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 Singing with Sylvia for Christmas

Food to Fuel Kids' Sports

Food to Fuel Kids' Sports

Fall sports season is underway -- that time of year when I feel my food game must rise to the next level as a mom. Like on Wednesday, as I picked up my son from school and ran him from his cross-country track meet straight to hockey practice, I couldn't help but wonder if I had packed enough nutrition in the snack bag to fuel his growing body.

I asked Brooke Bulloch, a registered dietitian and owner of Food to Fit Nutrition in Saskatoon, to share a few tips for getting the right types of things into our kids' little bodies before and after sports.

"Parents decide where, when and what food is being offered for meals and snacks, and kids decide what they're going to eat and how much," Brooke said. Offering nutrient-rich snacks can play a big role in keeping kids going between school and their after-school activity.

"When kids are busy with activities and sports, it's important to fuel them with whole foods first," Brooke advises. Supplements, other than multivitamins, are not recommended nor necessary under the age of 18 years, she said.

"The body's number one preferred source of fuel is carbohydrate, and your little ones burn through a lot of it," she said. "However, we want those carbohydrates to come mostly from whole foods such as fruit, starchy vegetables, yogurt, milk and whole grains."

Brooke recommends carbs with protein for pre-activity snacks such as:
  • peanut butter and banana wraps (outside nut-free school grounds)
  • yogurt and a fruit
  • fruit and a cheese string
  • granola and milk
  • pretzels and hummus
  • homemade muffin with a handful of nuts
  • dried fruit and nuts
As for hydration and post-activity recovery, Brooke said most often children don't need to rely on sports drinks. {This is backed by the latest position statement from the Canadian Paediatric Society that states kids should avoid sports and energy drinks and opt for water for hydration.}

One post-activity beverage Brooke does recommend is chocolate milk. "It is a quality protein source and the additional sugar supports muscle recovery, especially during back-to-back games or activities."

Brooke said high-quality protein is important, especially post-activity, as it supports muscle repair. Protein also is instrumental to growth, a healthy immune system and appetite management. Other good post-activity snacks or meals she recommends include:
  • milk or soy milk
  • chicken, meat or fish
  • eggs
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • tofu or soybeans
"Both carbohydrates and protein play a key role within a 24-hour period," Brooke explained. "While nutrient timing can become more important when dealing with elite-level athletes, it is less important during kids' activities. In children, simply getting enough calories and a variety of whole foods throughout the the day will be enough to support their energy levels during activity and recovery." 
During October, the province of Saskatchewan is celebrating Agriculture Month with the theme "Our Food Has a Story." Fueling my active kids is part of my "food story." Brooke shares a bit of her food story, which includes her connection to food as fuel while involved in youth sports, in this short video clip:

Share your own food stories throughout October. Post a food story, picture or video on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #OurFoodHasAStory. 

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