By: Clarissa Andersen
Feeding your young athlete nutritious food is as important as keeping them active. Whether it’s a swim meet, soccer game, or hockey tournament, fuelling their bodies with a balanced diet will help keep them functioning at their best.
“For healthy children, and adults, good eating goes hand-in-hand with being active. You want to make sure they’re getting the healthiest food choices,” says Cara Rosenbloom, a registered dietician and writer for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.
“Energize your child with a small meal or snack that includes carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables or fruit. Carbohydrates fuel the muscles and brain, and are easy to digest before sport.”
Rosenbloom also suggests parents include a small amount of protein-rich food, such as fresh Canadian chicken, eggs, or nuts, to help your child stay fuller longer.
Whether your athlete plays hockey (Canada’s winter sport), or is involved in swimming, our nation’s year-round activity, here are a few pre-game meal ideas:
- Chicken sandwich on whole grain bread and a glass of milk
- Nut butter and a banana wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla
- Scrambled eggs with whole grain toast
- Chicken and cheese quesadilla in whole wheat tortilla
Along with nutritious food, active children need to be encouraged to drink water before and during activity.
“Children tend to have a poor sense of thirst, so remind them to drink water. Sending them with a reusable water bottle will help,” says Rosenbloom.
“If exercise is intense and lasts longer than an hour, replenish carbohydrates with pieces of orange and apple.”
Regardless of what sport you and your family are involved in, or what level, you probably will be away from home, and it’s easy for parents to forget nutritious food for themselves. Rosenbloom believes parents should take the initiative to come prepared for their own needs as well as the needs of their child.
“Recreation centres, arenas and park kiosks are not known for selling healthy food,” she says.
“According to a recent Canadian study, the most common foods purchased at recreation centres are French fries, sports drinks, candy, chocolate and chips.”
Taking the time to pack your own cooler full of snacks and easy meals will ensure you make healthy choices while cheering on your child. This is especially important if the sporting event is going to last most of the day.
Healthy cooler ideas for Mom & Dad:
- Fruit and cut up veggies
- Salad with fresh Canadian chicken breast
- Cheese sticks
- Yogurt and granola
- Chicken salad sandwich in whole wheat pita
- Hummus and whole wheat pita chips
- Ground chicken chili in a thermos
- Air popped popcorn
- Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
- Cold quinoa salad packed with beans and veggies
While packing your own food will be the healthiest option available, it may be inevitable that you need to make a roadside or restaurant stop. If this happens here are a few ideas for healthy options:
- Skip fries and opt for a side salad
- Eat a meal sized salad with grilled chicken
- Ask for dressing on the side
- Grilled fish with steamed vegetables and rice
- Choose mustard over mayo
- Broth-based soups or chili
Parents wanting more information on their child’s nutrition needs can visit the following websites:
For sport needs:
For basic nutrition information:
Clarissa Andersen is an everyday woman, mom, writer and fitness enthusiast passionate about helping people live healthier and happier lives.