Sports Nutrition for Kids

With the start of school, this is also the beginning of the fall sports season. I feel like I am often talking about how children are overweight and need to move more. This is definitely the case, but for some kids they are at a healthy weight and they are active. They are involved in multiple sports and they need good nutrition as well. 

Children are not just small adults. They require increased nutrient intake to help ensure that they are continuing to grow appropriately. If a child stops growing while participating in an athletic activity, that should be cause for concern. This lack of growth could be an indicator that the child's nutrition needs are not being properly met. 

So let's talk about a couple key areas to focus on .... 

1. Fluids: Kids need to stay hydrated! Sports may be appropriate during a practice, but a small 8-12oz container would be appropriate. The best drink option would be water and this is sufficient for children while playing sports. Make sure that kids aren't drinking sports drinks, soda or energy drinks with meals. Also milk can be a great option with meals and even after practice. Choose a low fat milk option and it could even be chocolate. 

2. Meals: The goal for children are 5-6 small meals and snacks each day. This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of snacks. A snack could be before or after practice if it has been several hours since a meal. Active kids need 500-1000 extra calories per day compared with their sedentary peers. School age children need 1600-2000 calories per day and high school students on average 2000-2400 calories. The main focus should be on continuing to grow appropriate and follow their growth curve. If that ever falters, then maybe you need to keep a closer eye on calorie intake. 

3. Snacks: In addition to meals, you need to make sure that kiddos have healthy snack options - like string cheese, yogurt, crunchy peanut butter, or pudding packs made with low fat milk. These snacks can be easy to grab and take before/after practice. If you are in charge of bringing a team snack, make it something healthy - like orange slices, bags of grapes, watermelon chunks, peanut butter and pretzels, veggie sticks or fruit juice popsicles. 

The best thing you can do for your little athlete is making sure that you are serving healthy foods at home. Also make sure you have a big water bottle for them to take to practice. Aim for 2 snacks a day and 3 meals a day. Have fun and enjoy watching your kid play sports!