Running on Empty

Fuel your children well so they last the distance

Our children today are different from previous generations – they are free to aspire to anything they wish, and what a wonderful thing that is.  We are all generally so much more aware of nutrition and lifestyle than previous generations were but now is the time to get with the programme on providing the correct nutritionally dense diet to go with our active lifestyles and that of our children.

If you have a sporty child, you have to remember that their nutritional needs are significantly different from a sedentary one. The quality and volume of their daily calorie count has to be much more and the timing of the refuelling is important for absorption and optimum performance.


It is imperative to start the day with a solid foundation of nutritionally rich and slow burning fuel. Lots of hydration from milk, water or watered down sugar free fruit juice will help concentration and keep hunger at bay until lunch.

Some Options:

  • Try Ruthie’s 2 Way Power Breakfast which you can prepare in advance
  • If you are going for cereal, choose a sugar free, high fibre option and top with fruit and milk
  • Wholemeal fortified yoghurt with chopped fresh fruit
  • Whole grain toast with protein rich eggs any way……… go easy on the oil if fried – try a low fat cooking spray instead
  • If they can’t face breakfast, as many heading into their teens can’t, get busy with the blender and make a protein power shake for them to take on their way.
  • Grab and Go Breakfast Muffins


Unescorted lunches a bit of a minefield as there are often nutritionally void options on offer in the school dinner hall and lots of peer influence to tuck into crisps and sugar at every opportunity.  It’s best to get them involved in the packed lunch process both at shopping and cooking stage so that they are more engaged in eating it.  Another excuse to hydrate them well and if they want something less Puritan than water in front of their friends, there are several healthy canned options on the market what give them a sweet and fizzy hit without the sugar. Purdeys is a good example and provides one of their five a day.

  • Delicious Bangin’ Bread sandwiches with whole seed peanut butter and banana
  • Pasta salad with avocado,  cheese and ham
  • Apples, bananas, fresh crunchy grapes
  • Lentil crisps

Sneak in a Snack

These fillers are where it can go horribly wrong if you don’t provide a healthy, fuel packed option. At some point in the day a sporty will child will be shrivelling with hunger and you need to have something else on hand to keep the show on the road without resorting to Mars Bars.

Flat Out Flapjacks provide essential nutrients on the go
  • Try my Flat Out Flapjacks which always go down without a fight
  • Portions of fast friendly fruit – apple, banana, grapes
  • Cheese cubes
  • Dried fruit
  • Beths Open Water Brownies
  • Hard boiled egg kept until required in its shell and eaten with a sprinkling of sea salt ( I keep a few of these in the fridge for grabbing snacks)
  • Hummus with carrot sticks and seeded oatcakes

Timing is everything. When there has been a sports event or training session that has had them running around for an hour or more, pack a small meal of protein and slow burning complex carbs such as a wholegrain wrap with ham and egg stuffed with dressed spinach leaves. That’ll give you a big bang of iron as well.


A couple or so hours after playing and the munchies will be back. Have a look through my blog for a host of ideas for supper – an Easy Chicken Roast  or Mighty Meatballs are a good place to start.

It’s a bit of work but worth it – smart, happy, healthy kids doing exactly what they should be doing – enjoying themselves!



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