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Timely statement of The American Dietetic Association: Nutrition guidance for child athletes in organized sports

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Children's dietary needs are different from those of adolescents and adults. In this timely statement, the nutrition needs and concerns of 6- to 12-year-old children participating in competitive sports are addressed. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) supports sound nutrition practices that promote children's optimal growth and development while meeting the added requirements of physical activity through participation in organized sports (1).

In athletics for youth, children depend on coaches and parents for guidance. Therefore, it is important that children, parents, and coaches receive guidance from a registered dietitian on how to make healthful foods choices hen involved in exercise, training, and competition. It is also important to discourage unhealthful nutrition practices such as improper weight management, fluid restriction, and misuse of dietary supplements (1,2).

Achieving normal growth and development are the principle health concerns in school-age children. To this end, all children should have their weight and height measured and assessed by a qualified health professional using National Center for Health Statistics growth charts (3). This enables the professional to determine whether nutrient and energy needs are being met and how the child's growth pattern compares with that of other children of the same age. A registered dietitian can provide appropriate nutrition recommendations based on a child's growth pattern.

Children's bone density and proportion of hody water differ significantly from those of mature athletes (4). Although methods of determining body composition have been developed to account for these differences (4), percent body fat and weight should not be used as a criteria for sports participation or to set stringent weight requirements. As a result, the child's normal growth and development may be compromised. In the hands of a qualified health professional, measurements may be used to monitor changes in body composition during training.

Healthful nutrition practices are sometimes disregarded in the...