Categories: Health

Fit But Unhealthy: Poor Food Choices By Youth Athletes And Their Parents

It’s definitely challenging to make healthy food choices when you’re constantly on the go. Many families find themselves rushing their kids to and from sporting events and practices with little time left over for home-cooked meals. On the one hand, the parents and coaches are teaching kids to maintain strong and healthy bodies, but on the other hand, they are reaching for fast and processed foods for nourishment. It’s a bit of a conundrum that is sending the wrong message to impressionable children and teens. It’s time for families to take a good, hard look at what they are eating on a regular basis and make some dietary changes for the health and well-being of the entire family.

Crunched for time, many families stop by fast food restaurants before or after sporting events, or they consume concession stand items equally high in sugar, fat and other unhealthy ingredients. Parents see their kids as “healthy” because they engage in sports and are not overweight. However, kids and adults both can be skinny and unhealthy. It seems that healthy eating and sports would go hand in hand. It’s time for parents and coaches to step up to the plate and introduce some healthier varieties to young athletes.

Integrate Nutrition with Sports
An easy way to implement this change is for coaches to start integrating information on healthy food choices into daily practices. We all know our kids listen and respect their coaches. When parents reinforce the same concepts at home by talking about what’s healthy and not healthy, kids will begin to realize that it does matter what they put into their bodies. We want kids to realize the effects that junk food can have on their overall health and performance.

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Pack Healthy Snacks
When game night rolls around, parents should prepare by packing healthy snacks so the temptation to hit the drive-through will be less pressing. Throw together a small cooler with grapes, watermelon, banana or other fruits. Add a couple some veggies and dip, or whole grain crackers and cheese. The athletes will most likely notice that their bodies become more satisfied and replenished after a hard game by choosing healthy items instead of junk.

Limit Fast Food
Make a choice as a family to limit fast food intake to once a week or less. When you set a family goal, everyone can help achieve the goal by encouraging each other to resist the temptation. Parents might allow their children one concession treat each per game, after they have already consumed a fair amount of fruit or vegetables.

Get Involved with Local Concessions
Parents might consider getting involved with their local concessions stands and offer to help revamp the menu to include healthier choices. Athletes can munch on trail mix, frozen bananas and fresh fruit after a game instead of ice cream and candy. Changes will occur slowly, based on an overall awareness that what we put into our bodies affects the way we feel. It’s time for families to start teaching healthy, lifelong habits to their children. It seems that athletics is the perfect place to start.

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