Whether you’re feeding your own student athlete or it’s your week to bring the team snack, it’s important to remember that kid athletes have some extra nutritional needs above your average kid’s. And most store-bought “healthy” snacks are often hiding a dark secret — they may be packed with sugar, or they may not have enough of the nutrients young athletes need.
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, “Young athletes need to learn what foods are good for energy, when to eat certain foods, how to eat during an event and when and what to eat to replenish after activity.” And the NCAA Sport Science Institute says, “Sensible whole foods and adequate fluids contribute measurably to athletic performance and health, notably before student-athletes’ activity and in the recovery periods immediately following intense exercise.”
But we don’t have to convince you — what you really need are some snack ideas, right? Here’s a dozen to keep your kids going through the season.
1. Hard-boiled egg and multigrain crackers
A hard-boiled egg is a great source of protein, and a single serving of the right unsweetened multigrain crackers will provide complex carbs. If your kids won’t eat plain hard-boiled eggs, you could try deviled eggs.
2. Dried fruit and nuts
On game day, 1/2 cup of dried fruit and 1/2 cup of nuts are great for energy. For additional fuel, you could add string cheese.
3. Half a whole-wheat bagel with jam
Add a schmear of cream cheese or natural peanut, almond or coconut butter if your kids need a little extra energy after a tough practice.
4. Yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and honey
If you can get away with it, use a plain (unflavored, unsweetened) full-fat or Greek yogurt. After the game, kids can add a tablespoon or 2 of Grape Nuts, low-sugar granola or rolled oats plus some chopped or puréed fruit.
5. String cheese with nuts
String cheese is packed with protein and calcium. A handful of nuts will up the protein factor and help fill athletes up. If their blood sugar is low after the game, add apple slices or even a healthy cookie.
6. Fruit smoothie
These work for post-game snacks too. Kids probably won’t want more to tide them over on non-game days, but if they find that’s not enough, try adding some silken tofu or natural peanut butter to the mix. For the ultimate high-protein, nondairy add-in, try Ripple milk or Orgain almond milk.
7. Carrot sticks with hummus and baked pita chips
A serving of each should get them through practice, but adding a handful of grape tomatoes or some celery sticks never hurt anyone.
8. Pretzels and grapes
A serving of pretzels and grapes will keep kids’ energy up during the game. Add a few baby carrots and an ounce of cubed cheddar cheese if the snack is after strenuous activity.
9. Popcorn, raisin, dried apricot, peanuts and sunflower seed trail mix
Mix natural popcorn with the other ingredients, and serve a cup of the trail mix before the big game. For extra energy after the game, go with 1-1/2 cups.
10. Peanut butter-banana crackers
Slather multigrain crackers with natural peanut butter, and top it with a slice of banana. If your kids need more, a handful of cubed pineapple is a good complement.
11. Granola bars (with a caveat)
Some granola bars have as much sugar as chocolate cake, so look for low-sugar versions with healthy fats (from nuts, seeds and grains), or make your own at home. But even if you make your own, try reducing the amount of sweetener, even if it’s maple syrup or honey.
12. Cheerios with milk
A single serving (or individual-size box) should do. Add banana slices for potassium and natural sugar.
Pre-game snacks should be eaten about 60 to 90 minutes before the game. Note that kiddos may also be hungry after games or practice, so these make good post-game snacks when the next meal is still a few hours away.