Nutrition is essential to good health and performance every day of our lives. But as parents, so many treat their active kids and high schoolers as if it isn't. After all, "They are young! They seem to be able to eat anything they want, and they never gain weight." Maybe whether they gain weight or not is NOT the important metric.
The importance of nutrition to kids
Getting a bit technical, adolescents should be eating foods from 5 major groups:
Proteins are found in many foods, but look for foods your kids will eat, like lean meat, fish, beans, and seeds and nuts.
Another good source of protein is eggs. A single egg has 7 grams of protein. Put into perspective, the rule of thumb for adolescents is that they should consume 1/2 gram of protein for every pound of body weight per day.
Simple math would put a 140 lb, 15 year old male at a daily protein need of approximately 70 grams per day. Active athletes should generally be slightly higher than this if they are looking to gain lean body mass.
Milk, yogurt and cheese are the most common dairy sources. Choose low-fat or fat-free products where possible. These foods are also rich in protein helping to achieve that 1/2 gram per pound daily average.
Fresh fruits are best because all the nutrients are locked in. Canned fruits and dried fruits aren't far behind.
But those fruit juices? They are loaded with sugars and artificial flavoring and coloring in many cases. Choose water over fruit juices.
One thing you want to avoid with adolescents (and adults) is added sugar and sodium. What our bodies get naturally from whole foods is all that we need.
If color adds spice to life visually, it adds nutritional value to our vegetables. Colorful vegetables tend to contain the highest concentration of vitamins and micronutrients. We get more of our micronutrients (minerals) from vegetables.
Whole grains over refined grains. What does that mean? Limit white breads, pasta and rice products. Fill their plates with oatmeal, whole grains, quinoa, and brown and wild rices.
For adolescents that are looking to gain weight, grains can be an excellent source of carbs. And carbs that are turned to energy build strong bodies. But there's the key. Carbs become sugar in the body, if you don't use them as fuel for exercise, a diet high in carbs can lead to obesity.
How do you get kids to eat these?
Fit Life Covered gives several suggestions in one of their articles:
Set a good example
Stock your shelves with these foods
Give them options, but make either option an choice YOU can live with
Fix plates that are a rainbow of color, not a literal rainbow, but remember, there are nutrients in color
So what should you avoid?
You've probably heard it before, but shop the perimeter of the grocery store much more than the isles. In the isles you will find processed foods such as breakfast cereals, cake mixes, cookies, and sugary drinks. As a general rule, foods that you would find in nature are foods that were meant to build healthy bodies.