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How much junk food is too much for a 16-year-old female student athlete?

My daughter is an athlete and she loves her junk food. I want to make sure she is getting the right nutrition to keep her going in her sports. I just can't seem to get her to stop eating junk food! Can you help?

Jocelyn | Expert


I tend to think any junk food is too much for anyone, period. However, I also am a realist and I know that keeping children (and ourselves at times) completely away from it is nearly impossible.

As a former athlete myself, I know the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, as food nourishes our bodies and helps them to function properly. As an athlete, a person should be trying to avoid consuming things that run the body down and should instead focus on healthy fuel such as lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and lots of water.

I believe allowing our children to have a "treat" such as a cookie or a candy bar once or twice per week is going to be fine, so long as they are filling up on healthy foods the rest of the time. Fresh or frozen veggies and fruits, whole grains and meats such as chicken and fish. I like to offer alternatives such as nuts, seeds and dried fruit made into a trail mix as a snack, or a low fat yogurt and some dry cereal or string cheese with a few pretzels or crackers. We also like to just grab a spoonful of peanut butter or drizzle some honey on banana slices for a sweet treat. 

When they want something more than water, I offer unsweetened iced tea, pure fruit juice or the occasional Gatorade (not too often though as it is still high in sugar). I do not keep soda or other carbonated or sugary drinks in the house, but I always keep ice cold water in the fridge so I know they will stay hydrated.

When our children are away from us, it's hard to control what they are taking in, but if we educate them as to what is good for their bodies and what is bad for their bodies and why, they do tend to make better choices. For further information on your specific child's needs, you can always refer to your pediatrician or a nutritionist.

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