Healthy Sports Snacks for Kids
We know healthy sports snacks are ideal for young athletes, but if you look around, there are more examples of unhealthy snacking. None are so obvious as in the sporting arenas of youth, such as the concession stand. Unfortunately, sideline snacks are not much better.
One of the most popular questions I am asked is What should I feed my athlete before he goes to practice?
It’s a good question.
And the answer is pretty simple: healthy sports snacks.
Healthy Sports Snacks for Young Athletes
While all snacks should offer up a healthy punch for kids, even after-school snacks, the best snacks for young athletes are ones that provide optimal fuel for the body, are actually eaten, and cover hunger and appetite.
Use these Insider Tips for Healthy Sports Snacks:
Make sure key nutrients are included
The nutrients that are most important for an athlete are carbohydrates and protein. If you target these nutrients when planning snacks, the young athlete will get the fuel he needs for exercise (carbs) and have a longer lasting fuel source.
The presence of protein in a snack helps the athlete build and repair muscle and helps ward off excess hunger. Combining these two nutrients is key to long lasting fuel for the athlete who is training or competing for an hour or more.
Snacks that contain just a carbohydrate source, like fresh fruit or crackers, are fine for shorter events or practices or even less intense exercises, but they aren’t ideal for the young athlete who is exercising for over an hour.
How much do young athletes need? Again, this goes back to the intensity and duration of exercise.
Little soccer players who have a 45-minute practice may not need any snack outside of their regular meal and snack routine, while the high school basketball player or swimmer will need a more substantial snack.
My rule is this:
If a young athlete is exercising under an hour in duration, he probably doesn’t need an extra snack outside of his routine meals and snacks.
If the athlete is exercising for over an hour, in an intense sport like swimming, rowing or running, plan a hefty snack, or even a 4th meal to cover energy needs for exercise.
Example: A rower who participates in an extended training session (two hours) may need a full sandwich and a glass of milk before practice, while a volleyball player, who also practices for a long time but at a lower intensity, may do well with a slice of peanut butter toast.
How can you add nutrition?
This is the question you should be asking yourself as you plan your athlete’s snack. There are plenty of foods around that are full of empty calories—meaning, they have calories but few to no nutrients, such as candy or chips.
Simply said, these foods don’t add nutritional value to the growing athlete’s diet.
Instead, because you’re supporting the growth and development of your child as well as his athletic performance, you want to go for wholesome, real food. This will fuel his growth and his athletic performance.
The best foods to target include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, dairy, and healthy fats.
Need some new ideas for your young athlete’s snack plan? I’ve got you covered with my 70 Pre-Workout Snacks for Young Athletes cheat sheet.
What healthy sports snacks does your athlete eat to fuel his sport?