month: Foods that Fuel Athletes

Author: Stacey Jackson, MS, RDN, CDN | March 16, 2018

Top Sports Dietitian Picks for National Nutrition Month: Foods that Fuel Athletes

What you eat, matters. It’s that simple. March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme, "Go Further with Food,” reminds us that the foods you choose can make a difference, including foods that fuel for sports. So, I asked several top sports dietitians to share their favorite dairy food for athletes. Read on to hear what they had to say!


"What I love about cheese is that it is so versatile. You can enjoy it as a snack with fruit or as an ingredient in your quesadilla. Cheese is not only packed with flavor, it is rich in calcium for strong bones and muscle contraction, and protein to build and maintain lean muscle mass. It also contains a natural pinch of sodium which helps contribute to a healthy fluid balance to prevent dehydration or cramping during activity for athletes." – Allison Kreimeier, MS, RD, CSSD, Director of Performance Nutrition for Rutgers Athletics

“Homemade nachos rule! Place tortilla chips on a toaster oven tray, sprinkle with part-skim mozzarella, fresh chopped tomatoes, and beans (open a can, rinse, and use). Bake at 350-degrees for 2-3 minutes, until cheese melts. Top with cilantro and avocado. You can even scramble an egg to put on top and have it for a meal. This nutrient-rich snack/meal is satisfying and delicious, providing calcium, protein, B-vitamins, vitamin C, iron, and more.” – Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, owner of Nutrition Conditioning, author of Grill Yourself Skinny, co-author of Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance, and Director of Nutrition at the Juilliard School and School of American Ballet

Chocolate Milk

“My favorite dairy food for athletes is good 'ol chocolate milk. It is simple, convenient, and familiar. When I suggest it as a recovery beverage, athletes react with a smile and often say, "I can drink chocolate milk!" It is a treat for some and they get excited once the rationale/science as a recovery beverage is explained.” – Sue James, MS, RDN, LDN, President of Pinnacle Health & Wellness and Team Nutritionist for the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, and Johns Hopkins University Athletic Department

“I recommend chocolate milk as a post-exercise snack. It will help rehydrate and refuel athletes and it tastes like a treat! Shelf-stable versions are available, making it easy to toss in your gym bag.” – Jessica Redmond, MS, RDN, CSCS, FAND, owner of Major League Wellness and Assistant Professor at Utica College

Greek Yogurt

“A lot of athletes I work with have busy lives, so I like to recommend something delicious and healthy that they can put together quickly. Breakfast is essential for them – it sets the stage for their day – so I recommend they eat a big cup of Greek yogurt with walnuts and sliced strawberries. The combination of protein, calcium, healthy fats, and vitamin C will help any athlete stay healthy and perform at their best!” – Kelly Springer, RD, MS, CDN, owner of Kelly’s Choice, LLC

Black Bean Dip – It has two veggies: black beans and salsa, as well as Greek yogurt and taco seasoning. 4 ingredients, under 5 minutes, a great source of protein and fiber, and can be served with veggies as dippers to be the pro in protein and produce.” Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie and co-author of The Active Calorie Diet

Overnight Oats

“I make mine with milk, chia seeds, walnuts, fresh berries, and chai spices. It’s quick, convenient, and easily customizable to athletes needs and preferences. Plus, it’s a good source of whole grain carbs, protein, and fiber.” – Matt Darnell, Ph.D., RD, CSSD, SCCC, Sports Dietitian for the Pittsburgh Steelers


“Mine has whey protein, gut healthy kefir, flaxseeds, and lots of berries and spinach! You can adjust the ingredients to satisfy your taste buds with different fruits, greens, or nut butters as long as you keep the whey protein &/or the kefir.” – Andrea Chernus, RD, CDE, CSSD, Professor of Sports Nutrition at Columbia University and co-author of Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance 

Tart Cherry Kefir Smoothie– This is one of my favorite smoothie recipes that I share with athletes! I love incorporating tart cherry juice for the anti-inflammatory properties and kefir for a probiotic boost! I often recommend this smoothie as a night snack to many of the athletes I work with.” – Molly Morgan, RD, CDN, CSSD, owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions and author of Drink Your Way to Gut Health, Skinny Size-It, and The Skinny Rules

Visit our sports nutrition page for more tips to help fuel for your sport, and check out this handout to see how to pack more nutrition into every meal!

American Dairy Association North East is one of 19 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit