It’s the time of year for spring sports. With the pandemic stealing a couple years of interactive play away from us, you can take a drive now around any city or town and you will see every available sports field lined with kids playing soccer, football, or baseball to make up for lost time. If your child has joined a team, undoubtedly one of the first priorities (right after picking a team name and assigning a practice schedule) is to fill out the snack roster. The post game snack has become a ritual that has taken on a life of its own and is now able to begin re-emerging as COVID-19 is slowing down. Offering a snack can be a good way to ensure that children get some nourishment to refuel their bodies after a hard game. Too often though, the snacks consist of low nutrient foods that include highly processed ingredients or are filled with an abundant amount of sugar, fat, and salt.
Another big offender can be the drink that is offered along with the snack. Sports drinks are becoming increasingly popular and unfortunately aren’t being used just for sports any more. Cleverly disguised as “performance enhancing” beverages, these drinks have many kids and parents fooled into believing that they are superior to water. These drinks contain sugar with a dash of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) thrown in. A halftime snack of one half of an orange has more than double the potassium of a 12 ounce bottle of sports drink, along with natural fruit sugar for fuel and some fiber and vitamins. Sports drinks do, though, have their advantages for those that engage in greater than 60 minutes of intense exercise. Many kids under ten don’t fall into this category and plain old water is the best fluid replacer for them. Watch out for those “fruit drinks” too. They are mostly flavored sugar water with little or no nutritional value.
A snack containing both carbohydrates and protein is a winning combination for refueling athletes of all ages. Carbohydrates are needed to replace some of the glucose used for energy during exercise. Consuming some protein along with those carbohydrates helps repair and build muscle tissue. The best time for refueling the body is within 15 to 60 minutes after exercise.
One way to ensure that kids get what they need is to have the parents and coaches work together to develop a suggested snack list. Another option is to encourage parents to donate to a “snack fund” and assign one or two families to purchase the snacks. Furthermore, instead of providing drinks, kids can bring their own water; that extra money saved can be used to purchase better quality healthy snacks. There are lots of healthier options available that will satisfy the taste buds of athletes of any age while giving them the fuel they need to keep playing. Here are just a few:
Snacks for athletes of all ages
*fruit (fresh, dried, freeze dried, or frozen kabobs)
*frozen fruit juice bars (made with real fruit or fruit juice)
*popcorn (popped with oil)
*low fat muffins (freezer section)
*granola bars/protein bars
*yogurt smoothie drinks (look for brands with minimal added sugars)
*trail mix with unsweetened fruit and nuts
*cheese sticks or slices and whole grain crackers
*fruit leather (made with real fruit or fruit juice)
*hummus and pita chips or raw veggies
*tortilla wraps made with lean meat, cheese, and veggies
If you know that you are headed to a game or the gym right from work, consider grabbing something like the items above, or looking for other healthy snack options right at the Plaza Café. There are many prepared items that you can pick up and take with you to make sure you or your child have the nutrition needed to fuel a workout.
For more ideas for fueling performance check out the sports nutrition fact sheets available from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ‘Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition’.
Diane Javelli, RDCD is an Outpatient Clinical Dietitian working with the digestive disease, heart transplant, and surgery population. She is also a Media Representative for the Washington State Academy of Nutrition. In her spare time she loves spending time with her family and plays tennis any chance she can get.