Kids love to move. They will kick a soccer ball, turn cartwheels, run to home plate, skip along the sidewalk, swim for hours or dance around the house to their favourite tunes. Whether your child is involved in organized sports or neighbourhood pick-up games, physical activity and healthy eating are a winning combination. Research has shown that you need more than just the gear to have a good game. Active kids will play better, play longer, stay more alert and recover faster when they are given the right food and fluid to fuel their activity.
Smart Food For Active Play
All Kids need nutrient rich foods to fuel their bodies. Active kids may just need more of this good stuff through meals and snacks. Choose foods that are high in carbohydrates, a good source of protein and lower in fat, sugar and salt. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy. They fuel your child’s muscles and brain. Good carbohydrate sources include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, milk products and legumes. Protein is needed for overall growth and to help active kids build and repair muscle. The best sources are meat and meat alternatives such as fish, chicken, eggs, soy, legumes, nuts and seeds as well as milk products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Protein supplement shakes are not necessary for your active child.
Always ensure kids stay well hydrated in the summer. Water is the best fluid
Before the Activity
Energize your child with a meal (2- 4 hours) or snack (1-2 hours) before the activity. Ensure it includes some super foods like carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables or fruit in combination with a good protein source such as eggs, chicken or nut butter. Fluids are always important. Avoid foods that are very high in fat which can cause stomach upset and cramping during the activity.
Some great combinations for a meal or snack include:
• scrambled eggs, toast, tomato
• yogurt mixed with cereal and fruit,
• whole wheat tortilla with banana and nut butter
• glass of milk, apple
• yogurt with berries
• fruit smoothie, granola bar
• cheese, whole grain crackers, cucumber
During the Activity
Staying hydrated is key. Children are unable to regulate their body temperatures as well as adults, and sometimes they need to be reminded to drink. Water, water and more water is often the mantra used on the playing field. Fluid replacement beverages or sport drinks can be used during intense sports or activities that last more than one hour. You can also offer cut up fruit such as oranges or watermelon alongside water during a half time break in the game. Keep in mind that sports drinks are high in sugar and shouldn’t be offered when your child is not active. Energy drinks should be avoided for children.
After the Activity
Refuel as soon as possible. Allow the time of day to dictate whether it is a meal or a snack. Combine carbohydrates to replenish energy with a good protein source to help with muscle recovery and tissue repair. Top this food combination off with a tall glass of water to replace sweat losses.
For More Information:
Mayo Clinic: Dehydration and Youth Sports http://www.mayoclinic.com