A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Fuel sports practice with healthful snacks

Kids in the back of van eating orange slicesWhen it’s your turn to bring snacks for your child’s sports team, balancing nutrition and taste is important.

“Snacks can boost diet quality or lead to excess intake of solid fats, added sugar and sodium,” Marshfield Clinic dietitian Tammi Timmler said. “Poor snacks are obvious ones that are pure sugar or sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Pick healthful snacks that will give kids the energy they need to stay active.

Sports snack suggestions

Timmler suggested bringing these snacks kids will reach for:

  • Trail mix. Make it healthful with nuts, dried fruit, whole-grain pretzels and low-sugar dry cereal.
  • Pear slices and low-fat cheese.
  • Apple slices wrapped in reduced-sodium deli turkey breast.
  • Low-fat yogurt with fruit and nuts.
  • Celery sticks filled with almond butter and topped with dried cranberries and chopped pistachios.
  • Baked tortilla chips and salsa.
  • Whole-wheat tortilla wraps with low-sodium turkey breast and low-fat cheese.
  • Granola bars with whole grains, dried fruit and nuts.
  • Orange slices.
  • String cheese.

Time your treats

Time snacks and meals to help young athletes perform their best.

Kids should eat meals three or four hours before playing sports. Snacks can be eaten an hour or two before playing, Timmler said. Sports drinks are a good option to boost energy less than an hour before the game.

Bring snacks to practices or games longer than an hour, double-headers and tournaments. Kids should have 25 to 35 grams of carbohydrates every hour while they’re exercising.

Offer daily snacks two hours before the next meal. Grazing can affect the quality and quantity of food kids eat at mealtime.

Stay hydrated

Keeping kids hydrated during sports is just as important as fueling their bodies with the right foods.

“Water is best for most athletes,” Timmler said.

She recommends drinking 16 ounces of water two or three hours before a game or practice and 8 ounces shortly before taking the field. Kids should keep a sports bottle on the sidelines and drink water every 10 to 20 minutes when playing in high heat and humidity.

Sports drinks like G2 and Powerade Zero can help replace electrolytes lost on very active days, especially if it’s hot and humid. Use them along with water during practices that are several hours long, games that go into extra innings and day-long tournaments.

Pay attention to kids’ bathroom habits to make sure they’re getting enough fluids, Timmler said. They should be using the bathroom frequently during the day and have light-colored urine.

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