KIDS' QUESTIONS

February 2002

Hey Dayle!

Dietitian Dayle Hayes, a former board member for the American Dietetic Association, answers your questions about how to keep your body healthy and in top shape for competitions. The response to Kids' Questions continues to be impressive, so keep those questions and photos coming every month!

Dietitian Dayle Hayes

Q: How do diet and nutrition fit in with skating? Elizabeth Tran, 12, San Jose, Calif.

DH: Eating right is essential for success in skating, Elizabeth. Food is the fuel for strong skating — and for all the other things you want to do in life. Coaching, practice, attitude and equipment are all important, but without the right fuel, you may never reach your full potential as a skater. As a growing athlete, nutrition gives you a competitive edge with:

  • Carbohydrate energy (from foods like bread, pasta and rice) to skate strong, study hard and have fun with your friends,
  • Protein (from foods like hamburgers, chops, peanut butter, steak and stir-fry) and other nutrients to grow and maintain powerful muscles,
  • Vitamins and minerals contained in foods that help you look beautiful from the inside out

Q: I will be skating at the novice level next season, and I train in the morning and after school. What types of food combinations will give me the most energy for my training? Are any of the sports energy drinks good for somebody my age? Felicia Gostisbehere, 11, Margate, Fla.

DH: For skaters on the go, smart snacking becomes more important than ever. The right food combinations and enough fluids will help you keep up with your busy schedule. Even when you are eating on the run, you need to get some protein, carbohydrates and fat every time you eat. For nutrition-to-go, try these snack combinations:

  • Your favorite bagel with peanut butter
  • A tortilla wrap with slices of lean roast beef and Swiss cheese
  • A carton of yogurt, a granola bar and juice

Sports drinks can be a refreshing way to rehydrate and get a short-term boost, but they won't work for long-term, sustained energy. You need to eat a variety of foods for that … and don't forget to drink plenty of water, too!

Q: I have a problem with eating junk food and eating all the time. How can I control myself and still be healthy for figure skating? Jamie, 13, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

DH: I have some good news for you, Jamie. There is no such thing as “junk food.” You can eat any food and stay “in control” — the key is balance. To avoid that starving feeling and to keep from “eating all the time,” eat a balanced meal or snack every time you eat. Balance means:

  • Some high-energy carbohydrates (bread, cereal, pasta, rice or fruit)
  • Some nutrient-rich protein (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds or eggs)
  • Some fat for taste and satisfaction (most protein foods come with some natural fat, so you may not need to add any more)
  • Some essential vitamins, minerals and fiber (fruits and vegetables)

Q: What is the “ideal” weight for a female pairs skater? Keli Nguyne, 12, Littleton, Colo.

DH: Although lots of people worry about this issue, there is no one ideal weight. A healthy weight is a very individual thing, and it depends on your age, height, bone structure, genetics and other factors. It is important to look at the things that affect your skating and overall health, like:

  • Growth patterns: Are you still growing in height?
  • Energy levels: Do you have enough energy for practice and competition?
  • Eating habits: Are you eating a variety of foods from all layers of the Food Guide Pyramid?
  • Skating performance: Do you have the power and endurance you're striving for?

These go for your partner, too. In pairs skating, both partners need to be healthy and strong.

Q: Do skinny people,especially figure skaters, only eat fruits and vegetables to maintain their weight? Jenny, 9, Los Angeles

DH: No way!! Although fruits and veggies are packed with important vitamins (and great taste), they do not have everything you need to be healthy. In fact, they lack some of the most important nutrients — like protein, iron and zinc — that skaters need to be their best.

Most healthy, skinny people eat a variety of different foods. Here's why skaters need to eat protein foods, like beef, that are packed with nutrients:

  • Protein builds muscle for powerful jumps and smooth spins
  • B-vitamins help convert carbohydrate energy into muscle energy
  • Iron helps carry oxygen to every cell for fast, strong skating
  • Zinc helps repair muscle tissue after hard workouts

Q: One of my friends, who is also a figure skater, is trying to lose weight on a high-protein, low-carb diet. Is this a healthy way to lose weight? Janice, 16, New York

DH: Extreme diets of any kind do not work over the long-term — and they can be dangerous.

Strong, healthy skaters need both protein and carbohydrates. Too much, or too little, of either nutrient can be a problem for performance and health. Protein foods, like lean beef, and dairy foods are essential to build and repair muscles. Carbs, from breads, cereals, veggies, fruits and other foods, are also a good source of fuel for muscles — and for your brain.

Q: How much fat should I have in my diet? Will I be able to control my weight better if I cut out most fat? Terry, 16

DH: Trying to cut out all fat would be a real drag — and it's definitely not the way to control your weight. Some fat is necessary for good health — especially for great looking skin and hair. Fat also provides long-term energy and satisfaction from meals. People who try to avoid all fat often find themselves eating constantly in order to have enough energy. The best amount of fat for you depends on your height, weight and activity levels. A registered dietitian (RD) could help you figure out what that amount is.

Q: I am a juvenile skater. I eat all kinds of food, including hamburgers and fries a couple of times a week, and pizza a few times a month. Does this intake of unhealthy food harm my health and progress at skating? Victoria Cai, 11, Millis, Mass.

DH: Hamburgers, pizza and even fries are not unhealthy foods — unless that's all you ever eat. Eating all kinds of foods is a great plan. The good news for aspiring skaters is that all your favorite foods can be included in a high-energy eating style. The key is moderation and variety in your diet. Variety — eating all kinds of different foods — is the best way to give your body all the nutrients that it needs. In fact, the beef in burgers is a great source of ZIP — zinc,iron and protein. Every skater needs these nutrients for peak performance. Whether you're looking for brainpower or muscle power, ZIP is what you need.

Q: I know all about the Food Pyramid, but I can't stand fruits and vegetables. I have tried and tried to eat them, but I just don't like them at all. Can I get all the nutrients I need eating foods from other parts of the food group, like meat and bread, and taking a multi-vitamin? Sam, 14, Pennsylvania

DH: Sam, the simple answer is no. Multi-vitamins are supplements, not a total nutrition answer — and you can't replace the extreme nutrition power of produce with a pill. Fruits and veggies really are essential for lookin' good and feelin' great. Be adventurous and think about these tasty possibilities:

  • Fruit smoothies with bananas, peaches or berries
  • Dried blueberries or raisins in cereal or trail mix
  • Tomato soup with rice, stars or noodles
  • Beef taco with shredded lettuce or spinach, and salsa
  • Frozen yogurt topped with berries
  • Ice-cold 100% fruit juice boxes
  • Chili or pizza made with tomato sauce

Q: I am not a kid, but a coach who teaches a lot of kids. I try to watch out for the general health and well-being of my skaters. If I could give them three or four simple tips about eating right that they will remember, what would they be?

DH: I can tell that you are a good coach just by your question. The first step, which you have already taken, is to let kids know that you are concerned and to focus on simple, need-to-know nutrition information. Here are my top four tips:

  • Skip the silly stuff. Extreme diets, fads and supplements do not work over the long-term.
  • Go for balance. It's as important at the table as it is on the ice. Eating smart means enjoying all foods — just don't overdo it.
  • Eat and drink regularly. Skipping meals leads to pigging out later, and getting dehydrated makes you feel like a wet noodle.
  • Make snacks count. Busy skaters need power snacks. Make sure that every snack includes some protein, like beef jerky, peanut butter or yogurt.