Life Times Newsletter

July/August 2003
Vol. 5, No.4

Keeping active kids hydrated and well fed

When children are active, adults need to make sure kids drink enough fluids and make healthy food choices.

Children who become dehydrated increase their risk of heat injuries like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and potentially fatal heat stroke. Children are at greater risk of heat injuries because they have limited sweat capacity and do not have well developed thirst mechanisms to let them know they are thirsty.

Encourage kids to drink lots of fluids before, during and after exercise. Water is always safe before exercise, water and/or sports drinks are suggested during exercise, and sports drinks or juices are good afterwards.

For most young athletes, plain water will sufficiently meet their fluid replacement needs. Encourage children to take a chilled water bottle to practice, camp, or picnics. If children like sports drinks, encourage them to use them. The important thing is that the child drinks. Keep a cooler with chilled bottled water and sports drinks handy to encourage children to drink. 

Snacks and meals
Healthy food choices help children do their best whether learning at school, playing sports, or enjoying outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or jumping rope.

The purpose of a pre-game meal is to keep your child from getting hungry, lightheaded, or tired during a game. A pre-game meal will prevent low blood sugar, fuel your child’s muscles for a peak performance, and prevent dehydration. The pre-game meal should be eaten at least 2 hours before the game. This allows time for food to be digested.

For events in the morning, serve breakfast. Try one of these with a glass of juice or water:

• Bagel with jelly

• Pancakes with syrup or applesauce

• Egg with toast and jelly

• Hot or cold cereal with low-fat milk, banana, toast and jelly

• Muffin or English muffin with low-fat yogurt and fruit slices.

For events in early to mid-afternoon, eat breakfast and lunch. For lunch ideas, try one of these (include a glass of low-fat milk and plenty of water):

• Turkey sandwich with lettuce, and a banana

• Spaghetti with tomato sauce, salad with low-cal dressing, bread or roll, fruit cup

• Tuna sub with lettuce and tomato, orange juice

• Soup made with pasta or rice, crackers, lowfat yogurt with fruit slices.

For events in late afternoon, eat breakfast, lunch and a snack. Eat a snack two hours before the event. Try one of these: string cheese, low-fat yogurt, pudding pack, peanut butter (1 tablespoon) and jelly sandwich, oatmeal raisin cookie, vanilla wafers, breadsticks, graham crackers, crackers, animal crackers, pretzels, fruit slices (orange, apple, pear, peach), grapes, or banana.

Food eaten out
Sometimes parents drive through fast-food restaurants to provide meals for young athletes and busy households. Unfortunately, many popular meals at fast-food restaurants are high in fat and sodium. For example, a double bacon cheese burger contains 50 grams of fat and 1 teaspoon salt. Foods that sound healthy like fish and chicken are often breaded or fried and high in fat.

Better choices are: plain, simple burgers (2-ounce size); tuna and turkey subs (skip the mayo and salad dressing); small vegetable or Canadian bacon topped pizza (skip sausage and pepperoni); baked potato with low-fat topping; grilled chicken sandwich; soft chicken taco, small roast beef.

Substitute a small salad with low-fat dressing for high-fat fries. Add low-fat milk, low-fat milkshake, or light yogurt.

Source: Building Fitness Together: Fast Foods, Kids, and Sports, Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Mary Schroepfer
Nutrition Specialist

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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller