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Fuelling Active Kids

Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to help educate many kids about general nutrition and nutrition in sport. I was also lucky enough to attend the Sports Dietitian’s Australia conference in Melbourne, which was insightful and inspiring. Each of these experiences has taught me a great deal. In particular I have learnt that kids are active! Even though our statistics tell us that there is a decrease in the activity levels of many children living in Australia, there are still many kids that are active who need good quality fuel in order to keep them going.

When I talk to kids about nutrition I always relate our body back to a car. If you put the good quality petrol in, the car will drive better compared with if we put the cheap, crappy petrol in. Not only will good nutrition help to maintain adequate energy and concentration levels required to enjoy sport and general activity, it will support a child’s overall health, growth and development.

How to fuel active kids?

Active kids need to eat regularly in order to refuel their energy levels, with the preferred fuel source being carbohydrates. A regular day for an active kid can often be a busy one, especially when they are training before or after an already active day at school. To ensure that kids get the good quality fuel they require, use the following tips:

1.  Organise to have nourishing meals and snacks on hand to enjoy at home, school, during sport or on the run.

2.  Encourage your child to start the day with a nourishing breakfast such as baked beans on toast, a fruit smoothie, toast or a high fibre breakfast cereal topped with fruit.

3.  Have some carbohydrate based meals or snacks available to enjoy before, during and after training and sport. Convenient snacks may include tinned, dried or fresh fruit, yoghurt, custard,  french toast with ricotta, raison bread topped with ricotta and fruit, flavoured milk, pasta or rice salad, wholegrain English muffins topped with honey, nut butter or vegemite, homemade fruit muffins, sandwiches, smoothies or liquid meals such as Sustagen Sport or an Up and Go.

4.  Pack a drink bottle and encourage kids to drink well at school (water being the preferred choice) and during sport to help avoid dehydration. There is a place for sports drinks around sport to help assist with hydration, especially during prolonged or higher intensity sport.

The right meal

To make sure a tired child tops up their fuel tank at the end of the day it is important that fluid is encouraged and a nutrient dense meal is available.

A nutrient dense meal is one that has some carbohydrates for energy (including potato, sweet potato, pasta, noodles, rice or quinoa), protein for recovery and muscle maintenance (including eggs, fish, chicken, legumes or beef), salads and vegetables to help meet fibre, vitamin and mineral requirements and a low fat dessert based on fruit or dairy to enjoy. This can be very challenging, especially when parents and carers are also busy with work, study or their own sport.

To help to ensure a meal is on hand in times of need try some of the following tips:

5.  Be organised and plan the meals and snacks for the week.

6.  Create a shopping list and get the groceries for the busy week ahead.

7.  Plan for meals that are quick and easy to prepare such as stir frys with chicken, vegetables and noodles, fish with vegetables and rice, burritos with minced meat and salad, a tuna and vegetable pasta bake and hamburgers made with lean mince or a vegetable pattie and served with salad on high fibre rolls.

8.  Use a mix of fresh, frozen and canned foods such as frozen vegetables, canned legumes (beans) and tinned fruit.

9.  Dedicate an afternoon to preparing some meals and snacks that can be frozen and reheated.

10.  Put a slow cook meal on in the morning before work so a tasty and healthy meal is ready for when everyone gets home.

Slow it down for fast food

My go to 'slow meal' one pot veggie lentils

My go to 'slow meal' one pot veggie lentils

My recent wedding vows meant that I officially declared, in front of the ones that I love, that “I Kerryn, promise you Nigel to continue to cook you delicious meals…” Yes its true (along with loving him unconditionally and so on)… My husband and I are busy, active people and so my delicious meals that I solemnly promised also need to be healthy and quick. Now we all lead busy lives. Whether you are a single lady or man, a stay at home mum or dad or balance work life with family life, we are ALL busy people. So lets look at how we can get a nourishing meal on the table without the day devoted to our culinary eats.

Our house holds just the two of us, however we are often home late from training, work or study so for me to keep my word and ensure we continue to enjoy healthy, delicious meals, I need to be organised. I am lucky that I love food and love to devote the spare second I may have to food preparation. However, I know too well that there are many of you out there who want to prioritise healthy eating without the time spent in the kitchen.

My mantra is to keep it simple. Focus on fresh foods and basic nutrition principles without the complication of inspiring to be the next master chef or following the recent fad.

Eating well during a busy week for us starts with a shopping list and food shopping. If this sound boring to you, seek out your nearest fresh food or farmers markets and make a morning of it, you may discover a new love and enjoy a nice coffee while you’re at it. Opting for online shopping is also an option if you really can’t get to the shops or markets.

However you seek out your produce, try and aim for it to arrive on a day or an afternoon that is generally free for you to devote some time to cooking.

Here are a few tips that help me continue to put healthy meals on the table:

Slow it down - Currently our palates are calling for winter warmers, which is perfect for preparing easy meals for the week ahead. My slow cooker is my new best friend as it can help me plan ahead our healthy eats. While I may be running or boxing after work, my slow cooker is getting its own workout after throwing all of the ingredients together before heading to work. If my slow cooker is not being used, I will cook up a 'one pot' meal where everything can get thrown in a bubble away on the stove (just like the one pot lentil dish featured in the image) while i'm at home getting things done!

Two for one - Dedicate an afternoon to food preparation (if you naturally despise this piece of advice you may be surprised with the satisfaction you feel after preparing your own meals). Think about  two meals that you can cook on one afternoon that may last two or three nights. I tend to prepare a soup that can be reheated for lunches and a slow cooker meal, curry or chilli con carne that can also be used for a couple of different meals. If you aren’t in love with leftovers, just change up the dish by serving it with a different side. For example, you can serve a curry with rice one night and on a spud with extra veggies the next. These are the types of meals that you can freeze for another busy week or enjoy leftovers for lunch.

Bulk it up - Add canned legumes such as lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans to your dishes to increase the nutritional density and to make the meals go further. I usually add leftover veggies and dried lentils to a classic beef vindaloo to bulk it up and make it go further, you can do this with any curry or casserole.

Quick and healthy - Each week I always cook a 'quick dish' - usually a stir-fry. It takes no time to chop up a heap of your favourite veggies and add a source of protein such as chicken, prawns, fish or pork to any stir-fry. If you thinly slice your chicken or pork you can throw all of the ingredients together which will take no time to cook. There is no need to buy pre-prepared sauces just use your pantry basics. My favourite is a little garlic, honey and soy sauce. To balance your meal simply add some rice or hokkien noodles that just need stir-frying to prepare.

These are just a few of my tips and I can’t wait to share more…

If you have some more tips that keep you healthy while leading a busy life, I would love to hear them!