Children are active by nature, and giving them the right nutritious foods to fuel their busy day will keep their energy levels up and equip them to do what they enjoy.
It can however be tricky for a parent to know what foods are best for their growing child, so keep these tips in mind:
1.Provide a balanced but tasty breakfast:
It’s true what they say, breakfast is the most important meal of day, and in the case of active children it will help kick-start their metabolism and sustain them for the first part of the day.
Try to ensure the breakfast includes a mix of quality low-GI carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats, including omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 has been linked to improved concentration, thinking and learning, and boosts eye and heart health, all of which are vital for a growing child.
Quick and easy ideas:
- Steel cut oats with cinnamon, flaked almonds and berries, banana or apple
- An omelette with spinach, cheese and tomato on low-GI toast
- A fruit smoothie blended with plain yoghurt and raw almonds or whey protein
- Salmon, a poached egg and avocado on low-GI toast
2. Pack healthy lunchbox snacks to sustain energy
A busy morning of playing and learning can burn off one’s breakfast pretty quickly. Avoid convenient but unhealthy lunchbox snacks like chips, chocolates and sweets, and instead pack these easy but healthy alternatives:
- Boiled eggs
- Chopped carrots and cucumber, rosa tomatoes with hummus or homemade guacamole
- Fresh fruit
- Ostrich biltong
- Nuts and seed mixes (or bars)
- Wholewheat wraps with lean meat cuts like chicken or turkey
3.Encourage your child to drink more water
Despite what many of us think, active children do not actually need sugar-filled energy drinks. Instead ensure your child stays hydrated with sufficient water throughout the day.
Try to get them into the habit of drinking water by getting them a water bottle they like and limit sugary and fizzy drinks to an absolute minimum.
Health Hack: If your child doesn’t enjoy drinking plain water, try infusing water with fresh strawberries, lemon or kiwi for added flavour. Iced rooibos tea is another great option.
4. Don’t ditch the dairy
Calcium helps growing bones become stronger and develop properly. Ensure your child gets a daily dose of dairy through yoghurt, milk or cheese.
You can add fruit smoothies, cheese sandwiches, cereals with low-fat milk and a glass of milk before bed.
5.Encourage snacking before that big match
If your child has a long afternoon of sports ahead, ensure they have enough energy to sustain them with healthy pre- and post-exercise snacks.
A healthy snack an hour or two before exercise comprised of low-GI carbohydrates such as low-GI cereal with milk and fruit; yogurt and a banana; or a whole-wheat bread sandwich, can help give them the energy they need to get through the afternoon.
If they finish their sports a few hours before supper, give them another healthy snack to sustain them till suppertime with lean quality protein such as egg, dairy or chicken to help their bodies recover.
6. Include a daily multivitamin
Even if your child eats a healthy, balanced diet, soil quality and farming methods can affect the amount of vitamins our food actually contains.
Vitamin deficiencies can affect all aspects of your child’s health. Find a quality multivitamin which contains sufficient quantities of the essential vitamins and minerals that fit your particular child’s needs.