Sports nutrition is a fundamental part of that puzzle. It is not important to see how many pieces of the puzzle come from the nutritional element, but rather it is more important to decide, as an athlete that no piece of the puzzle is worth going unaccounted for.
As a parent, I realize the puzzle pieces are in part a combination of emotional health, social development, physical growth, self confidence and a number of other pieces depending on whom you talk to.
The big picture is that all the pieces are important and none should be neglected for total health.
That is why, as parents and coaches we must help our kids develop schedules that reflect their developmental needs.
As an expert in the area of youth sports performance development, I focus on the need for physical training, proper supportive nutrition and rest to reduce stress. Every one of these things plays a huge roll in the ability of the young athlete's body to grow and repair.
The thing I see most kids and parents have trouble with, is filling their nutritional needs in regard to a hectic school schedule.
The following are 10 tips on how to fit your nutritional program into a busy school day.
The first step is to know your child's daily schedule, down to the minute, in order to best plan the timing of each meal, along with the type of meal that will be the most supportive for that given time of the day.
The next step is to know the school's policy on snacks. Some schools have very strict guidelines regarding snacking in class or the halls.
Lead by example. Children seldom do what they are told when their parents fail to set the proper example.
If you struggle making good nutritional choices, now is the time to make some changes. Your kids are not looking for perfection, but they expect you to show some honest effort.
Get your child's friends on the same plan. That is, if you have a close relationship with the parents of your kid's friends. You can share with the parents of the kids that you have chosen, to take steps toward improving your child's nutrition during the school day.
These parents face the same busy schedule and are most likely facing the challenges.
The first few hours of your child's day can be quite busy. That is why having a healthy balanced breakfast is so important.
Please let your child's teachers know you plan to play a very active roll in ensuring your child has good nutritional support through the day. Let them know your goal is to adapt your child's individual nutritional needs to meet their school schedule and the situations that come up.
Older children are given more opportunities in school to select less than supportive meals.
Many middle schools and high schools still have healthy choices, but now lots of schools have soda and junk food machines. Without the encouragement of the parents, most kids will go for the foods that simply taste better.
Take the time to sit down with your child and explain to them your reasons for wanting them to eat better and your expectations of them. Make sure your child in fully on board.
The last thing you want is to prepare good meals that just get thrown out. Take the time to plan meals that are not only balanced and healthy, but that are also foods your child likes.
Know that some foods will not last the whole day without refrigeration. It maybe necessary to have meals stored in a small cooler the size of a lunch box, or to bring meals to the school before a sports practice, or after school events on days they will be at school longer than normal.
Remember to be consistent in your efforts. Change takes time. Be sure not to throw too many new things at your child at once. Taking these steps is certainly not easy with a hectic school schedule.
But, they are certainly worth the effort when you can see that your child is not only healthier because of it, but that they can get more from their day. This will translate into increased sports performance, school performance and a positive mental attitude.