Diet and school or sports activities

Diet and school or sports activities

Jenny Iliadou

Clinical Dietician - Nutritionist M.Sc.

Diet is an integral factor in the body's health during all stages of life, and plays a key role in meeting the high demands on our bodies which begin in childhood. By enhancing children's nutrition, parents can keep their children’s energy levels high so they can cope with their day-to-day activities.

Let’s look at some dietary guidelines which will help children to keep their energy levels up so they can be at their best during school and sports activities.

Prioritise breakfast.

Running late in the morning is often used as an excuse to miss breakfast. Did you know that all the research undertaken on breakfasts show that eating breakfast plays a role in strengthening children’s academic performances? After fasting for many hours during the night, both body and brain need energy in the form of glucose, which we get from our meals. The first meal of the day should be high in proteins and complex carbohydrates - mainly whole wheats, which provide our bodies with slow-burning energy.

From theory to practice: Try combinations such as:

  • Milk with whole wheat cereal and fruit
  • Yoghurt with nuts and fruit or honey
  • Cheese and ham toasted sandwich with juice
  • Bread with one boiled egg and juice
  • Keep energy levels up with snacks between meals!

It is essential that children eat snacks at school to keep their energy levels up.

From theory to practice: Encourage them to have juices and fruits on a daily basis, either alone or in combination with sesame seed bars, whole grain bars, rice cakes, uncooked / unsalted nuts, e.g. almonds, walnuts, toasted sandwiches with whole meal bread / cheese / turkey / seasonal vegetables, 2% fat yogurt with cereals

For main meals (lunch and dinner), it is advisable to include the following three types of food in every meal: protein - starch - vegetables or fruit. Make the evening meal lighter than lunch, again using the above model. Increase starch consumption if your child takes regular exercise.

From theory to practice: Try combinations such as bread/potatoes/rice/pasta (STARCH) with fish/chicken/meat/minced meat

(PROTEIN) and vegetables. Combine pulses and olive oil based dishes with cheese and starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes. For evening meals, choose toasted sandwiches with cheese and turkey, a glass of juice, omelet with bread and seasonal salad, yogurt with whole grains, fruits and nuts, etc.

Make sure you include fatty fish in your diet.

Research shows that eating fatty fish strengthens children’s learning abilities due to the high omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids content.  Fatty fish include sea bream, salmon, sardines and fresh tuna.

Use olive oil when you cook, but in moderation.

It is essential to drink throughout the day and to increase fluid intake during sports. Water is the best way of hydrating the system. It is followed by juices without added sugar. Avoid buying soft drinks as they contain a lot of sugar.

Keep your child’s weight at its normal level, so that it will be easier for him/her to enjoy sports.

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