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Young people’s eating habits are getting worse. They consume larger quantities of fats and free sugars than is recommended. They eat less than five portions of fruit and veg per day. And many of them are dehydrated. 

So what can we do? First, we need to know what they should be eating and drinking. 

Educate your players on what makes a healthy, balanced diet and explain the link between eating well and playing well. This is vital in encouraging them to make healthier choices. 

We’re not talking about counting calories or eating less. Just help them become aware of what they’re eating. This allows them to make healthier choices and provide their bodies with enough fuel to play and recover afterwards 

To do this, introduce your players to the different food types. Tell them how each affects their ability to play and train: 

  • Carbohydrates – supply fuel for energy. 
  • Proteins – support the growth, repair, and development of muscle.
  • Fruits and vegetables – provide vitamins and minerals to protect and maintain health.

Water is a crucial part of any diet. It’s vital for hydration, body functions, and keeping cool. Young people should be drinking between 1.7 and 3.3. litres a day. A lack of water can lead to headaches, lack of concentration, mood changes, low energy and fatigue, and an inability to retain information. All of these hinder their ability to play football.  

On average, more than half of young people are dehydrated most of the time. Role model good behaviour by bringing your own reusable water bottle to training and matches. Encourage your players to do the same and make sure they know where to go to fill up their water bottles during training or matches. Time-marked water bottles are really helpful for tracking the amount of water you drink.

The Eatwell guide is an excellent tool for showing how much of your intake should come from each food group. It explains each type of food and gives examples to take inspiration from when creating meals.


Eat like the pride

At The FA, we use Food Formations, which cover the three Ts of nutrition – Timing, Type, and Total. Watch this video to learn more.

Why not encourage your young people to try these formations, just like their favourite England player? 


Talking about healthier eating can be tricky, especially with young people. Remember, it’s not about encouraging them to eat less, but to eat better. And you aren’t alone. Here are a few tips: 

  • Use The Greater Game resources to support your conversations. 
  • Celebrate healthy changes. 
  • Role model the behaviour you want to see. 
  • Engage with other coaches on the England Football Community
  • Think about what food your clubhouse offers – can you make it healthier? 
  • Make sure water available for your players to refill bottles at training and on matchdays.
  • Bring healthy snacks like orange slices or filled water bottles to matches. 

Most importantly, try and get buy-in from the parents and carers. Why not hold a parent/carer’s evening to educate them about The Greater Game? Create a WhatsApp group for parents and carers (adults only) to share quick and easy healthy recipes. Building relationships with players’ family networks helps you understand their individual communities and circumstances. You can then tailor your support to their needs. 

We know it’s not easy. But small changes make a big difference. Together, we can encourage young people to make one healthier choice per week in what they eat. 

To learn more about The Greater Game and eating better, check out our specially designed learning modules here