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Healthy Kids’ Snacks for Young Athletes

The lazy days of summer are almost over and many of us find ourselves now thinking about back to school and gearing up for a new sports season. With carpooling, homework, and sports schedules comes the often-burdensome chore of what to feed the young athlete. Practices are often after school, leaving no time to prepare healthy kids’ snacks.
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When schedules are tight, drive-thru meals or sugary snacks are easy, but they are not the solution to good nutrition to fuel a child through a sporting event.

Complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and low fat choices – as well as adequate hydration – are the key to fueling the growing athlete. Don’t let it be nutrition that sidelines your child. Consider these healthy kids’ snacks for before and after sports activities.

Healthy Kids Snacks Before Sports:

A nutritious pre-sports snack is important to provide essential nutrients and calories to fuel athletic performance. The ideal pre-sports snack will provide energy from carbohydrates to fuel the working muscle, provide sugar for the brain to prevent fatigue and dizziness, and hydrate the body.

Here are some great ideas for pre-exercise snacks. These should be eaten an hour before planned physical activity.

  • Yogurt with a handful of granola or fruit (fresh or dried)
  • Turkey and veggie wraps cut into small pinwheel sizes for finger foods
  • Peanut or almond butter and jelly sandwiches or crackers
  • Low fat mozzarella cheese sticks and pretzels

Remember to avoid high-fat foods. Also avoid sugary fixes before exercise. These can lead to low blood sugar in some athletes, leaving them light-headed and fatigued.

Healthy Kids Snacks for After Sports

Keep in mind these tips when it’s your turn on the roster to provide snacks for the team. A post-exercise snack should be eaten within 15 minutes after exercise. The snack should help to rehydrate, and have a combination of carbohydrates and protein to help the body recover from exercise and reduce muscle soreness. Try these healthy kids’ post-game snacks:

  • Low-fat chocolate milk (shown to be an ideal post-exercise nutrition for recovery)
  • Low-fat smoothies (using low fat yogurt or milk and fresh or frozen fruit) or yogurt drinks
  • Low-fat mozzarella (string) cheese and fruit
  • String cheese and crackers or pretzels
  • Water or sport drink with all snacks

If you take just a little time to plan your little athlete’s snacks ahead of time, they’ll be able to play better AND feel better. Enjoy the season!

You can also learn more about youth football concussions and how to prevent youth sports related injuries.

The information contained in this post is the personal opinion of the author and should not be considered medical advice. As always, seek the advice of your physician if you have questions about nutrition.

Valerie is married to Shawn Young, Sr. Manager, Sales Learning and Development at Ethicon. She grew up in Ireland and came to the US on a running scholarship to the University of Kentucky. After completing her BS in Nutrition and Biochemistry, she went on to earn her PhD in Nutritional Sciences. Valerie was inducted in the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 having won three individual NCAA National Championships in 5,000m, eight-time All-American in cross country and track, eight individual SEC Championships, and continues to hold several UK track records. Valerie continues to run and compete.

Valerie is also a Registered Dietitian with experience in critical care, metabolic disease, and in her own business consulting with athletes. She and Shawn have two children Fíona (12) and Seán (6). They moved back to Cincinnati in 2013 after 8 wonderful years in Marin County, San Francisco Bay Area.

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