Your kids are running between tap class and swimming lessons and hockey practice and karate. They have to deliver the newspaper, go to Girl Guides for 2 hours, are asking for rock climbing lessons, and to join the school volleyball team. Your kids are active and busy, and you love it. You wouldn’t have it any other way. But young kids, tweens, and teens are maturing at an alarming rate, and active kids who are involved in many hours of sports each week need to ensure they are receiving proper nutrition to perform and recover.
Between rushing out the door in the morning and getting home from work and school pick ups, there is often nothing planned for dinner, no snacks packed, and no water bottles filled to keep the kids going during evening activities.
You might grab a quick burger and fries at the drive thru, a power drink from the gas station, and a muffin at the coffee shop. You hope it’s enough. Once in a while, maybe it is, but if this becomes your weekly routine of shuffling busy kids between activities fueled with only drive thru and convenience food, then your little athletes may be missing out on key nutrition their growing bodies need.
Their growing bones, joints, muscles and cardiovascular health depends on a diet high in protein, carbs, fat, fruit, vegetables and proper hydration.
A Proper Diet for Active Kids Includes:
Protein aids muscle recovery. It is crucial for all our bodily functions, including cell generation and repair, and it is important for children as they grow. Protein needs in children will increase with age. Children between 7 and 14 require 0.45 grams of protein per body weight, so a 12-year-old weighing 90 pounds, will need 40.5 grams of protein daily. Active kids may require more depending on their level of daily activity.
Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for an active child, and should represent half of their calories consumed in a day. Healthier carbohydrates are complex carbs found in starchy vegetables, whole grains, rice, cereals, and dairy. They break down slower, allowing blood sugar (and energy) to rise gradually, are generally higher in fiber, and provide vitamins and minerals.
Some healthy fat is needed in your child's diet on a regular basis for growth and development as well as supplying a source of energy. Healthy unsaturated fats found in fish, avocados, olive oil, and nuts should make up about 25% of your child's total calories. Pack snacks rich in these fats instead of empty calories
Fill water bottles with plain water or flavour with frozen berries, lemon wedge, cucumbers, or lime. Fruit punch in a pouch is not proper hydration for active kids. Sports drinks are usually not necessary for the average practice or game unless you know your child will be sweating a lot. Sport drinks offer added sodium and carbohydrates to replace lost electrolytes that endurance athletes require, especially when working out in extreme heat. Simple ice water is usually enough for the after-school super star.
Balanced meals are always the goal but often seem too time-consuming and out of reach. Strive for simple meals such as Whole Grain Tuna Melts, Meatball Subs, a Chicken Quesadilla, or Scrambled Egg wraps with a side of crunchy carrots or quick-cooking green beans. These mini meals are super fast to make, and with ingredients you have on hand in the pantry or freezer, they provide energy boosting protein, whole grain carbs, healthy fats, and plenty of vitamins.
Think glass of milk rather than fruit punch for hydration; choose almonds instead of fishy crackers for snacks, whole grain wrap with nut butter instead of a drive thru plain bagel, and navel orange or mango slices for a sweet treat instead of candy.
Fill up your active kids with healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates to keep them energized and give them the fuel they need to have fun at after school activities without hitting the drive thru.