Every youth sports parents knows that you can’t show up to a soccer match or baseball game without a tub of snacks and drinks in tow. However, the unhealthy eats that tend to be on sale during sports season aren’t always the most nutritious option for an active child. When considering pre-, mid-, and post-activity snacks, avoid doling out candy, chips, crackers and other foods that are high in fats and sugars and lacking in necessary nutrients. Create snacks and quick meals that offer vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fluids. Snacks for young athletes provide necessary nutrients while still appealing to their craving for salty, sweet, and refreshing foods. Water and fresh fruit are great for half-time and after performances. However, parents can choose from a number of creative options that children will love. Remember, young athletes should always have a snack one to two hours before their activities!
Pre-Game Energy Boosters
Apple slices with nut butter offer protein, vitamins and fluid. Strawberry cheesecake roll-ups are simply low-fat or fat-free cream cheese spread on a tortilla and topped with sliced strawberries and a sprinkle of sugar. Roll and cut into bite-sized pieces. Both options also provide the carbohydrates needed as fuel. The fiber and protein also stay in the stomach longer, which ensures the energy boost lasts. Other good carbohydrate options include meals containing meat and starchy or brightly-colored vegetables. Macaroni and cheese remains an all-time favorite with children.
Half-Time Break Snacks
As time is limited, quick snacks of fresh fruit provide vitamins, minerals and an energy boost along with much-needed rehydration. Fruit juice infused water is the right combination for replacing lost fluid and electrolytes. Fresh fruit is always an ideal option and may include:
- Clementine or orange slices
- Apple and pear slices
- Halved bananas
- Melon chunks
After a practice, game or other physically demanding activity, youngsters need to rehydrate. If they perspired under the hot sun, they also need to replenish their electrolytes. A combination of carbohydrates and protein before and after activities helps replenish energy while providing muscles and connective tissues with the nutrients needed to recover and repair. Good post-activity recommendations include:
- Fresh fruit, frozen fruit pops or fruit leather
- Fig bar or oatmeal cookies
- Bagels or crackers topped with nut butter, low-fat or fat-free cream cheese and fruit slices
- Pudding cups
- String cheese
- Trail mix