School years are quite demanding for young athletes as they have to keep juggling school work with practice and, in many cases, multiple training sessions per day. Staying optimally fuelled all through the day can help student athletes prepare their minds and bodies much better to cope with the increased load.
What happens if the young Usain Bolt in your home does not eat enough? Children who don’t take in enough calories every day are unable to achieve their peak performance on the track. They won’t be as strong or as fast on the track. Lack of proper diet may even break down rather than build up muscles and the child may not be able to maintain the ideal weight. Over time, restricted intake of calories can lead to growth problems and other serious health risks, including increased risk for fractures and other injuries.
That is why, proper nutrition is extremely important for young ones to stay healthy and meet the demands of their day and even more so if they are into sports. Carbohydrates are an important source of energy, but they are only one of the many foods an athlete needs. One also requires protein, vitamins, minerals and fats to stay in peak playing shape. Growing athletes should have a balanced lunch that includes all food groups – complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fat, apart from fruits and vegetables.
Below, we share some tips for packing in healthy snacks and lunches in your young one’s backpack to prepare them for their long action-packed day:
- Sandwich with stuffing of fish fillet fried in olive oil, flavoured by mustard sauce and mayo on 100% whole wheat bread with carrot slices and an apple on the side.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a different palate on 100% whole wheat bread with a banana and cherry tomatoes on the side following a protein-rich breakfast.
- Grilled chicken wrap or roll with spinach, tomato, avocado and mustard sauce in a 100% whole wheat chapattis with fresh grapes and cucumber slices on the side.
- 100% whole grain crackers with hummus, boiled egg, nuts and sliced veggies along with fresh fruits like apple, banana or berries.
- Green salad with generous doses of fresh sliced green veggies, avocado, soy and/or black beans and roasted chicken with vinegar dressing and an orange on the side.
- Greek yoghurt with fresh mixed berries and whole-grain granola or protein bars for energy plus a side of sliced raw veggies and hummus.
When you are raising an athlete, due diligence must also be used in the kind of beverage you give them. Choose beverages that are positively hydrating without having any negatives like caffeine. You can give them bottled water, unsweetened coconut water, low fat milk, chocolate milk or soy milk. If your young athlete is involved in intense practices lasting more than an hour or practices out in the high heat and humidity, pack in a sports drink containing good dose of sodium and carbohydrate so that they have enough salt and water in the body plus energy. Do not give them the usual sugar-sweetened beverages that come in soda, sweet tea, lemonade and packaged items of energy drinks, fruit juice or sports drinks, as they add to the bad sugar calories without much other nutrition. Also, it is a good idea to stock their lunch with kid-friendly veggie snacks and cookies like the yummy and nutritious oats, honey and banana cookies by Slurrp Farm which can be had easily on the go.
There is absolutely no alternative to a healthy and complete diet, when it comes to growing athletes. Only if the young racers eat right in their growing years, they can ace their performance in sports and studies with confidence and become a successful athlete in the future. Therefore, stay away from nutrition supplements which can do some serious damage to your child’s physical and mental well-being, with most of them having harmful long-term side effects. Pack healthy and nutritious lunches in an insulated lunch box with an ice pack if possible, to prevent food spoilage and food-borne illness.