Whether your kids are athletes or they just like to get out and play, making sure they have the proper nutrition to fuel their bodies is key any time of year. But it’s especially important in the summertime for sports, sun, and fun!
Fueling your body is just like fueling your vehicle. If you don’t keep your gas tank full, you’ll eventually run out of fuel. The fuel your body needs to keep going is food and water. You should eat and drink at regular times throughout the day. Without proper nutrition, the human body can’t function at its best potential.
Just as important, and many times overlooked, is the value of hydration. There are two main components to a young athlete's diet: the first is a healthy eating pattern based on foods that have a high nutritional value, and the second is to emphasize the importance of drinking water on a daily basis. Just like healthy adults, these two components should be the foundation for all young athletes’ diets.
Making healthy decisions daily about nutrition and hydration can be challenging for many parents. A great way to approach this problem is to limit takeout food and eliminate soft drinks. Fast food is loaded with excessive amounts of calories that stem from a high percentage of fat, giving kids very little in terms of nutritional value. When you can’t be around your child, make sure to pack them a healthy lunch coupled with a bottle of water. Eating healthily when you’re not around will teach your child to develop good eating habits.
The second change to make is to limit or eliminate the consumption of soft drinks. Soft drinks contain high amounts of sugar and offer no nutritional value to your child. Some soft drinks contain caffeine, which can cause dehydration to happen even faster. The best replacement for soft drinks is water. Most children or young athletes will struggle to drink natural water, so try adding some lemon for additional flavor. There are no calories in water and, simply put, it’s the best hydrating resource there is.
What about snacks? When we think of snacking, it often refers to foods lacking nutritional value, such as chips or candy. Providing or packing a healthy snack is simple. Pack an extra piece of fruit, yogurt, and some whole-grain crackers for your child to munch on.
With a little forethought and a few minor adjustments to your family’s habits, you can easily boost energy and stamina levels through nutrition. A good daily nutrition and hydration plan should include the following:
- 2–3 servings of lean protein: poultry, fish, lean meat, beans, and eggs.
- 3–4 servings of dairy: milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- 3–4 servings of whole grains, which can include bread, pasta, rice, and cereals.
- 6–8 servings of fruit and vegetables: dried, canned or whole fruit, and raw or cooked vegetables. (When purchasing canned fruit, ensure it’s not packed in syrup; dried fruit doesn’t have any added sugars.)
- 8–10 tall glasses of water.
And don't forget that good nutrition not only helps your child to be healthier and have more energy, but it can also help prevent sports-related injuries. Now is the perfect time to start your child’s healthy eating and drinking habits so they feel stronger, healthier, and more energized, both on and off the playing field!