It takes a lot of nutritious food to fuel young athletes. Not only for proper growth and development, but to support their increased energy expenditure too. Whether it’s at home, on the side-lines or on a bus with the team, eating healthy snacks is critical.
BUILDING A NUTRITIOUS SNACK
Snacks should do more than fill a child’s stomach. They should provide energy & nutrients to fuel their growth and sports performance.
Carbohydrate rich foods provide fuel for working muscles, while protein helps to build, repair and restore body tissues. Fat is also a valuable fuel source for young athletes. Healthy snacks provide a combination of these macronutrients, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals, so that they get the nutrition they need to succeed.
The best snacks for athletes are more than just nutritious. They should be simple to prepare, convenient to carry and taste great. Many athletes go directly from school to practice, and somedays require traveling to away games. That means packing portable snacks that can be carried in a backpack or kept in a small cooler is critical.
Below are a list of top snack ideas to fuel young athletes.
FRUIT & YOGURT SMOOTHIE
Fruit & yogurt smoothies offer a delicious way to get nutrient-rich carbohydrates, high-quality protein and loads of vitamins and minerals all in one beverage. They can be made lots of different ways. Athletes can choose their favorite fruit and flavor of yogurt, then blend it together with a splash of milk and ice for a quick after-school or after-activity snack. Smoothies are great for breakfast, too!
WHOLE GRAIN CRACKERS, CHEESE, GRAPES & BABY CARROTS
When time is tight or you don’t feel like preparing anything, creating a snack platter with finger foods is a great option. Choose a variety of foods, from different foods groups, to create a balanced, nutrient snack. Whole grain crackers, cheese, grapes and baby carrots are a great way to include various food groups.
TURKEY & CHEESE SANDWICH ON WHOLE GRAIN BREAD
Sandwiches are not often thought of as snacks, but they should be. Bread provides the carbohydrates, while the turkey and cheese provide the protein. Athletes with higher nutrient needs can add a piece of fruit, while those with lower nutrient needs may only want 1/2 a sandwich to have as a snack.
CHOCOLATE MILK & PRETZELS
Chocolate milk is a winning recovery beverage, due to its ideal ratio of carbohydrates to high-quality protein. It’s also packed with 9 essential nutrients and is a source of fluids. Pack a single-serve container in a small cooler with an ice pack or purchase the shelf-stable varieties and have it ready with a side of pretzels as a great pre-practice snack.
GREEK YOGURT WITH FRUIT, NUTS & GRANOLA
Another super simple snack is to top Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts. Greek yogurt is an exceptional source of high-quality protein, and can be purchased plain or flavored, depending on one’s preference. Top it with carbohydrate-rich fruit to boost the nutrition and add granola and a few crushed nuts for flavor and texture.
NAAN BREAD PIZZA
Homemade pizza is a great snack option for young athletes due to its combination of carbohydrates and protein. To make a snack size pizza, top Naan bread with sauce and mozzarella cheese, then place it in a toaster oven for 8 minutes. The crust provides the carbohydrates, while the cheese provides the protein and calcium. Add some pieces of grilled chicken for extra protein or top it off with vegetables.
RICE CAKES WITH RICOTTA, BERRIES & HONEY
Rice cakes are a quick carbohydrate-rich snack for athletes, but they don’t offer a lot in terms of nutrition. Topping them with ricotta cheese and berries not only increases the flavor, but it also adds high-quality protein and antioxidants. That means better nutrient balance and better taste. You can even add a drizzle of honey for some sweetness.
CEREAL, MILK & FRUIT
You may think of it as a breakfast food, but cereal with milk makes a great snack for young athletes. The key is choosing the right one. Most cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, and the milk provides vitamin D and calcium to support bone health. Choose whole grain varieties that offer at least 2 grams of fiber per serving and provide at least 50% of the daily value for iron.
COTTAGE CHEESE, FRUIT & GRANOLA
Another easy, nutritious snack for athletes is cottage cheese and fruit. While any fruit will do, pineapple and berries pair perfect with cottage cheese. 1/2 cup of cottage cheese provides 14 grams of high-quality protein, while the fruit provides carbohydrates and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Try it with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for extra flavor. You can even buy them already portioned & sealed in convenient, individual packages.