After years of training youths and adults alike I have found that optimal nutrition for young adults is more important to growth and development than that of adults. Puberty being one of the most important developmental stages for ages 12-18, it is obvious that proper nutrient intake is critical to cognitive and physical development during these years.
The real problem with the nutrition of our youths is the quick fix mentality that is centered in all of their busy schedules. Most youths do not eat breakfast and even worse most do not eat more than a few times a day. These two alone can have serious consequences on health and performance of these children. To me, time is not an excuse for improper fueling of the body to fulfill daily activity needs and brain health.
My recommendation for children is to eat a well-balanced breakfast full of lean protein, some good fats, and some complex carbs from fruit or veggies. Many parents will take this advice as eggs and pancakes or cereal. This is a insulin nightmare in the works.
Lean protein can come from numerous sources: eggs, chicken, beef, fish, pork (yes, bacon can be good for you), and sometimes whey protein. It is crucial to get amino acids into the system early to fuel muscular activity.
Good fats will include avocado (guacamole), nuts not roasted in oil, and olive oil and coconut oil. Now I know some of the oils seem hard to get into our nutrition but cooking with these oils will provide an easy way for digestion in the morning. These fats provide the brain fuel to help our outlook on the day and increase cognition during crucial times of the day.
When choosing vegetables to eat, nothing is off limits. Green veggies will energize the body in a way other veggies and fruits cannot. But, some fruits like berries and pears can be added to provide a sweetness in the morning for some people used to the sugar content of cereal.
One of the best things about Metabolic Meals is the cycling of breakfast foods they provide that can help with monotony and laziness. There is no excuse to not eat your breakfast; all you have to do is heat it up (in some instances), or just eat it right out of the container.
Making things simple for children and young adults is one of the easiest ways to get compliance from them on the road to proper nutrition. The convenience of having already made meals takes away any issues of time and, sometimes heat to cook. When I was younger I was always trying to eat better but sometimes it just didn’t work out with practice schedules and school. Taking an approach to have meals already made and convenient will increase compliance of young adults with these busy schedules and school.
Written By: Bryan Sauder, Head Strength Coach at the St. Louis Center for Functional Medicine