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Fueling big kids at home, away

May 9, 2016
Luana Turovskaya , MOV Parent

Middle and high school aged children are at a critical point in their development. During this time they experience growth spurts, start to make their own decisions around which foods to eat and participate in extra-curricular activities. Children may need a little guidance at this point to help make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong as they transition into young adulthood.

What's The Deal with Protein?

The importance of older kids getting enough protein is a hot topic, especially for young athletes. While protein is essential, most American children are actually getting twice as much as they need. Protein comes from foods like meat, fish, dairy, nuts, tofu, eggs and dairy and these are favorites for many children.

If children are concerned about eating enough protein, review their diet with them to see if they are also including enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It takes a combination of different food groups to make a healthful diet for growing children and adolescents.

Breakfast Cannot Be Overlooked

Many teens start their day without fueling themselves with a wholesome breakfast. Unfortunately, children are also not getting the recommended 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night. When teens go to class with little sleep, and not fueling themselves, these two factors together can lead to chronic fatigue which can hinder student performance in both in-school and after-school activities. A simple glass of skim milk, a slice of 100 percent whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a piece of fresh fruit and a few cucumber slices or carrot sticks complete a balanced breakfast on the go.

Food Away From Home

When children leave the house for meals, it is important to remind them which foods make healthier options. Pizza, burgers, French fries and ice cream can be tasty staples for teens, and portion control can allow for these foods to be included in a healthy lifestyle. If they do choose unhealthy options, it is a good idea to eat a half portion and order a side salad with a fat-free dressing to get a taste of craved foods without eating more calories than needed and getting some extra fiber. Sharing an entree with a friend is also a great option for reducing portion sizes and also splitting the cost of the meal. Additionally, while water should always be the first choice for hydration, a small portion of diet soda is a good compromise. Children should also avoid sports beverages unless they are using them during practice under the supervision of a coach.


Snack time can be a perfect opportunity for teens to fill nutritional gaps in their diet.If your child is unable to eat a vegetable at breakfast, adding celery and hummus dip as a mid-morning or afterschool snack can add servings of vegetables in during the day. The same concept can be applied for fruit and diary, which can be included as a fruit and yogurt parfait with a plain low-fat yogurt and mixed berries. It is important to fuel growing bodies, especially for children who are participating in athletic activities requiring lots of fuel. . When packing snacks, be sure to pack them in a way capable of staying cold for hours to remain at a cold temperature that does not put your child at risk for food borne illness. Controlling hunger throughout the day with healthy snacks allows for better decision making at meal time including a decreased risk of overeating.

Other healthy snack ideas include:hard-boiled egg and grapes; reduced-fat string cheese and a handful of almonds; peanut butter and an apple; fat-free popcorn mixed with nuts and dried fruit; 100 percent whole-wheat English muffin with pizza sauce, veggies, and low-fat mozzarella cheese; and 100 percent whole grain crackers and bean dip ( with avocado and tomato.)

Luana Turovskaya is a Children's Hunger Alliance Dietetic Intern from The Ohio State University.



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