My daughter is an active Special Olympic Athlete so nutrition is important for her. At the age of 14 should I be giving her light juices, ones that are made with Splenda? She is not obese but is a bit bigger than most girls her age.

I think it is fantastic that your daughter takes part in the Special Olympics. What a great organization. I love their mission statement: “The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.” The fact that she is active and takes part of this is great news. Adolescents that get regular physical activity are generally healthier than those that are sedentary, and this can help them grow into healthy adults!

Because your daughter is active, she will need to take in an adequate amount of the right kind of calories, protein, and fluid. I find that many adolescents consume far too many calories from beverages, which can lead to weight gain. Old Orchard’s Healthy Balance juice is a great example of a beverage that would suit your daughter. It is low in sugar and low in calories…but high in vitamin C and flavor! She can consume this to rehydrate after exercise or you can combine this with fresh fruit, yogurt and some ice to make a delicious and healthy smoothie! To best fuel your daughter for an active day, make sure she is starting the day out right by eating breakfast. Great examples of a healthy breakfast include: high fiber cereal topped with blueberries and paired with skim or soy milk, a few slices of whole wheat toast topped with nut butter and served with Healthy Balance juice, Steel-Cut Oatmeal combined with dried fruit and topped with skim milk, or Greek yogurt mixed with fresh fruit and nuts.

Next, be sure that your daughter is consuming lunch by either pre-packing it the night before or arranging healthy school lunches (as available). Salads filled with lots of fresh vegetables and topped with chicken can serve as a healthy lunch. Turkey sandwiches topped with avocado, lettuce, tomato and mustard also provide healthy fiber, protein and carbohydrates. If your daughter has an activity planned after school, she may benefit from having a healthy afternoon snack like a handful of almonds, string cheese, a piece of fruit or hummus and carrots. It is important for her to consume plenty of fluids so remind her to stay hydrated and consistently drink water or low sugar juice.

Finally, after a long day it is a good idea (if possible) to eat together as a family. Parents need to serve as positive nutrition role models for their kids, so chat with your kids about the importance of good nutrition. They will learn so much by watching you consume healthy foods and by helping you prepare dishes filled with fiber, protein, and love!

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