Children 9-12, teens must establish diets that provide for development
SALINA – Proper diets reflecting the onset of puberty and growth for children ages 9-12 and teenagers should be a critical focus for parents, said Cherokee Nation Clinical Dietitian Tonya Swim.
“Encouraging healthy choices to help provide adequate energy for growth and development should be the focus,” Swim said. “There is a change that not getting adequate nutrients can result in deficiencies, which could lead to loss of height, osteoporosis and delayed sexual maturation.”
Swim recommends establishing healthy habits early for children, including breakfast. “Having a healthy breakfast enhances brain function related to memory, testing and school attendance. Having a high-fiber breakfast with protein, fruit and a low-fat dairy is a great way to start the day off. An example of this could be a whole-grain English muffin with an egg patty prepared using a cooking spray and sliced avocado – the perfect quick breakfast sandwich.”
As children mature into teenagers, Swim said they need diets that provide proper nutrients and fuel. “Many teens will double their weight and can add up to 20 percent in height, and they need to make sure and get enough nutrients like calcium to support healthy bone growth. Teens will continue to have growth spurts, and it’s important for them to remember that their body needs food to help fuel healthy growth, especially if they are an athlete. But food for fuel is also important for those active with music or art. Their brains are working to hardwire their ability to process the skills needed for all activities.”
Parent should keep taste and appearance in mind when preparing meals, Swim said, as they seem to be important factors to teens. “Health and energy needs don’t matter so much to (teens), so as parents we need to provide those healthy choices in a way that is pleasing to eat and look at.”
Staying hydrated is also important as children and teenagers begin participating in sports and other activities. Swim recommends drinking two, 8-ounce glasses of water two hours before an event, as well as sports drinks during and after an event as a way to stay hydrated.
“Sports drinks provide fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes during extreme exercise,” she said. “This helps provide fuel for muscles, help maintain blood sugar levels and quench thirst. They also help to prevent dehydration. For specifics on what you or your student-athlete need contact a registered dietitian who is a board-certified specialist in sports nutrition.”
For families on the go to, Swim said planning is a way to keep eating healthy. “Every sporting event has a schedule. Take time once a week to map those out on a calendar and then sit down with the family to see who can help out where. Also, think about preparing extra on nights that you can cook. Then you just need to heat something up. Using the crockpot can be a lifesaver, then dinner is ready when you get home.”
For late night events, she said prepare sandwiches when possible and keep snacks handy such as whole fruit, apples, bananas, oranges, walnuts, almonds and skim mozzarella string cheese.
Swim said parents must also keep in mind that males and females mature differently and to alter their diets accordingly. “Because girls and boys mature at different ages and their growth spurts occur at different times, there are separate calorie needs. For example, as girls mature one place to focus would be on getting enough iron. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cells that carry oxygen.”
Swim said multi-grain rice with salmon and dark green salads are ways to add iron into meals, but recommends contacting a pediatrician or registered dietitian for diet needs.