You might have thought “Youngsters can eat what they want at their age – they’ll just burn it off!” at some point in your life. Eating enough to grow and develop is essential – I cannot stress this enough. Likewise, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to go overboard. So, what’s the point in healthy nutrition at a young age?
It’s All About Balance
For young athletes (adolescents), it is important to eat enough for growth and development as they go through puberty and face sports training and performance. Whilst it may be easy to get those extra calories from high-calorie foods such as fatty ready meals, chocolate bars and burgers, such options will not have nearly as many healthy nutrients as adding a bit more fruit and veg, lean protein, and healthier carbohydrates and fats into your diet. These will be nutrient-dense (they have a lot more vitamins and minerals) which are key for health and performance. Feeling under the weather? B-vitamins (e.g. in meat, fish, and milk) and vitamin C (oranges, apples, green leafy veg) can help immunity (Gleeson, 2016) and wound-healing. Want strong, healthy bones and teeth? Calcium (dairy, fish) and vitamin D (eggs, mushrooms, and mostly sunlight exposure) (Theobald, 2015; Cannell et al., 2009). These are just some examples of how having a balanced diet can help.
Eating a healthier food will not cancel out ‘junk’ food and eating ‘junk’ food does not mean you should feel guilty. It’s all about balance. Guidelines are there to help. Developing healthy habits will help you get an advantage. These habits are the habits of a champion. Rather than focussing on a…
“I’ll eat less of this” approach, why not try a…
“I’ll have more of this”
Trying to add more colourful fruit and veg, lean proteins, wholegrain carbohydrates and healthier fats is a great start. You might just pick one of these, like “I’ll have more green leafy veg this week” and take it from there! This is a great way to build the habits of a champion! These habits can become your regular routine before you know it, and you will likely feel all the nutrition benefits on your health and performance. We’ll discuss how you might build the habits of a champion in the next blog. Until then - happy eating!
Guest Author: Liam Oliver, BSc Nutriton.
Cannell JJ, Hollis BW, Sorenson MB, Taft TN, Anderson JJ (2009). Athletic performance and vitamin D. Med Sci Sports Exerc., 41 (5), 1102-1110.
Desbrow, B., Mccormack, J., Burke, L., Cox, G., Fallon, K., Hislop, M., ... Leveritt, M. (2014). Sports Dietitians Australia position statement: Sports nutrition for the adolescent athlete. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 24(5), 570-84.
Theobald, H. E. (2005). Dietary calcium and health. British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition Bulletin, (30), 237–277.
Gleeson, M., (2016). Immunological aspects of sport nutrition. Immunology and Cell Biology (2016) 94, 117–123. 2016 Australasian Society for Immunology Inc.