Nutrition 101 for Swimmers

My 3 great nephews joined a swim team for the first time…the Hartwell Hydros. They range in age from 6 to 9 years and it is fun to hear about their races and see the enjoyment they get from swimming. After watching a swim meet, here are some tips for parents whose kids are on swim teams; sort of a nutrition 101.

1. Just because kids are surrounded by water doesn’t mean they don’t need to drink water. After 30 minutes of swimming, kids can get dehydrated. Couple that with warm pool water, hot, humid air around the pool, and summertime high temperatures and kids can get dehydrated more quickly than adults. On swim meet days, keep your little ones hydrated by providing him or her with a water bottle and encourage drinking throughout the day. Ten to 20 minutes before the swim meet, have them drink 1 cup of water. Keep the water bottle near the pool so kids can sip water between heats. Sports drinks are useful for kids who sweat heavily and for those who don’t like water. Skip the fruit juice and soft drinks as they are too high in sugar to be good fluid replacers.

2. Keep quality carbs around the pool. Swimmers use muscles in the arms, legs and trunk and these muscles are fueled by carbohydrate. Choose carbs that provide nutrients to sneak in needed vitamins and minerals…fruit (bananas, orange or apple slices, or grapes are good choices…easy to pack and quick for snack). Fig bars or oatmeal cookies are better choices than chocolate cookies or candies (and fruit leather doesn’t qualify as a fruit, despite marketing claims).

3. Recover for the next day’s training. Swimmers train long and hard and need to refuel after a workout or a meet. Low-fat chocolate milk is a great recovery food….it provides high quality protein and carbohydrate along with nutrients like calcium, potassium and Vitamin D needed by kids for growth and development. Peanut butter on whole grain bread or crackers, trail mix with nuts, or low-fat string cheese and turkey wrapped in a tortilla make great snacks for the ride home.

Celebrating 4th of July..Country Style

It is interesting living in rural Georgia…for one thing, in Hart County, Georgia they don’t celebrate the 4th of July…they celebrate the “Pre-4th” complete with fireworks on the lake and festival on the town square the weekend before the 4th. At this year’s festival there was the usual foods…hot dogs, BBQ, snow cones, etc, but one booth went all out selling fried Oreos! So, when my family descended on our rural lake home for the real 4th of July (12 family members) I was determined to keep things a little bit healthier with no fried candy bars, fried chicken, or fried Oreos in sight.

We kept plenty of fruit on hand and I’ve learned that kids and adults will eat fruit (1) when it is cut into hand-size pieces and, (2) when there aren’t other snacks around like potato chips. Watermelon makes not only a good snack but the kids have fun with the rinds making funny faces (see my nephew, Reiss, for proof). We also had plenty of grapes (although I think about half ended up in the lake as projectiles aimed at those lounging in the lake), fresh Georgia peaches, and apple slices. On the veggie side, the baby carrots are always a hit even if the kids drench them in Ranch dressing (the fat in the dressing does help in the absorption of the healthy compounds in the carrots!).

The other thing we do is lots of organized activities….we held the annual one-mile fun run (see above) and while not everyone got out of bed (you know who you are) we had a good turn-out complete with prizes for first, second, and last place finishers. We even had a baby stroller division this year. My brother-in-law also organized activities like a fishing tournament and a swimming competition to keep everyone active and engaged.

Posting the daily menu helps keep everyone interested in meal time, even if “Uncle Rob’s famous BBQ Chicken” is just plain old grilled chicken with bottled BBQ sauce…it is all in the name and the presentation! We didn’t always eat healthy, but when we had pizza we stuck to cheese and mushroom (only one pepperoni pizza) and served a big green salad loaded with local tomatoes and cucumbers.

Having the 4th of July in the country is a different experience than city celebration…fireworks over the lake on the dock instead of driving to a crowded public display, but having family fun in the country can’t be beat.