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What to Know About Kids and Nutrition

By Molly Hurford, Outside, 10/15/19, 8:00PM CDT

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Nutrition knowledge is as critical to a young athletes mental health as it is to their physical growth.

Between finicky eating habits, constantly changing bodies, and a glut of kid-focused food-and-drink marketing, it can be tricky to figure out exactly what (and how much) to feed an active child. We know that children aren’t just scaled-down adults, but research is still sparse in youth sports nutrition.

Solid nutritional research is hard to conduct even among adults, and the challenges are greater with prepubescent kids. The subjects rapidly outgrow specific developmental phases, and the ethics of using children as test subjects—particularly if the eating patterns in question could be unhealthy—are murky, explains Brian Timmons, research director of the Child Health and Exercise Medicine Program at McMaster University. But scientists and nutritionists agree on one major point: how you feed your active child now will impact them for decades to come, both physically and psychologically.