Let's face it — children are active regardless of whether they're suiting up to play their sport of choice or running through the house. No matter what, they need a healthy diet of nutritious foods to fuel them in their heart-pumping pursuits. Here are 10 foods to feed your busy child to keep them full, energized and as active as ever.
For diners of any age, breakfast remains the day's most important meal. It revs up the metabolism and provides the energy to get us through the first portion of the day. An active child can't run on empty, so always whip up a hearty breakfast to kickstart their day.
Oatmeal makes an excellent option for active kids. The whole grains provide steady energy, rather than the crash that comes with sugary cereals or white bread. On top of that, oatmeal's packed with fiber, which promotes healthy digestion. If that's not incentive enough, kids genuinely enjoy eating it. Toss in some fruit or honey to sweeten it, and you've got a well-rounded, kid-approved breakfast.
Another must-have for active kiddos is yogurt. It's an excellent source of calcium, which fortifies a growing child's bones. If they're participating in sports or other physical activities, a strong skeleton can serve as protection against painful broken bones. Be sure to choose a yogurt brand that's not full of added sugar or artificial flavoring. And, if your child isn't a big fan of yogurt, you can swap it for another calcium-rich dairy product, seeds, almonds or leafy greens, for example.
After a burst of activity, some kids might feel as though they've drained their energy stores. That can indicate they have low iron levels — a lack of this mineral often leaves us feeling fatigued. Of course, all kinds of meat contain iron, from beef and chicken to seafood and pork. Vegetarian kiddos can still get iron from food-based sources such as tofu, beans, and fortified grains. Just be sure you know how much iron your child needs, based on their age and activity levels.
Protein is an essential part of the body's recovery post-exercise, as it repairs muscles and builds new ones. Eggs provide a hearty helping of protein — 13 percent of the U.S. recommended daily allowance for it — as well as valuable vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, and vitamin D. Plus, you can quickly whip up scrambled eggs for your brood before school, or send them off with a hardboiled egg as a snack.
5. Peanut Butter
Unless your child has an allergy, peanut butter makes a great addition to their active lifestyle and diet. It may appear to be high in fats at first glance, but none of them are saturated fats, which are unsavory because they can raise cholesterol levels. Instead, PB's polyunsaturated and monounsaturated healthy fats provide a source of energy for your kids on the go, plus, there's protein for help in their recovery post-game or practice. And, as a bonus, most kids love this and other nut butter — just be sure to choose a brand that's free of additives, including sugar or corn syrup.
Active kids tend to hang out together, whether they're on the same sports team or playing together at recess. And, as a parent, you know all too well children tend to share germs.
So, you can build up your child's immune system by incorporating berries into their daily menu. Whether they nosh on blackberries, strawberries or blueberries, they'll get a dose of antioxidants, phytochemicals and vitamin C, all of which help bolster the immune system. With a body better equipped to ward off illness, your little one can maintain the active lifestyle they enjoy so much.
7. Hearty Snacks
The word "snack" likely conjures up images of potato chips, cookies and other after-school treats people have eaten for decades. But an active child — or an adult, for that matter — won't get much nutrition from these processed options. As their parent, try rewiring the way they think about snacks so they reach for foods that boost energy, provide protein, etc. Snacks like hummus and pita, carrots and guacamole, whole-grain cereal or even a sandwich on hearty bread will fit the bill better than salty or sweet treats.
8. Colorful Fruits and Veggies
You already know you should incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables into your child's diet. Variety by way of produce color can infuse even more vitamins and minerals into their day-to-day meals. For instance, orange options — carrot, sweet potato, papaya — contain beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, a vital element in muscle repair. Familiarize yourself with the benefits of each produce color before switching things up.
9. Sunflower Seeds
You might not want your littles cracking and eating sunflower seeds, as they're messy and potentially a choking hazard. But the pre-shelled variety makes yet another excellent addition to your active child's diet for reasons we've already covered. They contain digestion-improving fiber, as well as energy-boosting iron and healthy fats. Plus, they're an easy snack to grab and eat on the go.
It's not technically a food, but water is perhaps the most crucial element of your active child's diet. After a sweaty practice or game, ensure your kid drinks plenty of H2O to replenish their stores and ward off dehydration. To that end, water is the best option for post-sport re-hydration. Although a sports drink might seem like a smart choice, they often include sugar and calories that aren't necessary when water does the same job. Drink up!
Stay Healthy and Active
No matter how your child stays active, it's vital their diet fuels them in their pursuits. So, serve up these 10 options or any other healthy fare your kiddo likes to keep them at their best.