When I was a kid I used to dread the arrival of September for one reason, the start of the school year.
Now, as a parent, I love it for the same reason. The house is quiet in the morning and the kids suddenly stop complaining about not having anything to do. School, homework and sports keep them plenty busy.
Going to school all day and playing sports all afternoon requires a lot of energy, however, and the best way to make sure your kids aren’t drained when they take the field/court/mat/etc. is to make sure they are eating well.
Active children typically have three weak spots in their diet, said Brooke Douglas, a registered dietitian. She partners with Cynamon Quinton to run Nutrition Authority, a company specializing in dietary guidance with locations in Puyallup, Tacoma and Renton.
Douglas said kids often don’t get enough iron and calcium and they frequently allow themselves to get dehydrated.
“I always preach, ‘Drink beyond thirst,’” Douglas said.
Thirst, she said, is not the best indicator of dehydration.
I know firsthand it can be hard to get kids to understand. My son plays competitive elementary school basketball and it seems every game he comes to me saying he is tired or doesn’t feel well.
“Drink,” I say.
“I’m not thirsty,” he replies.
“Drink anyway,” I say.
He takes a sip, not nearly enough, and plays on.
Douglas said understanding the idea of “drinking beyond thirst” should be as important for kids as safety equipment.
“In baseball you wear a cup,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you also make sure you take care of yourself so you don’t fatigue your muscles?
“You don’t want to walk off the field being down on yourself for something you easily could have taken care of by getting plenty of fluids the day before and the day of your game.”
Douglas recommends children drink two cups of fluid 2-3 hours before their event, then eight ounces more 10-20 minutes before. During the competition try drinking 8-12 ounces every 15-20 minutes, she said.
Here are a few more recommendations:
• Kids often don’t have enough iron in their diet. Red meat, beans and lentils are good sources of iron. Douglas said also eating oranges, strawberries or another source of vitamin C will help absorb iron.
• Douglas said too many kids are more likely to drink soft drinks instead of milk and as a result children aren’t getting enough calcium. “Osteoporosis isn’t just happening to little old ladies anymore,” Douglas said. “It’s happening to our youth.”
Douglas said a glass of chocolate milk is an excellent postgame snack.
“I see parents whipping out Fritos and sugary foods and really all they need is a chocolate milk,” Douglas said.
Douglas said unless kids are endurance athletes – “And most kids are not,” she added – sports drinks aren’t necessary. She said the sugar in the drinks can lead to muscle fatigue and an upset stomach. What does she recommend for hydration? “Good, old fashioned water.”
She said most kids will replace the electrolytes they lose working out when they eat their next meal. She said sports drinks can be beneficial for events that last two hours or longer.
• Fatty foods aren’t good for athletes of any age. But don’t freak out if your kid absolutely must have an occasional cheeseburger. Moderation is the key.
“When I meet with parents they want the perfect diet for their kids,” Douglas said. “I say follow the same guidelines an adult would: balance and variety.” People are different, she said, so foods won’t have the same impact on everybody.
• Juice contributes too much sugar to kids’ diets, Douglas said. “Take the juice out of the pantry.”
• If your kids don’t seem to listen when you talk to them about eating and drinking correctly, you might consider having them meet with a registered dietitian. “Sometimes hearing it from an expert helps,” Douglas said. Find a directory of registered dietitians at eatright.org.
NEW BIKE RIDE
The inaugural Ride the South Sound is Sept. 9 in Olympia. The Capital Bicycling Club hopes the RSS will become its newest marquee ride. The ride will begin and end at Olympia’s Percival Landing Waterfront Park and will offer routes of 10, 20, 40, 60 and 100 miles. For more information go to capitalbicyclingclub.org.Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via email@example.com and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.