Often, when I am chatting to children or their parents about the child’s diet/nutrition I am shocked as to how little food is consumed by many active children. Obviously there is much media around the issue of obesity in general and specifically childhood obesity and rightly so, we certainly need to educate ourselves and our children about the importance of an active lifestyle and a well balanced, healthy diet. But what about those kids who don’t have a weight issue? What about those kids who play multiple sports and train 5 nights a week? What about those kids who never stop moving………not even to eat?
Visit any local sporting venue this weekend and watch a match from U10’s – U16’s and you will see a massive difference in the height, weight and physical development within each team (particularly males). While some of these differences are purely genetic, there may also be other factors causing the sometimes extreme differences. Sleep, Stage of Life (Puberty) and General Activity Levels are some of the other factors that affect the differences is size and shape, but one factor often overlooked when it comes to growth is Nutrition.
As I said earlier, I am often approached by parents asking if there is anything they can do to help their (generally male) child get “Bigger”. On further investigation “Bigger” becomes Taller and Stronger. So the first question I ask is “How’s your child’s diet?” and of course the answer is “It’s really good, he/she hardly eats junk”. Aside from the fact that very few parents are going to admit to feeding their child a poor diet, that wasn’t the question I asked. A diet is not what you are not eating, it is What you are eating and drinking and how much. So I investigate a little further and generally find that the child eats fruit, veg, dairy, meats etc and maybe some “packaged” or “junk” food, but generally speaking most active kids eat well and are happy to do so. So why am I writing this?
It’s not enough!
In the midst of being bombarded by messages of an overweight society we may have lost sight of the facts that 1. Some children still do a lot of activity/sport and 2. In many cases these same children are in the midst of a growth spurt. Both of these processes require a lot of calories to be completed to their full potential.
By no means am I suggesting that you should be feeding your child Maccas and Pizza in an attempt to have your child grow to their full potential, I am merely saying that the diet you feed your child should reflect the amount of exercise/activity and stage of growth they are at, not yours or your neighbors. I am saying that it is wise to adjust the amount and types of foods that your child eats relative to their stage of development and energy output. So if you have a child who is always moving/playing sport please make sure the volume of food they are eating adequately reflects their bodies need for fuel.
Don’t forget also that your brains #1 fuel source is glucose so if your child is very tired of an afternoon and finds it hard to concentrate on their homework a healthy afternoon snack might just be what their brains need.
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