Providing Proper Fuel for Your Active Kids
Kids have a lot of energy and participating in sports is a great way for them to achieve their recommended physical activity levels and exert some of that energy. Sports are also a great way for them to learn discipline, physical literacy, teamwork, and social skills. The easiest way for parents to support children who are active is through nutrition. The following are five easy tips to get you started.
Breakfast is often a missed opportunity for nutrition. Sometimes kids do not leave enough time in the morning to eat breakfast, and when they do eat, it is usually something quick like cereal or toast. A good breakfast will help fuel your child during the day and help keep them focused at school. It should include all food groups. If you child has a practice before school, they will need to have a second breakfast between their practice and school. It is often easiest to focus on adding a quality source of protein like eggs, Greek yogurt, natural nut butters, or a high-protein cereal.
Snacks need to be quick and easy. They also need to be easy to pack. Good snacks will include a quality source of protein, some carbohydrates and some healthy fats. This might be Greek yogurt with berries and slivered almonds, vegetables with hummus, or a quinoa salad. Snacks that are mainly carbohydrate-based should be limited to shortly before a practice.
After practice, it is a good idea to have your child consume a good source of protein and carbohydrates within 30-60 minutes. Doing this can help your child improve their recovery, and have an easier time getting in all of the nutrients they need during their day. If dinner is within an hour after practice, you might choose to skip this snack and focus on rehydrating. However, if it is going to be more than an hour before they have a chance to eat, ensure your child has some sort of snack: he/she could have a protein shake, an egg salad sandwich, or protein bars with a piece of fruit.
Several studies have shown that kids and teens spend most of their day dehydrated. Kids don’t tend to get thirsty when they are dehydrated, so it’s important to ensure they are drinking enough fluids. Key signs of mild dehydration to watch for are darker-coloured urine, strong smelling urine, fatigue, and headaches. It is commonly thought that mild dehydration beyond 2% of a person’s body weight will impair performance. Drinking water throughout the day and during practices that last longer than an hour can help to offset these decreases in performance. Athletes should be encouraged to drink freely throughout the day and monitor the color of their urine. First morning urine may be a bit darker, but the remainder of the day should either be clear or pale in color. Sports drinks are heavily marketed to kids and are widely available at sporting venues. While they might taste good, the added sugar is usually not required by most kids. Water is best.
Respect growth phases
Children grow at different rates and it can be tricky to manage. If your child is more hungry than usual for a phase, encourage them to consume foods that are rich in nutrients, as they will help your child’s body to develop healthy and strong tissues. Foods high in iron, calcium and vitamin D are particularly important during this time.