It’s that time of year again when after school sports’ practices and weekend games keep the kids (and you) on the run. Along with signing permission slips and buying team uniforms, take care of your young athletes’ nutritional needs with these healthy school sports snack ideas.
Kids who play sports need plenty of fuel to meet their needs for energy and growth—anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 calories per day. These calories should come from a varied diet that contains plenty of carbohydrates (for energy), protein (for building and repairing muscles), adequate fat, and plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. In addition to balanced meals, nutritious snacks before and after games or practices help provide steady energy and help your child's body recover faster after exercise.
Portable and Nutritious
Providing your young athlete with adequate healthy calories can sometimes be a challenge when you're racing from school to practice or competition. Commercial bars and sports drinks are easy to grab, but aren't necessarily the best or most frugal choices to fuel up your athlete. You can provide him or her with healthy, inexpensive snacks straight from your kitchen. Here are some portable and nutritious suggestions:
For snacks that need to be kept cool, invest in a small insulated bag and an ice pack.
Trail mix—either store bought or a mix you put together yourself; include nuts, dried fruit, even chocolate chips.
Bagels—top with peanut butter or cream cheese for a tasty, energy dense snack.
Carrot or celery sticks with dip; try hummus for a boost of protein.
Individual boxes of whole grain cereal with milk.
Half a sandwich—made with lean meat and cheese, or peanut butter and honey.
Whole grain crackers and cheese.
Whole grain muffins.
Fruit—grapes, orange or apple slices, bananas, melon cubes, and strawberries are all fairly portable.
Nuts, sunflower seeds.
Yogurt and granola.
Low fat soup, such as vegetable, in a thermos.
Healthy fast food options
On the run with no time to pack your own snacks? Many fast food places offer healthy choices. Look for bagels or low fat muffins, a grilled chicken sandwich, salad, a baked potato, or a turkey, chicken, or veggie sub. Avoid high fat foods (like hot dogs or potato chips) because they take longer to digest than lighter snacks. Also avoid high sugar snacks — your young athlete might feel an initial energy boost, but that boost will soon be followed by a crash.
Don't Forget Hydration
Active kids have a harder time cooling their bodies than adults, so adequate hydration is even more important for them. Kids shouldn't wait until they feel thirsty, but should drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. Plain water is a great choice and the only liquid necessary unless the workout/activity lasts longer than 90 minutes or your child has been sweating intensely. (However, sometimes kids will drink more if their beverages are flavored.)
After the Game
It's just as important to refuel and rehydrate after the game or practice. To replenish energy stores used up in activity, experts recommend eating carbohydrates within 30 minutes after intense activity and again two hours later, if possible. Simple choices include cereal, a piece of fruit, or some trail mix. Besides water, good beverage choices post-workout include milk, chocolate milk, and unsweetened juices.
Helping your young athletes eat to win doesn't have to be complicated and it can be a great chance to teach healthy eating for life. Stock up on plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and low fat dairy products and you'll always have healthy choices available to keep them well-fueled.
More snack ideas
How to prepare healthy snacks for your kids!
Join SheKnows' Shay Pausa as she goes down to the pantry to get easy tips from nutritionist, Michelle Dudasche, on preparing healthy snacks for your kids.