What can I teach my son about a healthy diet and athletic performance?

My son is 10 and enjoys sports. But he mostly eats hamburgers and french fries. What can I tell him about the connection between healthy eating and athletic performance?

Ellen Rome, M.D.

Ellen Rome, M.D.

Dr. Ellen Rome is a board-certified pediatrician who was among the first in the U.S. to be board certified in adolescent medicine. She... Read more

That’s easy: Simply explain to him that if you feed your body great energy, it will produce great energy on the athletic field. A home-grilled lean-cut hamburger served with a side of homemade baked fries (use sweet potatoes and get even more nutritional bang for your buck) is almost always a better choice than fast-food fare. Having regular family meals, where he can help select and prepare the food served, is another great way to foster healthier eating habits.

Positive feedback also goes a long way when working on a behavior change: Acknowledge his love of sports and the effort he puts into training and playing. Catch him doing something right, and without offering over-the-top praise, tell him, “Do more of that!” So if he has a particularly great practice and you know he ate all his green beans, use a little light humor to help him see the connection (“Boy, those green beans really must have helped with making that last home run!”). And remember, since he’s only 10, you still have a fair amount of control over what, where and when he eats. Provide healthy options and he will choose healthy options.