Anyone with kids knows that nutrition for kids is…. well is nutrition for kids even a thing? Often times it can feel more like survival for kids… getting them something they will actually eat so they don’t become malnourished!
Even the most ambitious teen athletes don’t readily adopt optimal eating plans to support their endeavors.
I can actually remember coming home from school as a sophomore in high scool and chugging a Mountain Dew (maybe 2) and then loading as many Bagel Dogs (were talking costco bag) as possible on a plate and eating the whole thing before heading out to play endless games of pick up basketball! WHAT!! The thing is… I instinctively knew I needed some serious protien and carbs to fuel my 3+ hours of basketball, this meal was also serving as nourishment for my ravaging appetite from hitting the weight room for an hour after school, and all THAT piled on top of an insufficient breakfast and lunch!
Fast forward 5 years and I’m a 3rd year college football player weighing in at 305lbs…. If you haven’t seen pictures this is your lucky day! After that season our new no-nonsense strength coach grabbed me after watching me run 200m sprints one day and said. “You know what… You’re actually really athletic and run well, but you’re fat…”
BOOOOOOM! Nobody had ever it said before, I was a defensive linemen and people wanted me to be big and strong.. I was big and strong for sure, and carrying an extra 35lbs of body fat. A lot of tuna, wheat tortillas, and 5 months later I was a lean and mean 270 pounds and my stats nearly tripled between my sophomore and junior season!
If you look close, you notice my face, belly, and neck are leaner, and my arms are much bigger, eating right is eating right, body composition and performance are measures of the same quality… Health!
My issue wasn’t all for lack of education, I had sat through about a dozen nutrition seminars orchestrated by various coaches over the years, but nothing ever really registered. Helping our kids bridge the gap between theory and practice is something we can only do by example, and making it a common conversation, we should be talking regularly to our young athletes about their pre-workout nutrition, their post-workout meal, their hydration, and about their meals in general. I tell Caroline things like “You have to eat your chicken sweetie that’s the only protein on your plate!” or “I love yogurt but we can’t eat too much because it has a lot of sugar”, and slowly but surely she’s getting it.
I don’t want her to have a complex, and rebel against her own health later in life because I was overbearing about what she ate… and trust me I’m not. It wouldn’t be as effective if I was. A good friend and mentor taught me a while back that “word’s are important” and it applies here! Kids have to truly adopt these words into their vocabulary [protein, carbs, fat, sugar, pre-workout nutrition, post-workout meal].
When that starts to happen… Even to a 15 year old, Mountain Dew and Bagel Dogs don’t make sense as a pre-workout meal!
Heres a few tips to get the ball moving on nutrition for our youngsters!
- Don’t let sugar own your breakfast table, cereal and doughnuts set them up for cravings and energy crashes all day long!
- Kids don’t understand the long term effects of nutrition, so anything you expect them to adopt has to be common practice in your home first… BUT!!! If your eating is so regimented and clean that it isn’t palatable for your kids, it can be tough to bridge the gap!
- Kids nutrition needs are different than adults, they typically can and need to consume more carbs, especially if they are active, the focus needs to be on QUALITY carbs, from both starch and vegetables.
- For young athletes, pre and post workout nutrition is key! Save gatorade for during long sporting events, after should be a more complete recovery meal. If an immediate meal isn’t available a protein supplement and some fruit are the next best option!
Check our Coach Trisha’s video on a post workout snack for kids! This is great especially for younger kids, post workout is the ideal time to consume the starch from tortillas and bananna’s! For an older athlete looking to improve performance, add a protein shake to make it complete.