The new nutrition standards established by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act at the US Department of Agriculture represent an important step in America’s fight against childhood obesity and will help promote healthy eating habits for youth in our nation’s schools. These standards promote a balanced diet of additional fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean proteins, and whole grains, while eating less sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
Allyson Felix, member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist in track and field, tells us how good nutrition has improved her health and gives her the energy she needs to perform like a champion:
“In the morning before I lace up my running shoes, grab my workout bag and head out the door to the track, I always have my go-to breakfast of oatmeal, fresh fruit and a tall glass of water. It’s an absolute must to fuel my body for the work day I have in front of me. I may have a unique job as a professional track and field athlete; however my day is not unlike most. I’m up early rushing between workouts, meetings, events, and additional training sessions and functions in the afternoon and evening. Trying to keep pace with the days demands can be challenging, but giving my body the proper nutrition it needs allows me to maintain my energy and perform at a high level.
“Eating the proper foods at the right time is what gives me the energy to perform at an Olympic level. When I go to practices andcompetitions, I have teammates and coaches relying on me to be properly energized and prepared for the work that lies ahead. I start off each day with a healthy breakfast that always includes whole grains like cereal, toast or oatmeal and fruit. I don’t have a large morning meal because shortly after eating I’m warming-up on the track or training in the gym and don’t want to feel overly full or sluggish.
“My lunch is usually a salad of fresh vegetables such as lettuce, carrots and tomatoes topped with chicken breast and nuts/seeds or I grab a sandwich on whole grain bread. I always add fresh fruit to my lunch and continue to hydrate with water. My meals are not huge, but just enough to feel satisfied and re-fueled for the next part of my day. I do eat frequently throughout the day by adding in snacks between meals such as granola bars and smoothies. The healthy snacks keep my energy level high so I don’t get too hungry and tired. I end my day with a balanced dinner of lean protein which is fish, chicken or beef, fresh vegetables and brown rice or potatoes.
“If you have a busy and active schedule like mine, proper nutrition is critical to your success. Here are a few of my nutrition tips that have fueled me forward in achieving my goals on and off the track:
- Create routine- Stick to a daily eating plan; try to eat at similar times of the day to avoid drops in your energy level;
- Plan meals and snacks- Know what you’re going to eat and have it on hand. Bringing healthy snacks to school or work will ensure you have something nutritious to eat between meals;
- Make it colorful- The more color you have on your plate the better. By adding fruits and vegetables to your meals, you’ll give your body more of the vitamins and minerals it needs;
- Drink water- Staying hydrated is critical to peak performance. I like to include water with all my meals and snacks and also bring a water bottle to workouts; and
- Build a meal based on the USDA food icon, MyPlate (www.myplate.gov).”
For more information about the USDA and healthier school lunches, visit our website.