Ask the experts: Food for active teens

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Ask the experts: Food for active teens

Q: "I have a 16-year-old daughter who is 175cm tall and weighs just over 50kg. She plays several sports with five practices and three games each week, and she loves other activities like skateboarding etc. I try to ensure she has plenty of snacks for before and after practices and games, but it is hard to ensure she has enough energy-rich food without too much sugar or fat. Can you suggest some useful foods to include in her diet? (Tinned rice and bananas are off the menu.)"


A: We asked nutritionist Claire Turnbull to help:

"Carbohydrate is the ideal fuel for exercise. This means trying to base meal and snacks on carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, kumara, breakfast cereals and fruit. Other handy foods that have carbohydrate, as well as some protein include yogurt, milk, and dairy-based smoothies.

Your daughter is very physically active, quite lean and still growing, so it's important to make sure she's eating enough and getting plenty of healthy, energy-rich foods. Before her exercise or sports practices, aim for snacks based on slowly absorbed (low-GI) carbohydrates with a little protein to help supply a steady stream of energy. Try:

  • Whole grain crackers with hummus or cottage cheese
  • Slice of whole grain toast topped with a small can of flavoured tuna or salmon
  • Small can of tuna, mixed with leftover pasta, chopped tomatoes and ripped basil leaves
  • Small bowl of muesli with yoghurt and milk
  • Low-fat yoghurt with frozen berries and chopped nuts
  • Smoothie made with a 1/2 cup trim milk, 1/2 cup yoghurt, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons oats and a dollop of honey
  • Small handful of dried fruit and nuts
  • Poached egg on a slice of whole grain toast
  • Homemade low-fat banana bran muffin
  • Leftover chunks of roast potato, kumara, pumpkin, warmed up
  • Bowl of thick vegetable and lentil soup

For afterwards, try a carbohydrate-rich snack with more quickly absorbed carbohydrate (medium- to high-GI) along with a little protein. This will help her to refuel quickly.

  • Toasted bagel with ricotta cheese and sliced pear
  • Crumpet with peanut butter and a teaspoon of jam
  • Breakfast cereal, low-fat milk and chopped fruit
  • Slice of thick fruit toast or a fruit bun and a low-fat yoghurt
  • Handful of dried apricots or raisins and a few almonds
  • Handful of pretzels and a glass of milk
  • Mini pita bread stuffed with shredded chicken, salad and a dollop of chutney."
First published: Jan 2009
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