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Claudann Jones Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Kids who eat healthy, well-balanced meals and snacks will get the nutrients needed to perform well in sports. The MyPlate food guide can provide guidance on what kinds of foods and drinks to include in your child’s meals and snacks. The child athlete, however, will have higher energy and fluid requirements.

Kids and teens involved in all-day competitions or strenuous endurance sports that can involve 1½ to two hours or more of activity may need to consume more food to keep up with increased energy demands.

Kids need a variety of vitamins and minerals. Calcium and iron are two important minerals for athletes:

— Calcium helps build strong bones to resist breaking and stress fractures. Foods include low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as leafy green vegetables such as broccoli.

— Iron helps carry oxygen to the different body parts that need it. Iron-rich foods include lean meat, chicken, tuna, salmon, eggs, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables and fortified whole grains.

— Protein helps build and repair muscles, and most kids get plenty of it through a balanced diet. Foods include fish, lean meat and poultry, dairy products, beans, nuts and soy products. Too much protein can lead to dehydration and calcium loss.

— Carbohydrates provide energy. Some diet plans have urged weight-conscious adults to steer clear of carbs, but for a young athlete they’re an important source of fuel. There’s no need for “carb loading” (eating a lot of carbs in advance of a big game), but without carbs in their diet, kids will be running on empty. Select whole-grain foods like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, whole-grain bread and cereal, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

For more information, contact Claudann Jones, Smith County Extension agent for family and community health, at 903-590-2980 or email at cmjones@ag.tamu.edu. Like our Facebook page: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Smith County.

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