Fueling an active child

Q: My daughter just started track. What are the best foods for her to eat and when?

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A: As spring awakens nature back into bloom, our little ones are eager to get out in the fresh air and release their energy! Whether your child participates in an organized sport or just loves biking around the neighborhood, you'll want to keep these tips in mind to keep him/her fueled up.

Eat before AND after activity

The best foods to boost your child's store of energy are rich in carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, fruits and starchy vegetables. When it comes to a sports game or gymnastics meet, it's important to time meals right so your child can use his/her fuel most efficiently. Eating two hours before any major activity allows time to digest and top off the tank. Don't forget that refueling after activity is equally important, ideally within 30 minutes. Balancing meals with carbohydrates, adequate protein and colorful foods (fruits and veggies) will equate to high-octane fuel for your child.

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Snack between

Keep quick, easy snacks on hand for kids to provide immediate energy between meals and while on the go. Simple snacks like apples and peanut butter provide both carbohydrates and protein. Likewise, crackers with cheese, trail mix, energy bars and smoothies all can be great boosters between meals.

Stay hydrated

Water is essential for our bodies to function — it carries nutrients throughout our body for immediate use. The best way to ensure hydration throughout the day is to carry a water bottle with you — tuck one in your child's backpack and keep one in the car.

Get rest

It's proven that we function below par when our bodies are not rested well. Getting proper rest can ensure maximum performance and endurance and help with recuperation after a heavy workout. The suggested amount of sleep for children 0 to 5 years is 12 hours, and 10 hours for kids up to age 12.

by Leika Suzumura, R.D., former PCC Nutrition Educator

More about: nutrition, PCC Healthy Kids

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