By Emilee Ten Eyck, clinical dietitian at CHOC
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s CHOC Walk in the Park has adapted by becoming a virtual event. The beloved community event, now in its third decade raising much-needed funds for CHOC, will be reimagined. Virtual fundraising efforts culminate in a virtual celebration, after which, supporters are invited to take a safe walk in their communities.
In order to prepare our bodies for physical activity, it’s essential we we have adequate nutrition and hydration. Here are a couple of tips for families to ensure their bodies will be fueled and ready for the walk:
1. Drink water throughout the walk
Our bodies are made up of water and it’s one essential part of any diet. When we don’t drink enough water, our body cannot function as well as it normally does, and we become dehydrated. CHOC recommends children drink the number equal to their age of eight-ounce cups. An example would be a 5-year-old should drink five 8-ounce cups every day. For children over the age of 8 years old, it is recommended that they drink 64 ounces of water every day. During physical activity, the body requires more water due to the body heating up.
2. Water is the most appropriate drink for hydration during the walk; sports drinks may not be needed
Most children only need water for hydration during exercise. It is recommended that water be the drink of choice for high intensity exercise lasting less than one hour or casual physical activity. If plain water doesn’t seem as appealing to drink, you can always add crushed fruit or herbs to give different flavors.
Some fun combinations to try are:
- Berry Mania (strawberries, blueberries and raspberries)
- Strawberry and Mint
- Tropical Splash (pineapple and orange)
- Citrus Explosion (orange and lemon)
3. If you are going to eat one to two hours before the walk, try to pick foods that are easily digestible.
Eating too large or too heavy of a meal will cause an upset stomach if you work out afterwards. Try to pick foods that are easily absorbed in the body and will not weigh you down. Some examples of good pre-walk foods are fresh or dried fruits, oatmeal, trail mix or whole grain cereal and low-fat milk.
You can always make your own trail mix to prepare for the CHOC Walk by mixing different nuts, seeds, cereals, dried fruit and other items. Here are some examples of family-friendly trail mixes:
- Tropical — dried pineapple, cashews, dried coconut, banana chips and pretzels
- Sweet and Salty — popcorn, peanuts, raisins, dried fruit, almonds, sunflower seeds and chocolate candies
4. If walking for more than 90 minutes, bring a small snack to eat during the walk.
After 90 minutes of exercise, your body would benefit from a small snack of fruit, vegetables, trail mix or a granola bar to keep your energy level up.
5. Have a balanced meal post-walk
The meal after completing the CHOC Walk is just as important as preparing for the walk. Your body needs a balance of nutrients to recover from exercise. It is recommended to have a low-fat protein source (chicken, salmon, eggs or lean meats), a source of grains (brown rice, pasta, whole-grain bread), fruits and vegetables after working out. Protein is important for the body to build and maintain muscle mass.