If you’re the parent of a young kid, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that prioritizing your own healthy eating habits is difficult enough, so convincing your kid to eat healthily might seem like a steep mountain to climb.
And while keeping your child away from those easily available fried and salted snacks will always be a task, here is something to help you make a stronger argument – a study by the Gujarat Forensic Science University (GFSU) found that children consuming high-protein diets had quick responses to stimuli than children on low-protein diets. It was found that kids on a higher-protein diet were faster at decision making and had better concentration, memory, and problem-solving abilities, according to a TOI report quoting the research.
So that was about kids in general, but what about those involved in all-day competitions or strenuous endurance sports? The topic of correct nutrition assumes even more importance: nutrition is an important part of sports performance for young athletes, allowing for optimal growth and development and meeting their increased energy demands. But given the busy lives we live, making a healthy snack from scratch isn’t always possible. Therefore it’s a lot simpler to give your child a nutrition bar or a protein bar to keep them full.
So how are energy bars beneficial for your active kid’s health? Read on to find out.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, carbohydrates are the most important fuel source for athletes because they provide the glucose used for energy. While some diet plans urge weight-conscious adults to steer clear of carbs, for a young athlete they’re an important source of fuel. Without that, kids will be running on empty. It’s also important to choose an energy bar that uses whole grains such as oats. Other sources of carbohydrates include whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, whole-grain bread and cereal, vegetables, fruits, milk, and yogurt. Talking about the nutritional value, one gram of carbohydrate contains approximately four kilocalories of energy, Dr. Laura K Purcell of the Canadian Paediatric Society mentions in a research paper. Glucose is stored as glycogen in muscles and liver and muscle glycogen is the most readily available energy source for working muscle and can be released more quickly than other energy sources.
Protein helps build and repair muscle, hair, nails, and skin. It is particularly important as kids’ exercise duration increases as proteins help to maintain blood glucose through liver gluconeogenesis. Children who don’t get enough protein may experience weakness, fatigue, poor concentration, slowed growth, bone and joint pain, delayed wound healing, and decreased immune response resulting in the child falling sick regularly. But with small changes, parents can protect their kids against protein deficiency. Plant-based protein-rich foods include dairy products, beans, nuts, and soy products and animal-based protein includes fish, lean meat, and poultry. Protein bars have gained popularity with adults and children alike and they can be handy when you’re on-the-go and need a higher shelf life snack. But remember to opt for bars that are kid-friendly and do not contain trans fats and added sweeteners.
Vitamins and minerals
Kids require a host of vitamins and minerals to maintain good health. Parents of kids involved in sports must focus on their child’s intake of proper amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and iron. Calcium is important for bone health, normal enzyme activity, and muscle contraction while vitamin D is also necessary for bone health apart from the absorption and regulation of calcium, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Some rich sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, spinach, and fortified grain products. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 restrictions have forced many young athletes to train indoors, which increases their risk of vitamin D deficiency. So it’s important to note that apart from sun exposure, sources of vitamin D include milk, mushrooms, cereal, and oatmeal.
Fruits provide a healthy balance of micro as well as macronutrients. For instance, banana contains high amounts of vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium and strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, manganese, folate (vitamin B9), and potassium. Choosing energy and protein bars that have fruit in some form, dried or powdered, is a simple way of fulfilling your kid’s nutrient needs he or she is juggling school, tuitions, and sports.
It’s quite appealing for parents to reward their kid’s good behavior with sweets but that sets a bad precedent in the long run. Research shows that eating too much sugar can lead to nutrient deficiencies and it can also deplete vitamins from the body during digestion, such as Vitamin B involved in glucose metabolism. Sugar can be found hidden in products that seem healthy on the face of it, including flavored yogurts, ready to eat cereals, pasta sauces, ketchup, and energy bars! So while choosing a protein or a nutrition bar, it’s important to read food labels correctly and only choose ones that are made with natural sugars such as dates, honey, and jaggery. Doing so will not only provide the child with higher energy for sports activities but also build a solid foundation for future endurance activities and competitions.
To sum up, as children, especially those between the ages of 8-16, get more and more involved in a range of activities like sports and extra-curricular in addition to fairly long school and tuition hours, it has become imperative to give them essential nutrients to support their active lifestyle. Plus it’s easy for a child’s protein requirements to sometimes get side-tracked in a large busy household, resulting in an over adherence to easily available fast food and fried snacks. Hence, parents should encourage healthy eating practices right from early childhood and a variety of foods should be incorporated into their diet to ensure optimum nutritional intake.