Tara Gidus

How to Fuel Your Child for a runDisney Race

Ever wonder how to feed your child who loves to run? Whether your athlete is 7 years old sprinting the 400-meter or a 17-year-old cross country runner, nutrition plays an integral role in his or her wellness and performance. One of the many wonderful components of runDisney is that the whole family can participate. Likewise, the whole family should be fueled properly, and different family members have differing nutrient needs.

Keep these nutrients in mind while your child is preparing for a runDisney race:

  1. Hydration
    Children in general need ample fluids to carry out basic metabolism and growth, but especially active kiddos have an even higher need due to sweat losses. Children are more susceptible to heat strokes than adults are, and proper hydration plays a key role in prevention. It is suggested that children consume an additional 8-12 ounces of water for every half hour of physical activity. Water is the ideal form of hydration for children who are running an hour or less. Sports drinks are typically recommended only for runs longer than an hour.

  2. Adequate Calories
    Adults look to have calorie output match calorie intake to maintain weight. Children are growing and therefore need to be eating more calories than they're using in order to continue to grow. This means that especially active children may have increased calorie needs compared to their less active peers. You may notice that a child is hungrier during a running season, which is completely normal!

  3. Calcium and Vitamin D
    Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for bone strength and muscle functioning. It's especially important to consume these nutrients as a child athlete because this is an important time of building bone. Bone density typically peaks around age 25 and generally declines thereafter. Getting calcium from food sources is ideal and examples include milk, dairy products, soymilk, almond milk, broccoli, spinach, kale and fortified orange juices. Look for milk and orange juice that is also fortified with Vitamin D.

  4. Iron
    Young athletes who participate in intense exercise on a regular basis often lose more iron. Due to these losses, they may need more iron in their diet than other children their age. Teenage girl athletes are especially at risk of iron-deficiency anemia. Food sources of iron to offer your child include nuts, iron-fortified cereals and whole grains, beef, dark leafy greens (such as spinach or kale) and dark chocolate. It is recommended that iron supplements be avoided unless indicated by a health professional due to potential toxicity risks.

Enjoy fueling your child athlete for the upcoming Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend presented by PANDORA Jewelry or another Disney event with fun for the whole family! Tweet questions or comments to @DietDivaTara.

Known as the "Diet Diva," Tara Gidus is a nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and the official nutritionist of runDisney.