My friends at school have lunches packed with junk food—cookies, fruit roll-ups, and candy! What’s the big deal about eating healthy when other stuff is quick and easy?
Bet you didn’t know that according to the dictionary, junk food is defined as lots of empty calories and very small amounts of nutrients that are good for you. That means junk food uses up a lot of your energy without giving you many nutrients in return to make your body healthy and strong.
So whether you are packing your lunch or getting it in your school cafeteria, your best bet is to make sure you’ve got a combination of foods. And, if you’ve got to have something sweet, grab a piece of fruit. You can enjoy the naturally sweet taste while loading up on vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients.
Many junk foods have a lot of added sugars called simple carbohydrates. This type of carb gets digested super fast and gets used as energy fast too. This can leave you in a slump. Ever heard, “I just got a major sugar rush!”? This is from the fast digestion of simple carbs. In the long run, it will make you tired and feel like you are drained of all your energy for the day.
It’s OK to enjoy an occasional cookie or a piece of candy, but you need to balance it with fruit, veggies, protein, and other foods that will give you long-lasting energy. Your diet can include any food in moderation—that means not too much or too often as long as more of what you eat is healthier stuff. Remember, you are what you eat!
Mornings are bonkers in my house and there is never any time for breakfast. Why does everyone keep telling me breakfast is so important?
Can you believe your body never turns off? Even during sleep, you’re growing and healing and using energy. Naturally, your body needs to replace the energy that was used during sleep. Sometimes you might not seem hungry, but your body needs to re-fuel. Filling up with breakfast will give your brain what it needs to ace a test, plus it will give your body what it needs to play with friends during recess, or to go to dance class or baseball practice after school.
Break—The—Fast. When you wake up, a lot of time has passed since dinner. Your body has been fasting (fasting means not eating food) for a long time! A breakfast filled with a balance of nutrients—protein, grains, fruit, and dairy—will give you long-lasting energy to help you make it through the day. Getting your Fast Break in the morning will give you energy for the entire day. Click here for some Fast Fixes.
Sometimes I find myself hungry and tired between meals. Is it OK to eat snacks or should I stick to three meals only?
Depending on how active you are, you might need to eat some mini snacks or “meals” throughout the day. Snacking can be a great thing to get that extra punch, and keep your energy up after school until dinner.
Here are some ideas for smart snacks when you need a nibble.
If I play a lot of sports, should I eat mainly meat and protein to build muscle?
The safest route is to cover all nutrients. You might hear stuff about packing in the protein to build muscle. Or, if you are an athlete, you may have heard that your diet should only consist of certain foods. Nope! Even if you’re more active than most kids, you should still eat all types of foods with a variety of nutrients to ensure that every part of your body is healthy and strong. You need vitamins (like vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes, and bones); minerals (like iron and calcium for strong bones and muscles); carbohydrates (for energy); protein (to build muscle), and even a little bit of fat. Too much of almost anything is bad – so mix it up! Always have water or a sports drink on hand to prevent dehydration. Try to avoid foods and drinks with lots of sugar because you need long-lasting energy. Energy from sugar will burn out and leave you tired and drained. You build energy during the day that gets you through the slumps and bumps.
Got more questions? Chat with your coach or parent to come up with the best eating plan for you!