Sport Nutrition for Active Kids ~ The Kids Cook Monday !
All kids need to eat a well-balanced diet, but should your child’s diet be any different if he plays on a sports team or works out? Making sure you child eats a well-balanced diet and drinks plenty of water every day is even more critical when you have an active child involved in sports. Active children burn through nutrients quickly and require even more water than adults require.
Sports kids also need to eat the right amount and mix of food to keep their energy levels higher while they’re competing. As long as they’re already eating a healthy diet, that mix probably won’t vary much, and eating for sports should just be an extension of regular healthy eating habits.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that your athletic kid is particularly reliant on the nutrients that he gets from a healthy diet. Unlike an adult, your child doesn’t have a weight that he’s trying to maintain. Your child’s body is still growing, so it will need extra nutrients to keep up with the energy required for the sport and the spurt. It’s not wise at this point to put your child on a diet.
In some sports where weight is an issue, like wrestling or gymnastics, your kid may feel pressure to lose weight. If a coach or teacher, or even a teammate, says that your child needs to lose weight, consult with your doctor first. If your doctor thinks your child needs to lose weight, then ask him to suggest a healthy eating plan based on your child’s activity level. Most young athletes will automatically and naturally eat the right amount of food that their body requires. If you’re concerned that your child isn’t eating enough, or is eating too much, check with your doctor before putting her on a diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
Make sure your sports kid gets plenty of calcium and iron. Calcium helps build strong bones that are resistant to breaking and fractures. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products and leafy green vegetables like broccoli. Iron is important, too, because it helps carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Iron rich foods include red meat, chicken, tuna, salmon, eggs, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables and whole grains.
Protein is important because it helps build and repair muscles, but most kids get plenty of protein through a balanced diet, so no supplements are necessary. Regular exercise helps build strong muscles, and too much protein can lead to dehydration and calcium loss. Protein-rich foods include fish, lean red meat, and poultry, dairy products, nuts, soy products, and peanut butter.
Carbohydrates provide energy for your child’s body. Some diet plans tell adults to avoid carbs, but your young athlete needs them because they’re an important source of fuel. Don’t worry about “carb-loading” like the big guys do. A simple, healthy diet is all your child needs. Good sources of carbohydrates are whole grain foods like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, whole grain bread and cereal, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Fluids: Wetter is Better
Make sure your child takes in enough water and other fluids, especially during the game. Water helps cool the body during activity and helps transport nutrients throughout the body. Children have very high fluid needs. For example, a 9 – 13 year-old child who is not overly active needs at least 2.1 to 2.4 liters of fluid, preferably water, every day. Your sports child will need even more than that.
Children don’t always recognize when they’re thirsty and, as a result, they might not drink enough water and could easily start to show signs of dehydration. If they’re involved in intense physical activity, they may notice it even less, which makes it especially challenging to make sure that your child drinks enough water.
Fight dehydration by having your child drink water before, during, and after the game. Give him or her a water bottle to sip from when they’re not in the middle of the game, and remind them to take a break every 10 to 15 minutes when they’re exercising to take a drink. Make sure that water is always available during games and practices.
Plain, cool water is the best source of liquids for your child. Especially if the activity they’re involved in lasts less than one hour. Those sports drinks are fine during intense sports or activities that last more than one hour, but keep in mind that they’re loaded with sugar.
Talk to your child about dehydration and make sure he knows what the symptoms are, including headache, fatigue, thirst, nausea, vomiting, chills and feeling faint. Tell him to make sure he lets his coach know if he’s experiencing any of these symptoms.
Eat Smart before You Start
Make sure your child eats a healthy meal or snack two to four hours before game time. Choose foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fat, sugar, and salt. Proteins are fine, but keep the amounts low because some proteins are difficult to digest and that could cause your child to have cramping and nausea in the middle of the game.
Healthy foods include low fiber cereal with milk and fruit, a granola bar with yogurt and a banana, a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, or a glass of milk and an apple.
Some children get very nervous just before a big game and don’t feel like eating. If that’s the case with your sports kid, try making him a fruit smoothie with yogurt, fruit, and milk or juice.
Say No to Sport Supplements
Your young athlete will want to try those fancy sports supplements and energy drinks that he sees his idols advertising in the commercials. After all, the TV ad says they’ll increase his energy and make him perform better on the field.
Let your child know that most of those products are all hype and sugar and that they really don’t do anything to enhance performance. And let him know that a healthier alternative is to get plenty of exercise, eat a high carbohydrate low fat meal and drink plenty of water.
When kids pitch in making meals, they’re empowered to consider the portions, the vitamins and the nutrients of what they’re eating. And since the family that cooks together eats together, parents can check in with their children during dinner.” ~ The Kids Cook Monday’s ~ Take the Challenge!
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