Nourish, Energize & Flourish!

by Ann Dunaway Teh March 30, 2012

Spring sports are officially underway! While some people tend to think that if they are physically active, they can eat anything they want. This could not be further from the truth. In order to be physically active and stay physically active, we need to fuel our bodies properly.

Often times at youth sporting events, there will be a table laden with junk food and sugary beverages. I remember playing on a tennis team as a child and our matches were like a fun vacation for me as, I got to eat all the junk food I was never allowed to have at home. It definitely didn’t help my game though, and probably more often than I was willing to admit at the time, I didn’t feel so good on those days either.  

I love to use the analogy of a car when talking with families about food and physical activity. In order for a car to go, it needs gas. But not just any gas, it needs the right kind of gas. An expensive Italian sports car isn’t going to run well on cheap, low octane fuel. So why do people think that their bodies are going to perform well when filling it with empty calories from chips, cookies, sodas and sugary juice drinks?

Fresh fruit is the perfect snack before and after physical activity. Other good snack ideas include dried fruit, nuts (for the 4-years and older crowd to prevent choking), yogurt, whole grain crackers and nut butter or reduced fat cheese, depending upon how much time between the snack and activity. If the activity is within an hour, the snack should be something that is easily digested, like fruit. If you have more than an hour, the snack can contain a little bit of protein or a small amount of a heart-healthy fat. Fat and protein take longer to digest, so too much can make your child feel sluggish and tired. After physical activity is the perfect time for a little carbohydrate mixed with protein, as long as it is not too close to meal time. Low-fat chocolate milk is a good drink option, as are yogurt and fruit, an apple and peanut butter or hummus and fresh veggies.

Along with eating well, staying hydrated is crucial to keeping our bodies nourished. Children do not regulate their body temperature as well as adults, so hydration is even more important for children who are physically active or outside in the heat for a long period of time. Children do not need sports drinks or juice beverages in shiny pouches, which are no better than a soda. Water is the ideal beverage for children to drink before, during and after physical activity. It is the “oil” with which our bodies run best.

Teaching our children to eat well while being physically active is an important life lesson that will help them nourish, energize and flourish into healthy adulthood.  How do you promote healthy eating for you active little ones?

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