In a world where many parents might be concerned about their children overeating and putting on weight, I have the opposite problem.

I have to ensure that my daughter – a gymnast who trains over 12 hours a week – eats enough nutrient-dense calories and protein-rich food to not only get her through the long school days, but to sustain her through her training sessions.

The trouble with the high school lunch rush.

I’ve put a considerable amount of time and effort in to making sure my children make healthy eating choices, however, I didn’t account for the difficulties of being the youngest group in a huge school. The younger ones are basically at the bottom of the food chain at my daughter’s high school. In other words, they get what’s left. That meant my daughter would be lucky to grab a panini for lunch and fill up on some other white carb and sugar snacks to get her through the day.

With a 12-hour day at least three days a week, we began to see a real change in our daughter’s personality. Often too tired to eat when she came home after gymnastics, she was sustaining herself on very little food and this made for one very grumpy girl. Blood sugar highs and lows don’t mix with pre-existing teenage temperaments and something had to change, for all our sakes.

Teens don’t always want to take their parents’ advice.

Thank goodness she’s dedicated to her sport enough to take my advice when it comes to eating sensibly and thank goodness she lets the comments about her relatively low weight roll off her back because she knows it’s just typical teenage jealousy talking.

Since coming to the decision that school lunches weren’t enough to sustain her, I started putting together protein-rich and calorie-dense lunches that would. I didn’t want to completely take away the decision-making freedom that high school gives you, so I involved her, bringing together both of our ideas to make something that would not only be more nutritious, but that she would also eat.

On a gym day, her lunch box looks something like this:

This may seem like a lot of food, but bearing in mind she leaves home at 7:30 A.M.  and gets home at 8 P.M., it’s enough to see her through break times, after school and post training.

Change in diet = personality transplant.

Gone is the whinging, lethargic girl who struggled to keep up with her day. In her place is a girl full of energy, happy, relaxed, and fun to be around. This change was necessary in order for her to take her gymnastics training to the next level.

We had also warned her that in order to do all this training, she must keep up with her grades at school. Eating properly is key to being able to do that, and if she wants to silence her critics about not eating enough, she can always show them what’s in her school bag. I think they might be surprised by what they find in there.