It is the time of year for school sport and physical activity fun days. Whether you or the kids you coach are competitive athletes or just out to have fun, good nutrition is important.
For peak performance choose a variety of foods from each food group in Canada’s Food Guide every day. Vegetables, fruit and whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and oatmeal provide the carbohydrates needed to fuel the body for sports. Milk, fortified soy beverages, yogurt, cheese, and smoothies made with milk help build strong bones. Food from the meat and alternatives group such as chili, grilled chicken, stir-fried tofu and tuna sandwiches are high in protein and key sources of iron. Visit Health Canada’s website www.healthcanada.gc.ca/foodguide to create a personalized “My Food Guide”.
Insist that the food and beverages available at school events are healthy. Healthy choices not only help to fuel optimal performance, but their presence at school sporting events and fun days reinforces healthy eating messages taught in the classroom. Whenever possible, link healthy choices at activity days with your school’s healthy living programs.
Ensure the menu at school events allow students the opportunity to choose a balanced meal.
Instead of chips and candy, include milk, 100% real fruit/vegetable juice, cheese, apple slices or crisp raw vegetables and dip. Choose 100% whole wheat buns to accompany items like chili, soups and veggie burgers. As of 2007, all of the menu items for sale must meet the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in B.C. Schools. If you will be serving food you should contact your local Health Unit a couple of weeks prior to the event to determine if you need a Health Permit.
Staying hydrated during physical activity on a hot day can be a challenge. Most athletes do not drink enough fluids to keep their bodies working at their best. Make sure plenty of water and hydrating snacks like watermelon and orange slices are available to counteract all that sweating!
When participating in physical activities it is important to drink before, during and after the event or practice. Drink 1 ½ to 2 glasses of water at least 4 hours before exercise. Take water breaks every 15-20 minutes during the event or practice and keep drinking fluids after exercise is complete. For most activities that last 90 minutes or less, water is usually the best choice.
Parents and other spectators can be good role models by bringing healthy snacks to the next game, practice or sports day. Make healthy eating part of your life.
For more information on eating for performance contact HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to speak to a dietitian or to email a question www.healthlinkbc.ca/dietitian .
For a list of successful fun day ideas visit www.actionschoolsbc.ca and check out the Food Fit for Sports or Physical Activity Fun Days Handout.
– Cindy Bossio is a community nutritionist with Interior Health.