7 tips for fueling an active child’s insatiable appetite

Fueling an active child (or children) can be an ongoing challenge for parents. Even your afternoon welcome can often feel more like a police raid – rummaging the cupboards and fridge for anything they can get their little hands on.

So how do you fuel Master 11’s insatiable appetite? Or Miss 15’s heavy training year?

Here are 7 top tips to help fuel your growing, active kids to keep them happy, healthy and performing at their best.


1. On your marks. Set. Go.

Kids need proper fuel to help them train and compete at their best. At the foundation of any pre-exercise fuel, should be good-quality carbohydrate foods that are low in fat.

Top Tip:
Encourage your child to eat some carbohydrates 2-3 hours before a game and/or choose a light snack 1-2 hours before exercise. This will help top up fuel stores and give them the energy needed for exercise.

Refuel options:

  • Pasta with low-fat tomato sauce
  • Salad and lean meat sandwiches
  • Home-made smoothies
  • Fruit
  • Yoghurt
  • Muesli bars.


2. Breakfast of champions

Despite the proven benefits, almost 1 in 6 Aussie kids still skip breakfast.  For sporty kids, breakfast:

  • Is an important source of nutrients (energy, fibre, iron, b vitamins, calcium)
  • Supports concentration and memory at school
  • Tops up their body’s fuel for the day and training ahead.


So start your kid’s day right with a healthy breakkie, such as:

  • Wholemeal/wholegrain toast with cheese and tomato
  • High fibre breakfast cereal with milk and fruit
  • Raisin toast and a glass of milk


On the run? Why not try a breakfast smoothie with milk, yoghurt and fruit blended with oats in a takeaway mug.

3. Fuel up

Food and drinks high in good-quality carbohydrate provide fuel for two important areas in the body:

  • Brain
  • Muscles


Kids (and adults) have a limited supply of stored carbohydrate (also known as glycogen), so regular top ups are crucial to keep the body running at its best.

Don’t forget to include some carbohydrates at each meal and snack. Not sure where to start? Choose carbohydrate foods in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines, such as wholegrain breads, pasta, rice, fruit, potato/sweet potato, milk and yoghurt.

4. Build ‘em muscles

Kids don’t need protein supplements – but they do need protein! A good mix of proteins throughout the day will keep their muscles growing and help with exercise recovery. It’s important not to rely on dinner as the only protein meal.
Good protein sources for the lunchbox (protein choices highlighted in blue):

  • Egg or chicken and lettuce sandwich
  • Milk or yoghurt
  • Cheese or tuna and wholegrain crackers
  • Vegetable sticks with hommus


5. Fat Facts For Families

Kids (like adults) need some fat in the diet.


  • Helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, E, D)
  • Is an important energy source for kids who are growing and developing
  • Healthy fats protect the heart.

These foods contain good sources of fats: fish (especially salmon/tuna), olive or canola oil, nuts and seeds, avocado. You can find more information about fats here.

6. Food and fluid to go go go

Finding healthy, non-perishable and school-friendly meals and snacks can be tricky. Try keeping some non-perishable foods in your child’s training bag to ensure they always have a stand-by fuel booster:

  • UHT plain/flavoured low-fat milk
  • Muesli bars
  • Raisin toast
  • Up&Go
  • Fruit or fruit cups in natural juice
  • Home-made snack ideas, such as fruit muffins or my favourite muesli bars (you can omit the nuts).

Did you know that dehydration can have detrimental effects on a child’s athletic performance? So ensure your child has good fluid habits by keeping a cool drink bottle of water in the school bag and training bag.

 7. Seeking Support

Sometimes, busy parents just need to know where to go for help, ideas and inspiration. Here are some useful links that every parent of a sporty kid should get familiar with:


Healthy ‘go-to’ recipes for busy parents



Holly is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian. She regularly writes for health and fitness magazines. Holly knows first-hand the importance of good nutrition for optimal sports performance having competed at national-level cross country and athletics championships throughout her childhood years.