Mites and Squirts are growing children and athletes, and they can be picky eaters. It is the nature of who they are. They are finally old enough, 6-10 years old, to understand they are separate from their parents and they can make their own decisions.
But they are still very young and have limited opportunities to make decisions on their won. Stop and think for a moment about the choices a child 10 and under can make on their own. They go to school and they are told what to do all day and how to do it. At home they have rules to follow. On the ice there are rules to follow. When you take an honest look at a true day of your 6-10 year old skater you will see they don’t have many areas where they can make a decision on their own.
Enter food. When your child is offered food this is a time they can decide if they are going to eat it or not. They have control. They can feed themselves. They finally have the “power” which they don’t have in many other parts of their lives.
So how is a parent supposed to cope with the budding independence of their child and youth ice hockey player?
#1 Limit the battles. When I look at a young skater’s food intake I look at the entire week. Mites and Squirts are at the age where they may want to eat the same food all day long. I remember my sons had bread days, fruit days, meat days. Rarely did they eat a wide variety of food in one day when they were Mites and Squirts
#2 Keep an eye on hydration. Encourage water over sports drinks and fruit juices to limit unwanted sugar calories and added food dyes. Your young skater does not sweat like you do and can become over heated, especially in all their hockey gear. It is important to offer water and make water available throughout the day and before, during and after practices.
#3 Encourage fruits and vegetables. I know “he will not eat vegetables” or “she will not eat fruit.” I bet you can find one fruit and one vegetable they like. If not, don’t panic. They will grow and they will eat. Trust me I had picky eaters and now I have teenage boys, 5’8′ and 5’11” who are always looking for “something else to eat.”
#4 Try not to have a lot of prepackaged snack food in the house. I know these foods are convenient, however you want your young skater to think of things like cereal (aim for 10 g or sugar or less per serving, just check the food label), toast, bagel or English muffins, fruit, yogurt, stove popped or air popped popcorn as snacks.
#5 Remember the food habits they develop as young children will continue to be the habits they practice as they grow. Build a solid sports nutrition foundation, one simple piece at a time and by the time your skater is a Bantam they will know how to make championship choices when you are not around.
Curious if you these tips will help your skater. Take a moment to read about 10 year old Nathan Conklin, who has been playing AA Squirts for 3.5 years. “One of his biggest challenges as you know had been hydration and he is now consistently getting his daily water intake and it has improved his skating, stamina, and overall playing quality in practice in a short time. He recently attended clinics over the Thanksgiving holiday and by following your nutrition and hydration guidelines he was able to perform at his best through 3 back to back 1 hour and 20 minute sessions with only a 10 minute break in between – two of which were power skating. When he got off the ice he was still fully energized and ready for more.” (Nathan is the featured skater for this article) Your skater can do it too!
Now give it a try. The next time you go shopping ask your skater to come with you and let them pick out some fruit they want to eat.
Here are two fun recipes my sons loved when they were Mites and Squirts:
Fruit Cabobs: sliced bananas, whole strawberries, chunks of apples, pineapple, Mandarin oranges can be placed in bowls at a creation station. Give your child and their friends a wooden disposable baking skewer and let them decide what fruit goes on their skewer. I would encourage you to supervise this activity. My boys had “light sabers battles” before the baking skewers were filled with fruit.
Breakfast or Snack banana splits: slice a banana, place your child’s choice of chopped fruit in the banana, top with Greek or regular yogurt and sprinkle on sliced almonds or sunflower seeds (obviously if there are nut allergies don’t use). This banana split can be shared between two small skaters.
If you liked this article visit www.hockeymomrd.com for more nutrition tips.
Kim Hockey Mom RD
Author of Amazon’s Best Selling Hockey Book Eat, Skate, Win: 7 Steps For Your Youth Ice Hockey Star To Eat Like A Champion.