Smart Snacking Strategies for Little Athletes

Energizing snacks for young athletes

By:  Laura Ali, MS, RDN, LDN 

The shrill blare of a ref’s whistle, the “crack” of a baseball bat or the “ping” of a tennis racket – ah, the sounds of spring!  Kid’s activities are great fun and you love the exercise they get, so keeping them energized is important.   Try these tips to give your child that energy boost they need to perform to their max. 

Creative Combos - Complex carbs break down slowly, and when combined with protein, offer an outstanding energy-sustaining snack!

  • Pack small bags of dry cereal, dried fruit and nuts for a quick snack on the way to practice.

  • Blend fruit with Greek yogurt and freeze it in small fruit pops that you can grab as you leave the house.A nice, healthy cool treat for a hot day!

  • Peanut butter smeared on celery or apples is a great energy boosting snack before or after the game.

  • Individual hummus packs with pretzels can be something to snack on in the car on the way to a game

  • Single serve pouches of tuna or salmon can be wrapped in a tortilla, and are perfect snacks for your kids or you as you sit and watch their game.Try Tuna Creations BOLD Hot Buffalo Style or Tuna Creations Ranch for a fun treat that will keep you going!

Snack Smart – A study published in the Health Affairs Journal in 2010, found that snacks accounted for 27% of a child’s calorie intake for a day.  Nutrient dense snacks can provide nutrients kids might be missing through the day. 

  • Snacks should be considered mini meals and be a blend of protein, carbohydrates and a small amount of fat.

  • 200 – 300 calories is about the right amount of calories for a snack for most kids.

  • Ideally, eating something small an hour or so before the activity is best so they have time to digest.

  • Occasional treats are okay –it is fine to celebrate a win or great day of play with a little treat.A small cupcake, trip to the ice cream parlor or team dinner at the end of the season adds to the fun.

Hydrate – don’t forget fluids!  Kids lose fluids quickly when exercising and need to be rehydrated often.    

  • Drink at least 4 – 8 oz. of water before exercising, 4 – 8 oz. more every 15 – 20 minutes of activity and 4 – 8 oz. more of fluid after the game or practice.

  • Freeze water bottles the night before a game and take them with you to practice.They will thaw slowly and stay cool for a refreshing drink in the afternoon.

  • Water is usually enough, but if your child has been running for more than an hour a diluted juice or some low fat milk can help them recover and give them a quick energy boost.