Gill South: Is there enough fuel in the tank?

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Gill South takes her sporty sons to a dietitian to make sure they're eating the right foods.

A healthy lunchbox should include two pieces of fruit, one serve of dairy, yoghurt, milk or cheese, and three to four serves of carbohydrate. Photo / Thinkstock
A healthy lunchbox should include two pieces of fruit, one serve of dairy, yoghurt, milk or cheese, and three to four serves of carbohydrate. Photo / Thinkstock

I have been concerned that my sons, who are nine and 11, are not eating as well as they should given their busy sporty lives. They have soccer on Wednesday evenings, cricket on Thursdays, cricket net practice at other times and of course the game on Saturday. Or they are just energetically playing tag out in the back garden with friends.

We go to talk to Anna Keeley from ABC Nutrition, a trained sports dietitian, about what I should be putting in their lunch boxes and what they should be eating before a big sport activity. If I left it to them, they'd have cake, biscuits and chocolate milk.

Anna quickly wins their interest by working out their body mass index, weighing them and measuring their height. They both come out with BMIs of 18. My 11-year-old is in the 50th per centile for his age, while my 9-year-old is in the 75th per centile for his age.

Anna, a mum of two younger boys, concludes that the boys are a healthy weight for their age but need to eat a bit more given their lifestyle.

They should be eating five or six times a day, three meals plus morning tea, afternoon tea and supper. They should be eating more carbohydrates and more protein. Though their breakfast is excellent - cereal, toast and a fruit shake, she thinks they should have more sandwiches at lunch and more variety. She strongly recommends changing lunch boxes to ones with chiller sections so I can pop in little pots of hummus, yoghurt, carrot sticks and cheese or ham sandwiches.

Anna tells me a healthy lunchbox should include two pieces of fruit, one serve of dairy, yoghurt, milk or cheese, and three to four serves of carbohydrate.

I am slightly hampered with this surge in their food intake given the diet of my younger son who is the fussy eater in the family. He likes a total of three vegetables - beans, mange touts or sugarsnap peas and celery. To be fair, he likes cooked tomato sauce on his pizza and with pasta as long as sausage, ham or chorizo are involved. Fruit-wise, it's pineapple, cooked apple pureed but not raw apples, and he has an orange juice and banana shake but would never eat a banana. He likes yoghurt but only if there's no sign of fruit in it.

He astonishes me by asking why I don't buy raisins any more. "WHY DON'T I BUY RAISINS ANY MORE?" I roar. Because I spent my whole time finding them in his backpack rather than in his belly. This is the boy who hides dried apricots from his lunch box in the back pocket of the car seat. I should re-try him with things every now and then rather than just assuming he's never going to eat these things, says Anna gently.

The dietitian suggests milkshakes in the afternoon and is relaxed about a scoop of icecream going in as long as some fruit does too. Cereal before sport isn't silly, she adds and she likes our favourite cereals: Cheerios, Weet-Bix and muesli. Pasta, rice, noodles or wholemeal toast are good pre-sport carbohydrates. Sushi is great too. Anna recommends two glasses of reduced fat milk a day and stresses to the boys how important it is to re-hydrate during sport with water. So I'm off to the supermarket to buy yet more food - and I'm going to be a mug and buy some jolly raisins.

Next week:

I explore the area of painkillers and talk to a clinical pharmacist about what might work best for me.

- NZ Herald

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