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6 Healthy Foods that Fool Young Swimmers
Jake was drinking a sports drink at lunch. Shelley ate 5 or 6 handfuls of nuts for her after-school snack. Graham guzzled OJ in the morning. What do these young swimmers have in common? They all thought they were healthy eaters.
Being a healthy eater means knowing which foods promote health and how much to eat. Some foods have the appearance of being healthy, but when you look at the ingredients and analyze their nutrition, they fall into the unhealthy zone. Other foods may be truly healthy items, but eating large amounts pushes them to the unhealthy side.
Many consumers are fooled by the food they eat. These 6 foods may be fooling your young swimmer, and here’s why:
Granola Bars. The lure of oats, honey, nuts and seeds is tempting because the promise of health seems to radiate from them. When they’re in isolation, yes, these ingredients are healthy, but packaged together and dipped in chocolate (or vanilla, peanut or other creamy, sugary coating), they aren’t. If you take a moment to scan the nutrition facts panel, you’ll find the percentage of fat and sugar can be off the charts! Be careful with these products— some granola bars resemble candy when their nutritional parameters are analyzed. If you can’t resist granola bars, you can always make your own or keep a cap on the fat, sugar and calories by limiting them to less than 5 grams per serving, less than 10 grams per serving and less than 180 calories per serving, respectively, in the packaged versions.
Cereal. Swimmers can go either way with cereal, which is another category of food that ranges from the uber healthy (high fiber, low sugar and low fat) to the surprisingly unhealthy (sugar-, fat-, and artificial color-filled). The good news about cereal is that it is often fortified with nutrients the young athlete can use more of, such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, folate and fiber. The bad news: if cereal is loaded with unhealthy ingredients, its benefit to athletic performance and health is questionable. Use these guidelines when purchasing cereal: keep sugar content less than 10 grams per serving (under 5 grams is even better), fiber content more than 3 gram per serving, and avoid artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
Sports Drinks. A sports drink can be a lifesaver for the swimmer, especially during those long, intensive workouts. Not only do they help prevent dehydration, they can be a source of energy for the swimmer. But, when misused, such as a routine drink with meals or consumed when not exercising, sports drinks can pose a threat to the young swimmers health. One 2014 study published in Obesity found that a serving of sports drink a day was more detrimental to kids’ weight than the same amount of soda daily.
100% Fruit Juice. Yes, it’s a natural food. Yes, it counts as a fruit. And, yes it’s full of vitamin C. But, when consumed in large volumes (more than 8-12 ounces per day), 100% fruit juice may contribute too much sugar to an athlete’s diet.
Nuts. Full of fiber, fat and protein, as well as nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E that help the brain and heart, nuts have long been touted as a health food. And they are healthy! However, because they provide a concentrated source of fat, nuts can level a powerful calorie punch. An ounce of nuts (roughly 23 almonds; 18 cashews; 35 peanuts; or 14 walnut halves) offers between 160-200 calories. If the young swimmer is tossing handfuls into his mouth, he may be getting too many calories.
Don’t be fooled by food—knowing what and how much the young swimmer should be eating will keep food as a friend, not a foe.
Energy Bar Lineup: Which Is Best?
With the start of school and the fall sports season comes the usual scramble by parents to find a nutritious snack to throw in their child's backpack or sports bag before they go off to school. . Lots of parents throw an energy bar into their child's backpack or sports bag before they go off to school so they have a nutritious alternative to the empty calories of a candy bar from the vending machine in the cafeteria.
But all energy bars are not created equal. Here at MomsTeam we have tried out many bars and have chosen 9 high protein options that will help ensure that your young athlete is eating healthy and has the energy for after-school sports.
What to look for
In undertaking our review we considered three main factors: the nutrition facts and ingredients listed on the label, how the bars tasted and how long the bars kept us full after eating one on an empty stomach.
Clif Builder's Bar - Chocolate Mint
Clif's high protein offering was already one our favorites. The crunchy-layered bottom and the chewy, chocolate-coated top tasted great, much like a thin mint Girl Scout cookie. The bar contains 20 grams of soy protein, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 8 grams of fat, 230 mg of sodium and 200 mg of potassium. The ingredients list is loaded with organic items, none of which are hard to pronounce. On an empty stomach, the 270-calorie bar kept me full over two hours, perfect for after lunch/before practice or after practice/before dinner.
thinkThin - Brownie Crunch
We were not familiar with the think brand, but their bar advertised 20 grams of soy and whey protein, and no sugar or gluten and that caught our eye. It contains 27 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fat, 150 mg of sodium and 150 mg of potassium. The bar's ingredient list checked out as well; no red flags (artificial ingregients, corn syrup etc.). After eating one an empty stomach, the bar only kept me satisfied for a little over an hour. The flavor was light, like carob, but the texture was a bit too mealy for my taste, and we felt that children, who are often picky eaters, might not like it as much as some of the other bars.
Power Crunch - Triple Chocolate High Protein Crème Filled Wafer
Another bar we hadn't seen before was BNRG's Power Crunch. Our initial reaction was that it tasted exactly like a Kit Kat bar! We loved the taste, but surprisingly, the sugar content was lower than many of the other bars, clocking in at 4 grams per serving. The fat content, however, was slightly higher at 13 grams. The bar advertises a blend of proteins that is easily absorbed and used by the body. Still, given the fact that it contains lower amounts of carbohydrate and protein than the other protein bars, I would classify the Power Crunch bar as more of a treat than a energy bar that will keep a kid going.
Promax - Double Fudge Brownie
The Promax bar was larger than most of the other bars, and it's packaging suggested that, yes!, I was about to eat a large molten chocolate covered brownie! Although the taste and texture of the bar beneath the wrapper wasn't at all like a real brownie, it still tasted chocolately and smooth, not as grainy as some bars. The nutritional content of the Promax bar is pretty good (lots of protein, vitamins and minerals), but on the downside, it also is high in sugar. One look at the ingredients reveals the culprit: corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup; both typically frowned upon, especially so high up the list. We felt that other bars were able to achieve better taste without so much sugar, but that the Promax bar was still a good choice, if it is going to be a long time between meals. We recommend eating half before practice and saving the other half for afterwards.
Muscle Milk - Chocolate Peanut Caramel
Covered in chocolate, oozing with caramel; any kid would eat this bar ... but should they? The Muscle Milk bar has the most protein of any of the bars we tested. It also has the most calories and saturated fat. Corn syrup and artificial flavors made their way onto the ingredient list, nestled in between numerous natural ingredients. The bar is huge, and kept us full for hours. This is a bar that I would choose in a blind taste test, however, I would not recommend it after reading the nutrition facts.
Kashi GOLEAN Chewy Protein & Fiber Bar - Cookies and Cream
We thought that the Kashi's GOLEAN bar was on par with Builder's bar for excellent taste and filling ability, and surprise, we could actually recognize some of the ingredients just by looking at the bar! The nutrition facts calmed our nerves, rather than sending us to Google the chemical sounding ingredients. Kashi produces an outstanding line of products, and Youth Sports Parents recommends the CRUNCH! line of bars as well. GOLEAN bars are delicious, all natural, and slightly smaller, for smaller stomachs.
Odwalla - Super Protein
Although the ingredients list of Odwalla's Super Protein bar reads like it was written by a health food guru, the indiscernible, slightly odd taste of the bar immediately turned us off. Despite having some of the best credentials of all the bars we tested, the taste and texture of the bar was off-putting. For those who can look past the taste aspect (hard to when you are trying to get kids to eat one), the bar is quite nutritious and would be a great snack.
Kind Fruit+Nut - Macadamia and Apricot
Although not exactly a protein bar, Kind's Fruit and Nut bars are wonderfully simple, and good tasting. The Macadamia and Apricot bar is made up of all natural ingredients (most are whole foods), and it is sweetened with honey, rather than sugar or corn syrup. Though at first glance, the bar seems to have a lot of fat, the fat is from nuts, which are great for a growing body and for strengthening the heart.
Clif Bar - Carrot Cake
The original Clif Bar line is like an old friend, indispensable for soccer games or hiking packs alike. Although not especially high in protein, (10g), it still impresses us with it's low fat/sodium, high fiber and carbohydrates, and 23 vitamins and minerals. The bar is made out of 70% organic ingredients, is sweetened with organic brown rice syrup for long-lasting energy, rather than a sugar rush/crash, and some how manages to still taste great. On an empty stomach the bar kept me full for roughly two hours. Though not a new product, the original Clif Bar still impresses us.
PureFit caught our attention with it's vegan, kosher, no wheat/no gluten/no dairy, high protein (18 grams), low glycemic index chocolate brownie bar. The bar, which is made out of all natural ingredients tastes good, possibly a bit dry, but chocolaty and satisfying, and claims it won't melt, making it good for a long trip in a sports bag. Bottom line, kids will definitely like it and so will nutritionists.
Top 8 Healthy Snacks for Teenagers
Teens can be a tough group of people to please, especially if they’re your own! One thing is for sure, if you have a growing teenager, plan to have your grocery bill skyrocket. They can eat a lot of food. On the opposite extreme, you may have a small-ish teen who doesn’t eat much at all. Whether they have hit a growth spurt, or their appetites is diminished, they can both eat the same healthy snacks!
We’ve always seen snacking as a way to meet nutrient gaps from the day. If they day is half gone and no protein has been consumed, I always suggest a snack higher in protein. If no fruits or veggies have been eaten, then I suggest one of those!
The perfect snack to me, is one that has a little protein paired with some complex carbs. These can not only fill nutritional gaps in a teens diet, but they are also filling and satiating! These are some of our favorites:
When it's time to choose a liquid chug after a long, tough workout, there's a slew of options out there. Water? Gatorade, POWERade, or All Sport? Endurox R4? Physiologist Joel Stager, director of the Human Performance laboratory at Indiana University, has even one more potential workout recovery drink to add to the list: chocolate milk. His latest , published in this month's International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, names this kids' favorite an optimal post-exercise recovery aid.
Before your stomach recoils, take a look at chocolate milk's ingredient list. For a high-endurance athlete, Stager's team sees it as a catch-all workout recovery drink. Compared to plain milk, water, or most sports drinks, it has double the carbohydrate and protein content, perfect for replenishing tired muscles. Its high water content replaces fluids lost as sweat, preventing dehydration. Plus it packs a nutritional bonus of calcium, and includes just a little sodium and sugar — additives that help recovering athletes retain water and regain energy.
Drinking plain water after exercise replaces sweat losses — and that's it. "Chocolate milk provides carbohydrate replenishment to your muscles — something they can metabolize," said Jason Karp, MS, another researcher for this study. "There's nothing to metabolize in water."
Stager's assessment of chocolate milk is even simpler. "It's water plus a whole lot more," he said.
If you’re a competitive swimmer you’ll already be aware of the importance your diet plays on your performance in the pool. Here are a few healthy meals and snacks for athletes.
If you’re planning to go swimming or training later in the day try to eat an exercise-friendly meal two and three hours before you go. This means keeping your carbohydrate and protein levels high on roughly a 60:40 ratio and not pigging out on sluggish unsaturated fats. Here are some good examples:
Unless you’re trying to lose body fat don’t train on an empty stomach, you’ll be running on empty and your performance will be impaired. Eat a small meal or snack between one and two hours before you start your training.
Great snacking foods are:
Snacking During the Day
Elite athletes keep their blood sugar level as constant as possible by snacking regularly (and healthily) during the day. Only do this if you’re training enough not to add body weight from the increased food/calorie intake.
Target the same snacks you would as a pre-training boost – complex carbohydrates, fruits or protein shakes.
If you’re putting in the meters in the pool, your body will need a boost when you finish your training.
Always try to refuel within 30 minutes of finishing and preferably within 15 minutes – your body immediately needs nutrients to repair muscles and replace energy. A sandwich is a good choice. .
Make sure you’re refueling with the ‘right’ foods though – something low in fat but high in carbohydrates and protein.
Winner Gets a $15 i-Tunes Gift Card
Last Month's Winner: Jessica Berry, FSC
Last Month's Answer: He swam the entire 50 meters underwater.
Winner will be determined by a random drawing from all of the correct answers submitted.