Eating a healthy diet is a great concern for the parents of active kids who play on sports teams, are involved in individual sports or are so active that they require more energy every day than average kids. Proper nutrition will help your active child feel more energetic, improve strength, have less likelihood of injury and maintain a healthy weight.
The good news is that as long as children have the energy to be active and are gaining weight at a normal rate, they are likely eating the right amount of calories. But, if their weight stabilizes or decreases over time, they are not eating enough.
For optimal health and performance, it is very important that their calories come from a nutrient-rich diet.
We all need a good balance of protein, carbohydrate and fats for good health and the same is true of our active children. Protein helps with muscle recovery after exercise and should be about 10-15% of calories (for kids it should be approximately 0.95g/kg of body weight/day). Good protein choices include chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, yogurt, beans, and cheese.
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy and should comprise about 55% of calories (for kids: 5-8g/kg of body weight). Examples of healthy carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, whole wheat and multigrain breads, pastas, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Fats are important for brain health, good skin and the absorption of nutrients and should be about 25-30% of the calories eaten daily. Examples of healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, salmon and tuna.
How often should my active kids eat?
A good diet for active kids would include 5-6 small meals and snacks each day. Examples include: oatmeal and a banana, multigrain bread with almond butter, turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and fruit, crackers with hummus, nuts and seeds, eggs, chicken and vegetables, multigrain pasta with tomato vegetable sauce.
Active children should be drinking mainly water and it is best provided in a water bottle sipped throughout the day. No more sugary sports drinks! Most sports drinks include the same amount of sugar as pop and are not nutritious. Make sure your child is eating a protein snack after activities rather than refueling with a sports drink. If you wish, you can add an electrolyte powder with low to no sugar to your child’s water. You can also flavour the water with lemon, lime, or orange slices to make it more appealing for your child to drink.
By providing our active children with healthy food choices at every meal, we ensure that they will do well in their chosen activities and they will learn to make good food choices throughout their lives.
This blog was written by Stacey Goldman.
Dr. Stacey Goldman is a registered Naturopathic Doctor in the province of Ontario. She works with patients to find and treat the root cause of any health concern and believes that when people have great health, they can take on the world. Dr. Stacey works with her patients to develop a plan that will lead to optimal wellness. She owns a practice in Vaughan, Ontario called The Spark Institute. Check out www.thesparkinstitute.com to learn more.