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Balance, Moderation, Carbohydrates Key To Healthy Youth Sports Diet

Whether it's training for a soccer game or playing a backyard game of catch, children's athletic performance, development, and growth depend largely on eating the right foods.

Unfortunately, most children (and adults) forget just how important nutrition is to good health and athletic performance. Many children, especially in the years before puberty, have poor eating habits (skipping breakfast, eating the same foods day after day). As a result, their diets are missing nutrients and their growth and athletic performance may be impaired.

It is important to recognize that children are not miniature adults; they have special nutritional needs. It is especially important to meet their nutritional needs as they enter puberty, when they experience rapid growth as they undergo hormonal changes marking the beginning of adolescence.

Nutrition Guidelines

The most appropriate diet for the youth athlete is one that:

  • Is high in nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates
  • Contains moderate amounts of protein, salt, sugars, and sodiumUSDA's MyPlate
  • Is low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and
  • Provides sufficient calories

Such a diet can be achieved by planning intake to include a variety of foods on the USDA's MyPlate. Especially for children, MyPlate serves as a visual guide for choosing foods and planning healthful meals.

As parent, you should promote the three basic principles that are key to a high-performance diet:

  1. Variety. Because no single food or supplement contains all the nutrients your child needs for optimum health, growth and performance, eating all four of the foods on the USDA's plate daily, as well as different foods from within each group, is essential.
  2. Moderation. Your child should not eat too little or too much of any one food or nutrient.
  3. Balance. Calorie intake and energy expenditure should be balanced to maintain a healthy weight and body composition. Balance ordinarily results from practicing moderation and variety, and requires that your child consume appropriate amounts of essential nutrients.

Some Additional Advice

  • Occasional sweets are okay. You don't have to eliminate foods that get most of their calories from fat or sugars, but your child should only consume such foods occasionally, in addition to - not in place of - other nutrient-dense foods from the other food groups.
  • Do not give your child nutritional supplements. In general, if your child eats food in the proportions recommended in the MyPlate, she will get the vitamins and minerals, and the calories she requires.
  • Don't let your child skip meals. Find out about your child's eating habits. Encourage your child to distribute calories throughout the day at regular mealtimes and snacks. This will ensure you're your child has readily available sources of energy to support growth and training activity.
  • Consult an expert if necessary. If you ever become concerned about whether your child's diet is adequate, seek nutritional counseling. A registered dietitian can help identify any nutritional problems that may be hindering your child's performance.

Tips for improving diet

To improve your child's diet, you can:

  • Buy more healthy foods
  • Make your child's favorite foods more nutritionally dense or substitute similar foods that are, such as by:
    • Offering peanut butter cookies instead of chocolate cream cookies
    • Serving fortified cereals instead of sugary ones
    • Substituting fruit-flavored frozen yogurt for dessert instead of ice cream
    • Gradual changes that are acceptable to the child can be encouraged to increase nutrient density
  • Provide nutritious snacks and fluids for before and after practice and competitions, so your child does not have to rely on vending machines filled with sugary or high-fat snacks and soft drinks.
  • Model healthy eating. If you set a good example for your child by exercising and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, your child is more likely to "eat to compete" and grow into a healthy adult.

Variety and balance in the family menu will underscore the importance of eating different foods to provide the range of nutrients needed for growth and development. Ideally, this is achieved by regularly scheduled meals at home plus nutritious snacks. Providing nutritious meals around hectic practice schedules and away from home is a particular challenge. Workouts may disrupt your child's meal schedule, resulting in a greater reliance on convenient fast food or the child eating alone at home before or after the family eats. As a result, it is very important to help your child make nutritious choices wherever he eats, whether it is at a fast food, family-style or ethnic restaurant, a grocery or convenience store, or on an airplane, or while competing in a foreign country.

Parents should educate children about basic facts about the different food groups and how different foods help or hurt athletic performance. Attempts to teach children nutritional concepts and information should take into account their age and developmental level (for example, by explaining to a 7 year old that foods containing carbohydrates, like bread and pasta, provide energy for their muscles, and that dairy foods like milk help build strong bones).

Revised November 19, 2013


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Influence your players to eat well

Hi there, if you're coaching a young team, then you have a lot of influence which you can put to good effect. Sometimes, as a parent, you get the impression that whatever you say about food is going to cause your kids to do the opposite, but a sports coach saying the same basic stuff will have an amazing impact. Use your awesome position wisely! These are some basic nutrition tips taken from http://www.bettersoccercoaching.com Is your soccer team getting enough fuel? Nutrition and diet are areas we can all improve on and, as soccer coaches, we are in a strong position to influence players to become healthier and fitter. In simple terms, what we eat and drink provides the fuel for us to train, play and recover from training. What we need to know is what is the best fuel? Carbo education for the benefit of the players Carbohydrates are recognised to have the most immediate effect on the players’ performance, so I want to help you educate your team to eat better and to operate better. It is impractical to give players specific diet sheets because of the variety of home cooking circumstances. However, an appreciation of the benefits will help them choose better options and encourage them to either influence their cooks, or even cook the food themselves. Low-fat carbs for low-fat players Despite the horrors outlined by some trendy diets, there are many staple foods which provide excellent sources of carbohydrates for example, potatoes and pasta. The key, though, is to avoid high-carb foods with high-fat content. This will mean high consumption will also lead to weight gain. For example, crisps and pizza are two hazards to be avoided. What’s good to eat? Some good, low fat, high carb foods are: rice, popcorn, breakfast cereals, fruit, toast and honey, potatoes, pasta. Some treats as well: sweets for instance, fruit gums, chocolate and even cola (though this drink is not a substitute for water). Baked potatoes and sandwiches are good “whole” meals, with fillings which avoid too much fat making an even healthier option. So cut down on the butter, cheese and mayonnaise and use baked beans, lean meats and low fat cheeses. Keep the balance A diet cannot just be carbohydrates, but also protein, fat and hydration. It is worth asking players what they are eating and drinking, if only to help them make their own more informed decisions. Nutrition facts On average, carbohydrates makes up at least half of a player's total energy intake. In soccer, the intensity of the sport means that carbohydrates are the primary energy source. All milk has the same carbohydrate content, but differs in fat content, therefore soccer players would do better to drink semi skimmed or skimmed milk. There is little evidence to suggest any difference for performance on whether a player should eat complex carbohydrates (for instance, pasta or potatoes) and simple carbohydrates (for example, sweets and fruit).

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Ideally, this is achieved

Ideally, this is achieved by regularly scheduled meals at home plus nutritious snacks. Variety and balance in the family menu will underscore the importance of eating different foods to provide the range of nutrients needed for growth and development.

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It is very important to maintain and balance the food that we are eating to have a healthy life and away from illnesses and diseases. Eating too much is bad for your body and for your health because it will lead to over nutrients and other substance that may trigger to abnormal growth of cell that will lead to obesity, and obesity has many complications that will lead to many diseases.