Healthy snacks fuel the athlete! Photo credit: Amy Mullins
When it comes to your kids, you’d do anything to help them succeed… in the classroom, in their relationships, in life. So, why not on the basketball court, soccer field, swimming pool, or whichever sport they’ve fallen in love with? They may have the best equipment, participate in extra training lessons, and put in 110% during every practice and event. But, is this enough? Is there something missing?
It’s no secret that your child is growing. In order to function in their sport, improve performance, and promote recovery, kids need food to help support the increased energy requirements. This ultimately means more planning and more groceries!
Follow these guidelines to fuel your superstar during the week, before the game/event, and after the game/event.
Eat a good-sized meal at least three hours before the event. This gives the tummy time to process all the food to prepare it as fuel. Have a light balanced meal with some carbs and fats. These will sustain you throughout your exercise! Carbs and fats are both great fuel sources, and the fats digest slower to help keep you feeling full. Pick foods that digest well to avoid any nausea or upset stomach. Don’t forget to drink some water to start off hydrated!
- Breakfast Ideas: fruit, lightly sautéed potatoes, scrambled eggs, or toast with nut butter or smashed avocado
- Lunch Ideas: turkey or ham sandwich (avoid fatty cheeses and condiments), peanut butter and jelly, fruit, pretzels, or cereal
- Snack 30 minutes before the event: peanut butter crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, or goldfish crackers
During Practice and Games
For exercise lasting less than an hour, sip on some water to stay hydrated. For exercise lasting longer than an hour, a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade will help replenish lost carbohydrates and electrolytes. For longer lasting activities or day trips, bring along some easy to eat snacks with lots of carbs, and some fats and proteins. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and granola bars are great options!
After exercise, it’s important to recover, refuel, and re-hydrate. Protein will help our muscles recover while carbohydrates will help refuel for the next activity. Drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate! Good choices for quick, easy snacks include chocolate milk, peanut butter crackers, cheese sticks, bananas, apple slices with peanut butter, or smoothies with or without protein.
Dinner Plate After Practice and Games
- Grains/Carbs: Should take up roughly 35% of the plate
- Lean Protein: Should take up roughly 25% of the plate
- Fruits and Veggies: Should take up roughly 40% of the plate
- Hydration: Focus on replenishing lost electrolytes and fluid loss
Components of a well-balanced meal include:
- Meat & poultry – great protein sources for recovery. Pair it with a carb!
- Whole grains, fruit, pasta, rice, potatoes – great carb sources to complement your protein. These will help replace the energy you burned during exercise.
- Water, milk, and fruits will help replenish fluids lost during exercise.
Eating right not only on game day but throughout the week will do wonders for your child’s athletic performance. Not only that, it will set them up to be successful and healthy adults in the future!
Guest contributors: Patrick Burns and E. Jane Watts, Dietetic Interns from Florida State University’s Department of Food, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences
The use of trade names in this post is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. It is not a guarantee, warranty, or endorsement of the product.
Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Ellis, E. (2020). Hydrate Right. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/hydrate-right/hydrate-right
American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine,
Rodriguez, N. R., Di Marco, N. M., & Langley, S. (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 41(3), 709–731.
What do you think of when you hear the word bacteria? If you are like most people, you probably think of those teeny, tiny germs that are invisible to the naked eye, but have the potential to cause serious illness. And while you would not be wrong to think that way, you would be leaving out a huge percentage of bacteria that are considered “good” bacteria.
The common name for “good” bacteria is probiotics (from the roots pro and biota, meaning “for life”). They are a group of beneficial microorganisms that have been shown to improve a variety of digestive and other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and urinary tract infections.
Foods like Greek yogurt are a good source of probiotics, which have been shown to have a positive effect on digestive health. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)
Probiotics are found in a variety of foods, primarily fermented foods such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, fermented drinks such as buttermilk and kombucha, and pickled vegetables such as pickles and sauerkraut. The bacteria required for the fermentation process – the process that gives these foods their tangy flavor – have been shown to provide natural health benefits.
The primary benefit of probiotics is their positive effect on a variety of gastrointestinal ailments such as diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and stomach ulcers. According to Harvard Medical School, probiotics can also help reduce the presence of harmful bacteria, such as H. pylori and C. difficile, both of which can cause digestive problems.
In Northern Europe and many Asian countries, people get probiotics mainly from food sources, where fermented foods are consumed more regularly. Here in the United States, many people get probiotics from over-the-counter (OTC) supplements. These products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, however, so when choosing OTC supplements, be wary of the claims they make.
The information about probiotics is not all positive, however. Some people report an increase in diarrhea after taking probiotics for the first time, which usually goes away with time. Also, people with a compromised immune system may experience illness caused by probiotics if too many are taken.
That being said, OTC probiotics have also been shown to have positive effects on health, when taken as directed. However, they are not a cure-all, and more research needs to be done to learn more about their complete effects on gastrointestinal health and immune support. Just like with other supplements, it is important to consult with a physician or pharmacist before beginning a probiotic regimen.
So, what is the final word on probiotics? Well, it depends. While they are not a magic bullet that can cure everything that ails you, they can be a positive addition to a healthy diet. Many foods that contain probiotics also contain other important nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals, which are an important part of a nutritious diet.
One more thing: do not confuse prebiotics with probiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible, short-chain carbohydrates that serve as fuel for probiotics. On their own, they do not offer any health benefits, but they can serve to promote the growth of probiotic species. Foods with high amounts of prebiotics include fruits and vegetables and whole grains, so a diet rich in these foods can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.
To learn more about probiotics, please contact your local Extension agent.
UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
If you’ve tried to find nutrition information in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, you probably got more than you bargained for. Recently, I searched “nutrition and COVID-19” and in less than one second, I got 590,000,000 hits. That’s a lot of information! With so much health and nutrition information available, especially connected with the ongoing pandemic, it can be TOUGH to separate fact from fiction. What makes it even tougher is that everyone seems to be passionately and totally convinced that their information is the right answer. How do you tell the hype from the truth?
Confusing Nutrition Choices
Photo Source: Ginny Hinton
The best way to protect yourself against questionable information and products is to become an informed consumer. That can be challenging as so many of us are becoming more used to getting our information from social media, websites, advertisements, friends and family. While information from those sources can be accurate, very often it is misleading. Use the following tips to evaluate nutrition information:
Know Your Experts:
Have you ever seen nutrition advice from a “nutritionist” or “diet counselor”? Beware, because those terms aren’t regulated, and almost anyone can use them to look like an expert. Registered dietitians (RD) or licensed dietitians (LD) hold specialized degrees and are good sources of solid nutritional information.
The internet, books, newspapers, and magazines can be good sources of information, if you know where to look. If you’re surfing the net, select websites from credible web addresses like ones ending in .edu (universities or medical schools), .gov (government agencies), or sometimes .org (not-for-profit research and education). If you’re reading an article, always look for the author’s qualifications and membership in a professional nutrition organization. With all media, check the sources they used (If they don’t cite credible sources you can check, that’s a big red flag) and scan to the bottom to make sure they’re not trying to sell a product. If you can buy a “miracle” product, a solution, or a quick fix from them, watch out! Their information may be convincing, but it is likely biased or incomplete. At best, it calls for caution and some deeper research.
The flood of health and nutrition misinformation isn’t going away, but learning to be an informed consumer is a powerful step in learning to protect yourself from being duped.
July in National Watermelon Month. Watermelon is a sweet, low-calorie summer treat. The taste and fragrance of a cool, juicy slice of watermelon can’t be beat. Celebrate by trying this different recipe using nutritious, delicious watermelon.
Stock up on canned fruits, vegetables, meats, and heat-and-eat soups for your hurricane food supply kit. Photo source: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.
Now that we are officially in Hurricane Season (June1-November 30) and named storms are paying a call to the Sunshine State, it’s time to make sure we are prepared.
At the top of the list is planning meals for you and your family. Many people grab snack-type foods, such as crackers, cookies, and chips, or whatever is available on store shelves when the storm is approaching without having a meal plan in mind. Use MyPlate as a guide to plan meals to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy products. Foods from each food group provide important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to properly fuel your body so you are better equipped to deal with the challenges and stresses that accompany hurricanes and other disasters.
Plan a two-week supply of nonperishable or canned food and juices that require little or no cooking and no refrigeration. Include healthy snacks and any special foods for infants, senior adults, or persons with specific dietary needs. Select foods your family likes and will eat. Plan meals and shop early before a storm is on the horizon so you have a greater food selection and can take advantage of sales to stock up at a reduced cost. Keep planned written menus that have worked well for you and your family inside your hurricane food supply kit in a re-sealable plastic bag.
Brenda Marty-Jimenez, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Broward County, offers the following menu suggestions:
Apple juice • ready-to-eat cereal • small boxes of raisins • breakfast bars with fruit • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Orange juice • hot cereal/instant oatmeal • banana • muffin • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Grape juice •ready-to-eat cereal • canned peaches • yogurt • bread with jam or jelly • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Chunky beef soup (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • crackers • carrot and celery sticks • nuts • fruit cups packed in water • vanilla wafers • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned cream soup (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • tuna sandwich on whole-wheat bread • tomato slices • unsweetened applesauce • cookies • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned chili with beans (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • dinner rolls with margarine or butter • broccoli florets • canned fruit • animal crackers • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned meat or cheese ravioli • three-bean salad (canned) • fresh yellow apples • bread with margarine or butter • fat-free pudding cup • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Egg-salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread • canned green beans • canned fruit • fat-free pudding cup • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Mac and cheese • canned vegetable • fresh pears • dinner rolls with margarine or butter • cookies • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Remember the four key food safety principles: Cook, Clean, Chill, and Separate.
- Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of cooked foods.
- Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Sanitize food preparation and cooking surfaces regularly.
- Put leftovers in sealed bags or shallow containers and pack on ice or store in the refrigerator if it is running on a generator. Dispose of food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is 90oF or above) or has an off-odor, color, or texture.
- Toss out food that has come in contact with contaminated flood water. Do not eat foods from dented, swollen, or corroded cans, even though the food may appear safe to eat.
For more hurricane meal planning ideas and tips, visit: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/browardco/2020/06/01/hurricane-preparedness-meal-and-menu-planning/
I have just wrapped up my three-day Kitchen Creations camp and am happy to report that it was a big hit with the campers. Each day had a different country theme. Day 1 was Italian, Day 2 was Mexican, and Day 3 was American. All the dishes the kids made, including dessert, represented that day’s country.
The recipes ranged from simple to more complex, allowing the kids to build on basic skills to learn more advanced ones. For some campers, boiling a pot of water was a daunting task. For others, they learned how to caramelize and julienne. The campers worked in teams to create two main dishes, a salad, and a dessert each day, which was shared with the entire group.
I am pleased to announce there were no leftovers. The kids either ate it all, or wanted to take their culinary creations home to share with their families. If that is not a testimony to the camp’s success, I do not know what is.
I also was impressed with the campers’ willingness to try new things. Many of them were skeptical about the vegetable lasagna we made on Day 1, but nearly all the kids were willing to at least give it a try. And just like the baked ziti, Caesar salad, and chocolate biscotti we made that day, there was nothing left at the end of the day.
Kitchen skills are essential for healthy living, and teaching kids how to cook when they are young provides a strong foundation upon which to continue to build.
Kids can be eager helpers in the kitchen, even when it comes to cleaning up. Photo source: Samantha Kennedy, UF/IFAS Extension
Kids are eager learners in the kitchen. All the campers in Kitchen Creations were enthusiastic and ready to learn. They were proud of their creations, wanted to learn new skills, and were excited to use new tools and practice using familiar ones.
It is understandable that some parents may be reluctant to have younger kids in the kitchen. Maybe they are wary of possible injury. Maybe they are just so busy they do not have time to teach and supervise their children in the kitchen. It is a hectic world out there! But I know from personal experience with Kitchen Creations camp that kids, especially those interested in cooking, are more trustworthy and less accident-prone in the kitchen than some might expect.
The campers in my cooking camp are between the ages of 10 and 12 and in the four summers I have offered it, I have had only a few minor mishaps. The campers are aware of possible dangers in the kitchen. Things are hot. Things are sharp. Things are heavy. They are very conscientious about safety and handling things the correct way.
Kids who cook grow into adults who cook. Cooking is an important life skill that will be useful through someone’s entire life. Whether it is a student putting together quick, healthy meals and snacks to help them study, a busy parent trying to balance the responsibilities of everyday life while planning and making nutritious meals for their family, or a doting grandparent making something special for their grandkids, cooking is vital and brings people together.
Cooking is life.
I encourage you to support the budding chefs in your life. Instead of turning them away, allow them to help. Taking the time to prepare a meal together and then sharing that meal with loved ones builds stronger relationships while teaching important skills for a successful life.
UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution.