Getting young people to eat healthy can be a real challenge. You may feel you have better odds of your child going pro in soccer than ever seeing that kid eat a green leafy vegetable. Pointing out how one may lead to the other will work for some. But other parents are left struggling to instill good eating habits in their young athletes. To help, we thought we’d identify some healthy eating habits to focus on.
#1 Cut out sugar drinks.
Removing soft drinks, fruit juices, and sports drinks loaded with sugar from the young athlete’s diet is a good first step. Favor water, low-fat milk, or sugar-free drinks instead.
#2 Eat a rainbow.
And we’re not talking about Skittles or Lucky Charms here. Taking care to eat a variety of foods daily, of different colors, can help the young athlete incorporate a wider range of food groups. Trying to eat fruits and veggies, grains, including whole grains, protein, and dairy all in one day can help them get enough nutrients and fiber.
#3 Snack smart.
Provide healthy options for your young athlete to graze on. Especially as they reach their teen years and appear willing to eat anything available. Anywhere. Any time. Again and again. Raisins, carrot and celery sticks, peanuts, yogurt drinks and popcorn are good go-to’s.
#4 Don’t super-size it.
Portion size is a big issue for eaters of all ages. Help a child to understand a reasonable portion size for their age, body type, and exercise level.
#5 Pick healthier options.
Students have an array of options in the cafeteria food line. Or if they go hang out at the mall or a fast food restaurant with friends. Educate your young athlete about the different nutritional values of different foods. A small, single-patty burger instead of a large one and a side salad instead of fries can make a distinct difference to the athlete’s overall health.
#6 Plan ahead.
Often we eat poorly when eating on the go. Without a healthy alternative readily available when hunger strikes, we go with simple convenience. The vending machine option or gas station grab is seldom as good for you as a protein bar or homemade trail mix you’ve taken with you “just in case.
#7 Eat breakfast.
Beginning the day with a protein-rich breakfast is a good habit to kickstart your metabolism.
#8 Eat mindfully.
Another common pitfall is mindless snacking. Sitting in front of the TV with a tub of ice cream or a bag of chips, you’re unlikely to pay any attention to a reasonable serving size. We’re not saying you can’t ever eat junk food. But, if you do, serve out a single portion into a separate bowl. Leave the container behind so you’re not tempted to over consume.
The CDC recommends a “thoughtful approach” to establishing good eating habits:
- Reflect on your specific eating habits, both bad and good, and common triggers for unhealthy eating
- Replace unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones
- Reinforce new, healthier eating habits
Queen City Mutiny cares about its players health. Try to embrace these good eating habits. You’ll see what a difference it makes to your fitness, physical and mental, in practice, games and life.