Whilst nutritional needs amongst average adults rarely differs, for kids it certainly can depending on their age and the amount of football they’re playing. Below we’ve tried to condense 5 useful tips which should help cover all angles (without getting too technical!):
1. Eat a solid breakfast
Follow the old saying; it’s the most important meal of the day…because guess what, it is! Too many try to skip breakfast these days which is never a good idea, it gets the metabolism moving and our bodies off to a great start. Load up on good carbs (oats, brown/granary toast) and try to throw a source of protein in where possible (eggs, yoghurt etc). I know many kids can be fussy but the refined sugars found in most cereals are far from ideal so try to avoid them day in day out if you can, they spike energy levels leaving hunger to creep back in before you know it. A bit of fruit wouldn’t hurt either so feel free to scatter some berries, currants or a chopped banana on those oats! Oh and peanut butter, another great addition that can be added onto the breakfast list!!
2. Graze don’t gorge
Kids do get hungry again quite quickly so it’s best to let them eat 5-6 meals and snacks a day instead of trying to fill them up with 3 big ones. There’s no need to be too overkill in terms of carbohydrate/protein/fat ratios, just keep it well balanced and always try getting a bit of veg thrown into the mix where possible. Fruit, sandwich/toast/crackers, fig or granola bars all make good healthy snacks.
3. Try to avoid those bad fats
Greasy foods and fatty puddings may well taste nice but can be far too filling and leave kids feeling extremely bloated, not many will want to hit the football pitch after a plate of chicken nuggets followed by ice cream. They also slow down digestion in a big way which isn’t ideal at an age when regular toilet movements are the norm. So, as with the breakfast cereals, try to keep down the regularity of these so called tasty treats.
4. Water…most of the time
It’s pretty much common knowledge that water is the king of all drinks and here at EST we don’t disagree, we generally drink as much water throughout the day as we possibly can. However, we also know kids sometimes get bored of it so there’s absolutely no harm in using a bit of no added sugar juice on occasion, especially whilst playing or training where keeping the flow of fluids is really important – avoiding dehydration is an absolute must at this time at almost any cost. Avoid so called ‘energy’ drinks or anything fizzy like the plague though, they do no good whatsoever.
By eating 5-6 meals & snacks a day kids will generally eat every 2-3 hours which is what we’re looking for, if they go any longer their concentration levels drop and they start to get agitated without even realising. Bigger meals should ideally be eaten 2-3 hours before training or a game but getting a small snack down them 30-60 minutes beforehand is perfect for peak performance [again, fruit such as a banana or a small bagel with some peanut butter on would be perfect here].