Fuel for Young Athletes

Autumn means sports for many kids.

Keep your young athletes energized with healthy snacks before, during, and after practices and games.

Since practice sessions tend to take place right after school, it’s essential to provide portable foods that can be eaten on a tight schedule. Prepackaged snacks tend to be high in fat, sugar, and salt. They may provide a quick energy boost, but that’s often followed by a prolonged crash. Look instead for these easy, tasty, and nutritious sports foods.

A Handful of Energy
Carbohydrates are a lasting source of energy, so fruit is always a good choice for athletes. Bananas, oranges, apples, and grapes are easy to pack. Fruit usually contains a lot of water, so it can help your child stay hydrated while running around on the field.
Consider buying organic apples, strawberries, and peaches since conventionally grown varieties of these fruits are likely to carry more pesticides.
Dried fruit, fruit leathers, and individual containers of applesauce are other convenient and portable ways to harvest the benefits of fruit. On game day, make kebabs by threading seasonal fruits such as grapes, berries, and chunks of melon or pineapple onto skewers. These are great at halftime.
Dairy Delights
Dairy foods provide plenty of calcium, which is essential for strong bones and muscles. Although drinking milk before or during practice is usually not a good idea as it can make some kids nauseous, options such as low-fat cheese sticks or string cheese are convenient alternatives. Remember that organic dairy products are produced without antibiotics or growth hormones. Look for items that carry the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic seal.
Try These Too
A handful of nuts can go a long way toward restoring energy during a workout. And a good old peanut-butter sandwich on whole-grain bread is another powerful pick-me-up for those who don’t have allergies. Some kids prefer to have a resealable bag filled with nuts, low-sugar cereal, and raisins or other dried fruit. And a hard-boiled egg can stave off hunger until after the game.

Don’t Overdo It

Though kids who play sports tend to burn more calories than those who don’t, it’s important not to overfeed any child. 

Stay Hydrated

Remember that water is the most important nutrient. Drinking water before, during, and after a game or practice is crucial for active kids.

Sports drinks (not energy drinks, which are full of caffeine and sugar) can be useful for longer sessions, but the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports suggests that water is usually sufficient for a workout lasting less than 90 minutes.