This week we will be re-introducing some lifestyle education sessions for the full-time junior athletes that APA work with at Gosling Tennis Academy. A big part of this is education on nutrition. I have written several blogs on nutrition over recent months. To be honest these are based on understanding more advanced concepts such as nutrient timing and periodisation of nutrition.
With kids these numbers will just get lost and it’s a lot more effective to talk about foods rather than grams and calories! We can start by introducing them to the 6 Pillars of Nutrition, which I have taken from the work of Dr Mike Roussell.
The Healthy Diet:
1. Eat 5-6 Times per Day
2. Eat Minimally Processed Foods Without Added Sugars
3. Eat Fruit and Vegetables Throughout the Day
4. Drink more water and Calorie Free Beverages
5. Focus on Eating Lean Proteins
6. Be Strategic About Your Starches
A Picture paints a thousand words
One of the key messages we want to get across is that processed foods with added sugar need to be replaced with protein, fruit and vegetables!
Let’s pick a few of the Pillars and go through an example of the kind of things we might discuss with the kids.
1. Eat 5-6 times a day
A lot of people panic at the thought of having to eat this many times. But actually all we are asking the child to do is add two healthy snacks to their diet.
A Fruit and a Fat snack = 1 Apple + 1 portion of Nuts (almonds or pistachios)
2. Eat Minimally processed foods without added sugars
Don’t over complicate this- we have a simple rule that the kids can’t eat the following while they are at the Tennis Academy
- Fizzy drinks
- Chocolate bars
You might need to have specific conversations about particular types of cereal bars, flap jacks and so on but the above list is a non-negotiable list
3. Eat Fruit and Vegetables throughout the day
4. Drink more water and calorie free beverages
With adults the issue might be with coffee and tea, and with kids it is often fizzy drinks. Cutting these out or down might be as challenging as cutting down smoking so you have to wean them off them gradually. The 4 steps below work for people who are drinking several cups of tea/ cans of fizzy drink per day!
Step 1: remove 1 fizzy drink / cup of tea from your day!
Step 2: replace 1 fizzy drink/ cup of tea with a diet version / decaffeinated version or green tea
Step 3: replace the fizzy drink / cup of tea with a glass of water
Step 4: Drink 2 litres of water per day
5. Focus on eating lean proteins
When you talk about protein you have to talk about fats. It’s about getting the kids to recognise that we want them to eat MEAT and FISH. Now these animal proteins also contain fats so we need to teach them which ones are better.
Good protein- lean meat (chicken, turkey, fish)
Bad protein- fatty meat (pork, bacon, some cuts of beef)
We can then talk about healthy fats and teach them which sources of fat are better.
Good fat- avocados, nuts, fish, eggs
Bad fat- cheese, butter, pastries, fatty meat
6. Be strategic about your starches
Now at some point we can start to talk about nutrient timing with the kids and explain about how they need to increase or decrease the amount of sugar they are eating depending on how active they are.
However, at the beginning we first want them to understand the different types of carbohydrates.
We will talk about the difference between whole grains (starches) and sugars
So there you have it 6 Nutrition lessons for kids and some examples of the way we might go about introducing these topics to kids! Keep it simple and talk to them about foods rather than numbers. Even better is to get them to work with the foods and taste them by doing cooking lessons. There are so many cool ways to get them interested in healthy eating!