Healthy snacks are essential for kids to get the nutrients they need to support their growth, especially children who participate in sports. Eating three meals per day that include a variety of food groups helps to lay a healthy foundation. Adding healthy snacks between meals helps to fill in calorie and nutrient gaps.
Young athletes should eat a small snack before sporting events to start off fueled and energized. Good snack choices include foods that are light and easy to digest.
If practice goes longer than 3-4 hours, kids should stop for a snack. This snack is an opportunity to refuel and recharge so they have the energy to get through the rest of practice. An after-practice or after-game snack is important as well because it replaces the nutrients used during the activity
Pre-activity/during activity snack ideas:
- Half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- An orange and a cheese stick
- Apple slices and peanut butter
- Granola bar with nuts and dried fruit
- Popcorn and a handful of nuts
Post-activity snack ideas:
- Cup of low-fat chocolate milk and a banana
- Container of low-fat yogurt with berries and granola
- Smoothie made with low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, and frozen fruit
- Whole sandwich with baby carrots
- Fruit, cheese, and crackers
- Cottage cheese with berries
Parents need snacks, too!
Sporting events can be long, so parents may also need a snack. Instead of being tempted by high-calorie/low-nutrition items at the concession stand, parents can bring snacks from home.
Snacks should be nutrient-dense yet filling. The best snacks for parents should include protein and a piece of produce. Protein takes longer to digest, so it has the power to help you stay full and satisfied. Produce (i.e., fruits and vegetables) offers many nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber, while also being low in calories.
Don’t forget the liquids
Hydration is a key part of healthy fuel for kids and should start the day before the sporting event. Make sure your kids drink water throughout the day, not just on the event day. Keep hydration fun and easy by using a water bottle your child likes and wants to drink from. Depending on your child’s age, drinking from a water bottle with a straw or squeeze top may be easier and help them drink more.
Water is the best fluid to hydrate with. However, low-fat milk is a great liquid to have with meals and snacks because it provides protein and calcium. Juice drinks made from 100% juice are another good option for a meal or snack, but juice should be limited to 4-6 ounces per day for overall health. Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are good to drink during and after sporting events. These liquids help replace nutrients, such as electrolytes and glycogen, lost during activities.
Parents must also stay hydrated, and water is, again, the best choice. Use an insulated bottle to keep the water cold. Think about carrying a cooler with bottles of water or cans of sparkling water. To add flavor to water, add powdered flavor packets or fresh fruit to water.
To help keep you and your family hydrated, the Young Athlete Center at Children’s Specialty Care Center- West County offers hydration fluid replacement tips.
For a healthy snack, this easy-to-make trail mix offers a nutritious, filling hit of energy for kids and adults alike.
Munchy Trail Mix (adapted from Betty Crocker recipes)
- 2 cups whole-grain oat cereal (such as Cheerios)
- 2 cups bite-size squares of cereal (any variety)
- 2 cups crispy corn puffs cereal
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup candy-coated chocolate candies (optional)
- 1 cup peanuts (optional)
In a large bowl or resealable food-storage plastic bag, mix all ingredients. If serving to children under four years old, omit the raisins and peanuts. Store tightly covered.