Healthy kids: Keeping your sporty children energized
As warmer weather returns and outdoor activities begin to take over your kids’ after-school schedule, it’s important to know what food and drink will support their increased activity. And not just any snack will do. While orange slices and water traditionally fueled youth sports teams in the past, sugar-packed drinks and novelty snacks have made their way near the field of play. To avoid the temptation of these treats and properly power the athlete in your family, try these diet-dos before, during and after the game:
Before the action
- Rise and shine: A healthy breakfast lays the base for sustained energy throughout the day. Choose whole grain cereals, which contain complex carbohydrates to power your athlete through the day (just choose one that doesn’t have too much sugar). A bonus: The milk provides muscle-supporting protein.
- Pregame snacks: While a pregame meal three to four hours before competition can replenish your child’s energy bank, light snacks closer to game time, like a banana or yogurt, can provide the boost needed to keep energy levels up through the final buzzer.
During the game
- Hydrate: It may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s essential to make sure children stay hydrated while participating in physical activity. Younger children don’t sweat as much as teens and adults, so dehydration may be more difficult to decipher. Research also shows that kids often do not consume enough water during the day. To be safe, you’ll want to provide plenty of water. As a guideline, kids should drink two-thirds cups of water for every 20 minutes of activity.
- Avoid the sports drinks: Since children don’t often compete in long, endurance activities, for which those popular high-sugar sports drinks can be effective, water is generally a better choice. To help replenish nutrients lost during competition – a selling point for many sports drinks – a few slices of orange or watermelon can be just as powerful.
- A little protein: Kids generally don’t need as much protein to recover from athletic activity as adults, so a little can go a long way. Chocolate milk (in moderation), peanut butter and trail mix with nuts are all tasty treats with enough protein to help replenish your athlete’s energy and support muscle recovery.
Photo credit: Hakan Dahlstrom