A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
Kick-starting your young athlete's metabolism the right way
By Kimberly Lackey
I recently spent a week at the Esalen Institute wellness center for an enlightening workshop. While there, all participants are provided with meals that are prepared from the gardens grown on the property. The meals were delicious and as I enjoyed each of them immensely, I was also well aware of the difficult challenges one would face outside the retreat “walls” in the real world to coordinate such a nutritious feast of three meals a day, every day for an individual, let alone a family.
I was not the only one that had this realization. One common topic during the course of the week was the feeling of wanting to prepare these types of meals for family and specifically children back home. Providing food is often a way of showing love and as we were loving this food, we also wanted to share it with our most prized possessions - kids.
However, children do not have the same nutritional needs as adults. Active and athletic kids have far different needs than a grown adult; kids aren’t just mini grown-ups. Young females and males have differing needs in terms of carbs and fat ratios. Research shows the young athlete should probably be eating a higher blend of fat before and during exercise, and female young athletes may benefit from lower carbohydrate intake than males.
Eating a proper breakfast and lunch, as well as healthy snacks and fueling properly during exercise, have all been reported as keys to aid in successfully getting kids through the day. Serving a healthy breakfast will kick-start the metabolism and it’s important to properly maintain that momentum throughout the day.
Metabolisms differ among males and females, especially from child to child. It is important to talk with your child in order to ensure that energy levels are being maintained as well as they could be while the kids are away at school and after-school activities. Ask your child if and when they feel hungry during the day. Listen to reports from teachers, coaches, tutors and after-school staff to see if there is consistency in performance at certain times, or potential behavior issues that repeat at the same time each day. Healthy snacking during those times, and the right breakfast, could be just the cure you and your child are looking for.
It’s no secret that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Feeding your children a healthy and “stick to your bones” kind of breakfast helps out with many potential issues throughout the day. You can avoid behavior problems, fatigue, sickness, and can promote alertness, better grades and athletic performance.
AVOID TEMPTATION – STAY AWAY FROM SUGARY CEREAL
It’s tempting to dump some sugary cereal from a box and pour milk on top as a quick option. Kids love it, it’s easy, and you provided them with breakfast. I understand the temptation to open up a granola bar, handing it over on the drive to school. The problem is that most of the time these items are full of sugar. Sugar is a quick energy fix and causes all of us to crash in some way.
As adults, we can grab a cup of coffee or self-correct the crash in a variety of ways. However, kids are at the mercy of the adults in charge of them. It is up to us to provide them with the best possible options to ensure they have the greatest chance of success. A sugary breakfast won’t sustain children through the rigors of their day.
Most kids these days don’t get nap-time. After the school day, they are in charge of homework, projects, and a myriad of after school activities, most of them involving exercise and performance. Providing a breakfast high in protein with good, healthy carbs and fat is imperative. Other meals should contain these ratios as well but breakfast is king. Like anything else in life, if your foundation is strong you are much more likely to weather various unforeseen storms that come your way.
Being proactive is the key to getting everyone out the door in the morning, fed well and happy.
Making a few batches of these yummy recipes I enjoyed at Esalen will hopefully add some variety into your daily breakfast routine while also providing your children with a healthy daily start and a positive feeling for all, even before you get to work, school or that practice or game.
Savory Quinoa Cereal
This is one of my favorite and most unique breakfast items. “Bowl” type dishes are becoming popular as they can be modified for various likes and dislikes and you are able to get an “all-in-one” healthy, quick meal. This recipe is in alignment with that theory. As the name suggests, it is hearty. I typically include two scrambled eggs, a little cheese, one diced tomato, and an avocado for flavor and good fat. Depending on the various “add ins” you include you could also eat this as a side for lunch or dinner. This is a good option if you have kids that would rather eat pizza for breakfast than cereal. This recipe can be made in large batches and stored in the fridge or freezer.
Makes 6 to 8 Servings
2 cups quinoa
5 cups water
1 generous handful kale, chard or spinach
Rinse quinoa thoroughly. Boil water and add quinoa. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until water has absorbed. Sautee kale, chard or spinach with a touch of rice oil until leaf is soft (or steam plain). Be careful not to overcook greens. Add cooked greens and dressing to cooked quinoa and stir.
1/3 cup soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 medium-sized red onion, fine julienne
Hot Brown Rice Cereal
This is a delicious fall recipe and a great alternative to oatmeal. It is gluten-free and delicious. You can modify this with various “add ins” or exclude something in the ingredient list you know your child won’t eat. If you do serve this with the yogurt, and I highly recommend you do because it is tasty, be careful not to purchase a variety high in sugar.
Makes 4 cups
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 cup nonfat milk (or milk substitute like almond, rice, or coconut)
1 cup apple, chopped
1 cup cashews
1⁄4 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
Combine cooked brown rice and all other ingredients in a bowl or large Tupperware. Stir to combine. Put in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight (this allows the rice, fruit and nuts to soak up the milk and spices). Warm and serve. This is good with a dollop of yogurt!
This last recipe is also good as a packed snack throughout the day or for after-school use. This can be served as is over cow’s, almond or rice milk.
Makes approx. 3 lbs.
8 cups rolled oats
1 cup rye flakes
1 cup almonds, chopped coarsely
1 cup cashews, chopped coarsely
½ cup sunflower seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
¾ cup honey
¾ cup maple syrup
½ cup vegetable oil
2 Tblsp vanilla
Blend the oats, flakes, nuts: almonds and cashews, and sesame seeds with the cinnamon and salt in a large bowl (or soup pot so you have room to stir) On the stove, mix the honey, syrup, oil and vanilla over low heat. Mix over low heat until well blended, then pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is well coated.
Spread a ½ inch thick layer of the wet granola on two 12/16 inch baking trays. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 for an hour or until granola turns golden brown. Be sure to turn every 5-10 minutes, remove and allow to cool.
Kimberly Lackey is the Founder of Empath Coaching and an Integrative Health Coach. She works with parents on nutritional counseling for kids, as well as individuals through coaching, nutritional counseling, motivational speaking and more. She previously held roles as the School and Youth Program Manager for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and was a 5th grade Language Arts, Art, and Social Studies teacher. She can be contacted at Kimberly@EmpathCoaching.com
Proper nutrition is crucial for athletic success, but are your young athletes giving their bodies enough time to digest and absorb those vital nutrients before taking the field?
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