NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


| Share

Let's Go Outside

Let’s Go Outside!


          After an unusually long, never-quite-ending ND weather, everyone is anxious to be outdoors.  Now is a great time to enjoy the great outdoors and all the benefits being outside brings – especially for our children.

          Today’s children spend several hours daily watching television, playing video games, or playing on the computer. Many of us have seen alarming statistics about the increasing rate of childhood obesity, which can lead to serious health issues.  Part of obesity problems can be blamed on lack of time spent outdoors playing.

          Outdoor play lets children run, jump, climb and ride bikes.  Children often will sleep better. Some experts think behavior improves. Outdoor play also helps children physically by developing muscles and strengthening bones.  Children build social skills spending time playing games with peers. They can explore interests and surroundings, learn to appreciate nature, and use their imagination.

          All that outdoor time – including sports activities – requires the proper fuel and fluids for children and teens to perform their best.  Offering kids healthy food choices enables them to feel good, play hard and have fun now as well as develop a lifetime of positive food habits.

          The goal is a balanced, varied diet, high in carbohydrates and fluids. Kids thrive on routines they can count on and access to regular meals and snacks. In fact, they need to eat about every 2-3 hours! On average, school-age children need the following each day:


6-9 servings of bread, cereals, grains (half of which should be whole grain)

2-3 fruit

2-3 dairy

2-3 meat (5-6 ounces total)

6-8 cups of fluid throughout the day (water, fruit juice, milk, sports drinks, soup, fruits and vegetables are all good fluid sources.


          Plan to succeed. Plan and shop in a way that keeps healthy choices at hand when needed. This is the best way to ward off “emergency” trips to the vending machine or drive-through where options are limited and costs higher.

          Timing is important. Children and adults alike play and compete best when schedules are managed to allow adequate time for snacks and meals to be digested before exercise. It takes 3-4 hours for a full meal to digest, 2-3 hours for a smaller meal to digest, and about an hour for a small snack to digest. Muscles and brains run on carbohydrate, so pre-game meals should be high in carbohydrate, low in fat, with moderate amounts of protein.

          Fluids should be available before, during and after physical activity, especially when temperatures soar.

          Following are some grocery list items worth keeping available to fuel active kids. Pack them for hikes, day trips or team sports events. A few, like dairy and meat items, require a cooler; others are safe in book bags and lockers at room temperature.


Any fruits: fresh, canned or dried

Vegetable strips with low-fat dip or salsa

Animal crackers, graham crackers, fig bars, oatmeal cookies, low-fat granola bars

Pita pockets, rice cakes, tortillas, popcorn, pretzels

Water, sports drinks or 100% fruit-juice boxes

Lean meat cubes

Mozzarella string cheese, low-fat pudding cups

Whole grain mini-bagels and peanut butter

Peanut butter, turkey, ham or roast beef sandwiches

Yogurt smoothies, low-fat milk chug jugs.




Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.